Four Seasons Paris

9-803-069
REV: JANUARY 8, 2003

ROGER HALLOWELL DAVID BOWEN CARIN-ISABEL KNOOP

Four Seasons Goes to Paris: “53 Properties, 24 Countries, 1 Philosophy”
Europe is different from North America, and Paris is very different. I did not say difficult. I said different. — A senior Four Seasons manager In 2002, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts was arguably the world’s leading operator of luxury hotels, managing 53 properties in 24 countries and delivering what observers called “consistently exceptional service.” For Four Seasons, that meant providing high-quality, truly personalized service to enable guests to maximize the value of their time, however the guest defined doing so. In 1999, Four Seasons opened the Four Seasons Hotel George V Paris
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The existing culture was inconsistent with ours. In a North American environment you can decide whom to keep after an acquisition at a cost you can determine in advance on the basis of case law. In France, the only certainty is that you cannot replace the employees. You are acquiring the entity as a going concern. Unless you do certain things, you simply inherit the employees, including their legal rights based on prior service. To be able to reduce headcount, by law an enterprise had to plan to be closed for over 18 months. Because the F.S. George V owner wanted the renovation to be complete in 12 months, staff were 8 guaranteed a position with Four Seasons unless they chose to leave. “Many of the best employees easily found other jobs, while the most disruptive were still there when the hotel reopened,” Young said. “The number of people we really didn’t want was somewhere in the region of 40 out of 300 coming back on reopening.” Young provided an example of the cultural problems Four Seasons found: “During the due diligence process the former general manager went to lunch with one of our senior staff. Even though guests were waiting, the maitre d’ immediately tried to escort the general manager and his party to the general manager’s customary table. At Four Seasons this is seen as an abuse of …show more content…
S. George V management implemented a “direct line”: once a month the general manager met with employees, supervisors, and managers in groups of 30 (employees met separately from supervisors—because subordinates in France did not feel comfortable speaking up in front of superiors). The groups met for three consecutive months so that issues raised could be addressed, with results reported to the group. Managers believed that the F. S. George V was the only palace hotel in France with such a communication process. Every morning the top management team gathered to go over glitches—things that may have gone wrong the day before and the steps that had been, or were being taken, to address the problem. “Admitting what went wrong is not in the French culture,” a French Four Seasons manager explained. “But the meetings are usually very constructive.” Finally, about three times a year, Le Calvez and his team hosted an open door event inviting employees and their families to spend time at the hotel. “This is to break down barriers,” he explained. “We take people around the hotel, into the back corridors. Try to remind people of a notion that is unfortunately being lost—that of the plaisir du travail—or enjoying one’s work. Furthermore, we celebrate achievement. Good property rankings, for example, are recognized with special team celebrations.” The property also cultivated external communication with the press in a way that was

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