To say that Saskia V. Droz is excited about managing The Goodwood Hotel is an understatement. The hotelier, who trained in her native Switzerland, came over to the UK in 2007 and began working for the respected chain Malmaison. She’s worked in hospitality almost all of her life and was immediately attracted to the Goodwood estate’s rich, very English traditions.
“Obviously, coming from a chain background to Goodwood was very different,” admits Droz, who previously managed Malmaison’s hotels in Newcastle and Poole. “There was a very strong brand identity with the last hotels I worked in and Goodwood is, of course, completely privately owned.”
The Goodwood Estate is vast and not only includes the 18th century stone hotel building, which comprises 91 rooms and suites and a state of the art health club, but a golf course, aerodrome, horse racing course and the fabled racing track, which in September will host the annual Goodwood Revival. The emphasis that owner Lord March places on the estate’s glamorous history was an immediate draw for Droz.
“Lord March is so passionate about the entire estate,” she enthuses. “He continues to play a pivotal role in all the different sports it hosts and the general running of the facilities. That sense of history is very close to my own heart and I understand how important it is to protect it.”
As soon as Droz visited the hotel she recognised its potential. She saw it as her job to convey her own passion for excellent service to her team.
“It doesn’t matter what building you’re in,” she explains, “you can dress a hotel up with the best furniture and the latest trends, but if the people aren’t there to follow up with the service then the guests will see the difference. Delivering superb hospitality is what counts.”
Droz’s personal definition of “excellent service” is “about surprising the guests, exceeding expectations. This can be about small things, but the basics must be there: you need to be friendly, polite and efficient.”
Every member of hotel staff is responsible for providing this service, she explains. If a personal trainer should encounter a guest in the corridor, he or she will go beyond their duty to show the guest to their room or carry their bags. “As soon as people come through the door we want them to feel completely relaxed,” she adds.
Lord March continues to be involved in many decisions about the hotel – in terms of design and even the look of some of the uniforms. His attention to detail is second to none, says Droz, and has served as a fine example to her.
Since Droz arrived at the hotel, last July, she has begun to implement important changes. One of the biggest challenges, she found, was that the estate caters to such a variety of customers: sportsmen who use the health club, golfers, families, business people attending conferences and very high-end customers who come for all of the festivals. Then, of course, there are Lord March’s guests.
“People’s demands are very different,” adds Droz. “We need to be extremely quick at reacting and understanding them.
“When I came on board, some of the restaurants didn’t have a proper identity, so we’ve changed that. The bar and grill – which is near to the revamped health club – now include a healthy menu for people who are really into their fitness, but at the same time we offer a great variety of steaks and burgers which come from the estate’s farm.”
Droz finds it difficult to say which tradition she loves best. “There are just so many,” she laughs. But of the major events – which attract international visitors – she says that the Qatar Goodwood Festival (held this year from 28 July -1 August) is probably her favourite; however, typically for her she is already thinking of ways that guests’ experiences can be improved.
“I’m conscious that some guests may not have had the best day at the races – their bets may have failed, their horses not come in. It’s our job to ensure that the rest of the day – after the races – goes superbly for them. That’s the next challenge.”
Saskia V. Droz is relishing her new role as manager of The Goodwood Hotel. Alex Hopkins talks to her about impeccable service and the traditions of one of the country’s finest estates