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Kempinski Hotels Dare To Do Things Differently

By John Hendrie,
March 2013

Kempinski Hotels has a terrific reputation for extraordinary service and delivery in the world of five star properties. They also do some things differently, and the Brand has proven successful and resistant to some of the economic turmoil the rest of the market has experienced. COO, Duncan O’Rourke, shared some thoughtful approaches they have taken with Elite Traveler. He started with three strategies within a five - six year period: talent, innovation and Food and Beverage.

With their Food and Beverage strategy, “We are going to move from a rooms-driven company to food & beverage-driven company with rooms, which fits our history and tradition as restaurateurs”. They hired well known chefs and other specialists to create workshops that are held in every hotel. New ideas and concepts arise and are shared all the time, as well as specialties from noted bakers and chocolatiers.

Their innovation strategy comes from competition within the company. Hotels, supported by workshops, are tasked with creating innovative ideas. These are then presented and voted upon at the annual Manager’s meeting. Due to the group dynamics and gestation period (a year), participants very much own that effort (and idea).

The third strategy, talent, is approached quite brilliantly and certainly differently than many other hotel companies. Firstly, their Human Resources hierarchy is not traditional (as directed by a VP of HR). Instead, Kempinski has established three independent entities within the function: VP of Talent, VP of Training and Education and VP of People Administration.

The need to hire the right people is critical, so once a year they bring all the hotel managers and everyone who seeks employment with Kempinski (hotel schools, middle management, and the like) together in one place. You have the talent there, the information is fresh and the decision makers are present. Job offers are made on the spot at this Career Day.

As another example of doing things differently, they have done away with annual, written, formalized Evaluations for Management. This effort has been replaced by a two hour conversation with department heads. No boxes, no matrices, just dialogue – quite a deviation from what most of us do.

Kempinski Hotels seems to always be in a refresh mode, being creative in their operations and organization. They know their place and how to present that Brand. As Mr. O’Rourke noted, “Kempinski is the oldest luxury hotel brand, established in 1897, and we have decided to align the number of hotels with our age, so eventually we will have around 120-122 hotels, but that is it”. So many other companies run from “top down”, are captured by the “numbers”, scrambling to bring the most properties on-line. It is good to see a hotel company sufficiently confident to try another track yet remain quite distinctive and still deliver on the Guest Experience.

Permission for reprint provided by LRA Worldwide, Inc.

About the Author:
John Hendrie, is a customer experience representative for LRA Worldwide, Inc. (, and is author of the A Guy Walks In blog.

About LRA Worldwide
LRA Worldwide is a leading research and consulting company in the emerging discipline of Customer Experience Management (CEM). We work with our clients to help them design and deliver consistently exceptional customer experiences in order to drive customer satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy, and company growth and profitability.

In LRA’s 30-year history, we have grown from a provider of customized quality assurance evaluation programs for the hospitality industry, to a leading CEM consulting company offering a variety of client solutions. The evolution has been driven by our clients asking us one question – "How do we get better?" In response, we have built a range of performance measurement, research, training and consulting solutions to help them do so. Today, we are a growing company operating in more than 120 countries throughout the world, helping clients such as Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, Hyatt Hotels International, Anantara Hotels & Resorts and InterContinental Hotels Group deliver exceptional customer experiences. Every touch. Every time. For more information, visit us at

John R. Hendrie
Your Customer Experience Resource
(W): 978 346-4367
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