I recently put mysefl on a silly diet. The kind of diet that my friends of long standing will cause their heads’ to whip around and ask, “okay, what did you do to the real Andy.”
You see, for long term health reasons I’ve decided to go very, very carb light and as much as possible, sugar free. Having been someone who was a healthy eater, but with a lousy diet, who is smart enough to know that red wine’s heart healthy powers only go so far, and that there’s more to dieting properly than simply pasta, rice, red meat and fish.
So, with some help and advice from people wiser that I, I’ve started to change my diet, dramatically. Now two weeks in, I’ve only had wine three times versus what would have been no less than three times in a week or less. I’ve had no pasta, very little rice, no pizza, no cheese steaks and no bread or bagels. Those who know me well, know I would have had at least one of each of those just about every week.
So with that in mind, it would be easy for the normal person to keep a diet that is best described as the Paleo diet, basically what the cavemen ate. And, when it comes to the kinds of restaurants I fancy, they are more about how good things look on the plate, so it means being a bit of a pain to the staff and only order things you can really eat, while still enjoying them. For example, I had the team at Pamplemousse Grill make me spaghetti squash with truffles vs. regular pasta one night..and was it ever great.
So given my life is anything but normal, -- I don’t stay at home long, tend to live on the road, stay in hotels that one would think have menus designed for comfort, and where every guest could be another guest. Nameless, faceless, simply another credit card to charge. Those hurdles exist and challenge many. Not for me. And not where I stay.
Over the past few years I developed a very close friendship with the General Manager of the Intercontinental San Francisco. Peter Koehler and his staff. The only problem with being a member of PK’s staff is you get such great training that you move on to other properties. And for a guest like me who is more loyal to the people than the brand that really helps when you need it.
Thanks to PK and his team, especially his super star assistant Jadey Chin, and former Guest Relations Manager Shehani De Marseille who now is running the front of house in Cleveland, as well as so many others who excel in delivering on what I call PKE (Peter Koehler Experience), when I travel to another Intercontinental property, what can best be described as a request for VIP treatment is sent to the GM of the property wherever I stay.
Usually that means upgrades, nice touches in the room, a friendly face and a nice warm greeting. In Sydney, PK’s peer, Joerg Boeckeler has taken to the same approach as Peter to a very nice and beneficial extreme. He had his chef put together a heart and health happy menu for me in the Club Lounge (as a Royal Ambassador I get access) that was perfect for me for breakfast and will mean I'll be in the hotel more working with a view of Sydney harbor.
So as I sit overlooking the Sydney Opera House, I'm having a very good, heart healthy carb free breakfast, all because of loyalty, not to a chain, but to people. So just like there's a PKE, we now have a JBE to go along with IHG's Royal Ambassador program. To earn either a PKE or JBE badge from me means the staff has to care, and they have to do thinks that are right for the guest, with consistency. I can tell you in San Francisico, Sydney and recently Bangkok, the guest experience, thanks to PK and JB was off the hook amazing.
In today’s travel era, hotel groups need to get back to personal relationships, because, no CRM system in the world can replicate what Peter and Joerg can do and are doing for their guests who they consider "friends." And that’s why Loyalty Programs can only go so far, and why really knowing your guests really matters.