By Larry Mogelonsky, MBA, P. Eng. (www.hotelmogel.com)
Is there really such a thing as a perfect event that’s held at a hotel? You know, the one that brides dream of or the one that corporate meeting planners hoping to make their mark lust after? For the past few years, I’ve been following numerous properties on LinkedIn, and standing out from the pack is Forbes five-star, The Lanesborough in London, England, a member of the Oetker Collection.
This illustrious 93-room property is an iconic landmark in the heart of the Hyde Park area. The building was designed by the same architect of the National Gallery, William Wilkins. The Lanesborough is highly decorative, with no two guest or meeting rooms the same – all are vibrantly original and wholly embodying their own character.
I’ve stayed at this hotel a few times in my career as an IBT, but never fortunate enough to be a part of an event, though. Each time, the property has overwhelmed me insofar as service and product delivery. To say it is among the finest I have experienced is an understatement.
Thus, it was with excitement that I finally had an opportunity to interview Antionette Letteri, Head of Events. The goal here is to understand what other hotels can learn and perhaps emulate to some degree with their teams and their groups program.
Tell me a little but about your background in event management
I fell into the world of events whilst I was studying fashion marketing at the American College of London. On weekends, I would waitress for the likes of Rhubarb Food Design and The Admirable Crichton. It was a great way to visit places and people you would not usually come across from royalty to celebrities. I thus learned about the world of events from operational grassroots up – carrying trays of champagne, silver service, logistics and leading front-of-house waitstaff. I then crossed into party planning and become the personal assistant to Lucy Gemmell, founder of Rhubarb Food Design, whom I credit with teaching me so much about the events industry to this day. Finally, I moved into the hotel industry with several properties, and now with the Oetker Collection as Head of Events at The Lanesborough.
Who is on your banquets management team?
I work with a team of three – two events managers and one coordinator .In addition, there is a team of eight permanent banqueting managers as well as a floating team of casual support staff.
Describe the event facilities at The Lanesborough.
We have seven events spaces plus the Michelin-starred Céleste Restaurant which is available for exclusive buyouts. All of the event spaces were designed by the interior designer Alberto Pinto and are authentic to the Regency period when the property was the private residence of the Viscount of Lanesborough. The largest event space will comfortably accommodate 180 for a reception, while many of the smaller rooms are ideally suited for significantly less guests, depending upon the seating configuration. But all of our event rooms share one common physical element – they are completely unforgettable.
Who are your key competitors for special events?
Key competitors would be Claridge’s, The Dorchester, The Berkeley and Mandarin Oriental. The world of events is quite competitive; our focus is on pure excellence. Simply put, an event at The Lanseborough says to an invited guest that you are indeed special.
What would you say is your sweet spot?
I especially love organising birthday parties and beautiful fashion events. Any excuse to be surrounded with fun and beauty!
Can you describe some of the most exciting events that you’ve done and some of the elaborate preparations that this has required?
The event I am most proud of, and I believe to be one of the most special, was our Enchanted Easter we created in Céleste Restaurant. I long had a dream to transform the space into a magical children’s fairy tale world, and so Enchanted Easter was born. I teamed up with Moriarty Events and Nikki Tibbles florist at Wild at Heart to build an entire meadow garden in the restaurant, complete with tall meadow grass, rope swings, flowers, blossom trees and a lawn picnic area. It took 24 hours to build for only three hours use, but what a magical afternoon it was! I love seeing the transformation of a space to its absolute most beautiful – for me, flowers do this, the more the better!
How long in advance is the typical booking made and what is your recommendation insofar as the appropriate length of time?
Length of time for an event is increasingly shorter and shorter. Gone are the days of people booking their wedding two to three years out from the date. Most wedding lead times are less than 12 months. No one wants to be tied down to a commitment especially given the politico-economic climate. Things happen quickly, and one needs to be nimble to turn around a party or meeting request in lightning speed.
What is the typical range for an evening affair on a per person basis for the catering component of your event activity?
For an evening event here at The Lanesborough, you can expect to allow from £250 per person without the additional ‘shopping list’ elements such as flowers, production and lighting, calligraphy, printing, and so on. Flowers will always be the most disproportionately expensive element of an event but also the most impactful.
What advice would you give hoteliers who are looking to enhance their events business?
If you have an authentic passion for your business, this will shine through in all that you do. Be your own best ambassador of the brand you represent. Look after each and every piece of business as if it were your own, no matter the budget – a client’s budget should not determine your interest levels in a booking. Work with the best and you get the best. Social media is a wonderful way to showcase your talents and events, especially Instagram which is one of the best marketing platforms…and its free! This certainly has worked well for me professionally.
Anything else you want to add?
Love what you do. I genuinely love working in the world of events and luxury hospitality. My soul would die if I did not have a passion for what I do.