by Elizabeth Kye
Pierre Barthes can be best described as a man on the
move. Upon graduating from France’s L’Ecole
des Hoteliers de Nice, Barthes left for the United
States, where he has enjoyed much success. He started
his career as an assistant server at a restaurant
called the Polish Princess in Portland, Oregon, and
within a year and a half became the restaurant manager.
Barthes had worked extensively in restaurants prior
to his decision to pursue a career in the hotel industry.
His career lead him to many exotic destinations around
the globe including Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He has
also worked in exclusive properties such as the Westin’s
Palm Springs Rancho Mirage. Currently, he serves as
the resident manager for Manhattan’s newest
luxury hotel; Mandarin Oriental, New York.
Elizabeth Kye: How
long have you worked at the Mandarin Oriental New
Pierre Barthes: I started prior
to the hotels opening in June 2003, so I’ve
been here for about a year and a half.
EK: Did you have any formal
training in hotel management?
PB: My formal training commenced in the south
of France where I attended the Hotel School of Nice
to learn the business.
EK: What are some of your responsibilities
as a resident manager?
PB: Looking after the day-to-day
operations; making sure that the standards are met
by all of our colleagues; working to ensure that the
organizational structure, systems and procedures are
in line for delighting our guests; assuming responsibility
on behalf of the general manager when he is away.
A high percentage of my time is devoted to customer
relations and corporate relations.
EK: As a resident manager, you
must get complaints. How do you handle these complaints?
PB: My people are pretty good at
diffusing complaints before they reach me. We train
all colleagues how to handle complaints. I usually
get the worst ones. Then comes the challenge of effective
damage control. To turn the guests around and regain
their confidence in my staff can be a challenge. I
say to the staff, “Make sure you invite the
guests to voice any comments before departure,”
that way we can do something in response to the comments.
It is a lot harder to regain a guest’s confidence
after they leave. If they are still here, we can jump
through hoops and do whatever it takes, from sending
them an amenity, or if the complaint has to do with
the room, relocating them to a different room. If
it’s a service issue you want to be understanding
and listen to what the guest has to say. Nine out
of ten times you are able to turn a guest around,
because they see you genuinely care. If you don’t
take it personally, you can benefit from their feedback
by improving the operation, while at the same time
turning them around, which is the ultimate goal.
EK: What do you do when a guest
causes a disturbance?
PB: Typically, guests are well behaved
in a hotel like this. Fortunately we have yet to evict
EK: Describe your clientele?
PB: The corporate guests that we have are
CEOs and presidents of various Fortune 500 companies.
These people tend to be very low key, and low maintenance.
By and large we’re not going to hear from these
guests. They’re here for less than 12 hours.
They may fly in late and have an early breakfast meeting
and then they leave, so you very seldom hear from
them. The leisure market is the one that takes a little
more pampering, and what we call “higher maintenance.”
These guests usually stay with us on weekends and
pay their own way. They have selected us above our
competition and therefore their expectation level
is much higher. In addition, there’s so much
publicity written about this hotel - guests have such
high expectations that if we don’t deliver exceptional
service, we let them down.
EK: What is the best thing about
being a resident manager?
PB: What I like best is the human
contact, both with colleagues and guests. The human
interaction is a key element of this business. If
you don’t thrive on that, then you are probably
in the wrong field. If you enjoy interaction and have
the ability to reach out and engage guests and colleagues
then you will succeed in hotels. Those attributes
are a vital part of the culture and core values.
EK: What are qualities of a
successful resident manager?
PB: You have to be passionate about
your job. You have to have a keen eye for detail at
all levels. Failure is not an option, as they say.
You have to be warm and engaging. You have to be spot-on
every single time; people come here with high expectations.
They pay a premium to stay with us, and if we deliver
anything short of perfection, that’s not good