French luxury is balance and ancestral know-how in all things
After rich experiences in luxury hotel groups such as Sofitel, Warwick and Westin, François Delahaye was appointed General Manager of the Hôtel Plaza Athénée in December 1999. At the head of the Palace of Avenue Montaigne in Paris, he granted great importance to detail and refinement to achieve the excellence inherent in luxury. Since 2008, the Plaza Athénée is seeking the expertise of Bureau d'Image, a pioneering grooming training firm, which regularly trains its teams with innovative devices and modules adapted to the values and service standards of the institution.
Bureau d’Image : How would you define luxury?
François Delahaye : Luxury may be defined as the thing most precious to an individual (maybe : time, space, refinement, surprise, enchantment).
BI : Does French luxury exist and what would its characteristics be?
FD : Balance and ancestral know-how in all things. It encompasses gastronomy, tableware, wine, Couture, culture, architecture ; this sophisticated way of life is practised with a certain freedom and nonchalance.
BI : What have been the major developments in luxury hotels in recent decades?
FD : Technology, the race for the stars in Gastronomy and important investments for Palace hotels.
BI : How are luxury hotels stand out?
FD : In keeping the employee turnover down ; through employees recognizing 50 % of regular guests in a spontaneous and human manner as opposed to a standardized way.
BI : Which leader are you? What principles guide your professional life?
FD : I try and empower my employees, give them a lot of freedom, whilst always questioning myself and I am not afraid to change certain decisions.
BI : What requirements (know-how) does the management of a luxury hotel require?
FD : Questioning itself whilst knowing the hotel’s DNA and to stand by it, to the detriment of not necessarly following in the trend.
BI : What quality do you require from your teams?
FD : Engagement and loyalty.
BI : What fault inspires you the most leniency?
FD : Confessed errors.
BI : How important is it to train your teams to service excellence?
FD : Because it’s increasingly difficult to recruit, owing to the need to train regularly - as much as a ballet dancer has to.
BI : Even as CEO, do we continue to learn a little more about luxury, its codes and its many ways to embody it?
FD : Of course, but the most important thing remains the same exigence : LISTEN to guests who will allow us to improve ourselves and to adapt to their change in tastes.
BI : What advice would you give to young professionals?
FD : To be engaged and patient.
BI : If luxury hotels were a color, what would it be?
FD : Red.
BI : An animal?
FD : At the same time an ant and a cicada, as per Jean de La Fontaine’s fable. A hard worker and an entertainer in one.
BI : An adjective?
FD : Sophisticated.
BI : An emotion?
FD : Enchantment.
BI : An object? / A work of art ?
FD : A key.
BI : A motto?
FD : « It is often more tiring to think about what you have to do than to do it. Take Action! » &
« There isn’t a more dangerous thought than : we’ve always done this like that ».
BI : A virtue?
FD : To be thorough in all things. Spontaneity.
BI : A historical figure?
FD : Louis XIV.