Lifestyle Floor at new hotel offers “Manhattan feel”

November 18th, 2009 by H&R | Categories: beverages, feature, food, hotels, people, restaurants, technology, tourism, training

Southern Sun Hyde Park launched end-September 2009 promising a new food and beverage experience plus technologically advanced hotel rooms. It has delivered on these promises in new and interesting ways.

The hotel’s reception is on the ground floor, around the side of the Hyde Park shopping complex and complete with Porte Cochere. The access roads immediately outside the hotel are shared by the complex and provide a temporary solution until a R1.6-million improvement is made. This will merge the two separate side roads (both called First Road) to create a traffic circle with gardens and signage for dedicated slip streams into the hotel entrance, to be finalised shortly.

GM Nol Macquet says it is vital to ensure visitors get an ideal first impression of the hotel, and a lot of thought has gone into how best to do this given that it shares premises with a well-established shopping centre. His deputy GM is Bernie Hilario.

Once in the door it is up the lift to the eighth floor which is called the Lifestyle Floor. This includes a range of food and beverage and relaxation options, all with walls of windows and outdoor areas to maximise the views across the leafy northern suburbs. The first impression of the Lifestyle Floor has been described as having a “Manhattan feel”.

Bice Ristorante is a first for Africa, bringing this authentic Italian brand that currently has 60 outlets around the world to Johannesburg. Incorporated into the dining space is Daruma Sushi and Tempura Bar, a restaurant brand that has enjoyed a long association with Southern Sun and is present in some of the hotel group’s other properties.

At table one can order from the combined menu. There is also a sushi bar along one side of the restaurant that allows diners to watch the sushi chefs in action. A walk-in, glass-walled temperature-controlled wine cellar is a special feature. The wine selection is 50% Italian wines, 30% local wines and 20% international wines.

On the other side of the floor is a cocktail bar, whiskey bar and cigar lounge with whisky lock-up facilities, look-out lounge and pool deck. These provide a variety of areas for relaxation. To date, the bulk of visitors have been local residents enjoying the views, cuisine and service. The dcor includes muted, monochrome tones that are both modern and relaxing.

A new cocktail experience is due to be launched soon in association with Liquid Chefs. This will enable dedicated barmen to prepare the regular and premium cocktails to order quickly and with flair.

There has been a huge demand for cocktails since opening, with non-alcoholic cocktails making up around one-third of sales. Guest feedback is being used to constantly tweak the menu to ensure it offers a full range of products on demand.

Food and beverage manager Karol Joszkowski and executive chef Gareth Mcleod oversee the entire F&B operation, with dedicated chefs from the cuisine’s country of origin taking care of the two components of Bice: Daniele Fabris is the Italian chef de cuisine and Goda Katsumi is the Japanese chef de cuisine in charge of Daruma. Pastry chef Patrick Ngobese has worked hard on developing a range of innovative desserts.

Macquet says of the F&B experience: “Food, combined with great service, forms an intrinsic element in creating a memorable stay. Food is fuel but dining allows guests to connect with each other, whether they are here for business or leisure. We therefore pay particular attention to culinary offerings coupled with great service, as well as design and dcor settings.”

The hotel’s F&B offering has been full since opening, indicating the continued demand for new and sophisticated places to dine or simply hang out in Johannesburg. Occupancies of rooms have been more depressed, in line with the overall market trends.

The 132-rooms are split across three floors and include a range of suites and executive, deluxe and standard rooms. All rooms feature the state-of-the-art media hub that is the latest thinking in in-room technology. Other extras include iPod docking stations, DVD players, WiFi internet access, digital cordless telephones, dimmer switches for mood lighting, digital safes, and energy saving devices.

Bathrooms are large, with separate shower and bath. The tea and coffee station includes mugs matched to the wall dcor and a teapot for tea purists who refuse to dunk bags in mugs. Some rooms feature storage space for light snack. Mini-bars offer complimentary water and juice to start with, and can then be stocked to the guest’s requirements.

The rooms have been fitted with Simmons extra-length beds and all linen and amenities are by Chrysalis. These items are also for sale for guests wanting to recreate their in room experience at home. Top end mobile beds are available in the larger rooms for children.

Dcor features the latest designs and colours, with an emphasis on relaxing shades of greys, browns, silver and white, with splashes of colour like the purple shag-pile round carpet in the larger rooms and black and white abstract pictures on the wall.

Different textures applied throughout the hotel create interest. A special feature in passages is a row of soft coloured ceiling lights that create interesting shadows and replace the need for pictures.

Opening rates are R1350 per person per night during the week, and R990 including breakfast on weekends.

The staff complement is 120, all of whom have undergone psychometric testing to ensure their personalities fit the image and requirements of the hotel. This is the new thinking in Southern Sun to ensure top staff are employed, trained, and can deliver on the brand promise.

Macquet says of his management vision for this new property: “The GM is like the MD or CEO of a multi-million Rand business. It is a very diverse job and I owe it to my staff to provide good leadership as they make my business good.”

“I wanted to bring the staff a new type of leadership. This is a new hotel in a new area and I want staff to be relaxed, have fun, strive for service excellence moment by moment, let their individuality bubble out and don’t be afraid to make mistakes – just learn from them,” he adds.

“A room is a room, a breakfast is a breakfast, but the people are important. We are in the people business. We were given a beautiful product but the difference will be with the personal interaction and intervention, anticipating people’s needs,” he concludes.