An Interview With Latest News Travel Edit

An Interview with : Andrew Coney

The Hari is a stylish retreat in the heart of Belgravia which is designed for those seeking comfort and understated elegance. Bordering the areas of Chelsea, Kensington and Knightsbridge, Harrods is just moments away from and London’s leading attractions can also be found a short walk from the hotel, including Hyde Park, Buckingham Palace and The Royal Albert Hall.

Heading up The Hari team is general manager, Andrew Coney. We asked Andrew about his experience within the industry and what makes The Hari a must visit destination.

You’ve been the General Manager of The Hari for over six years; what key attributes and characteristics do you think make you a successful GM?

When I consider why I came into this business it was because I enjoy being hospitable – not a complicated concept.  Create a relaxed and enticing environment for your team and guests and it drives a successful business. It is dispiriting that so many operators focus so much on the bottom line and forget about the essence of what we are here to do which is providing consistently wonderful experiences.  Empowerment of the team is key. They must be allowed to be spontaneous and creative in what they deliver.

The Hari has been described as a comfortable and elegant place to visit. How does the décor and design interpret this?

We worked together with international interior designer, Tara Bernard, who is a good friend of our CEO and Chairman Dr. Aron Harilela, to create a home-from-home feel to the hotel. As we are located among the residential streets of Belgravia, we wanted an atmosphere that was stylish and inviting. Our rooms each have natural grey tones and textures with hints of aubergine, burgundy or ivy to add warmth. On entering the hotel, guests are met by a large fireplace in an open loft-feel lobby housing a rolling programme of art installations. The lobby lounge features an eclectic library and cosy hideaway areas. The mezzanine level plays host to The Bar and leads to a stylish al fresco Garden Terrace, its Belgravia’s best kept secret.

Who’s the typical guest at The Hari?

The Hari’s typical guest is a discerning traveller, they are sophisticated, well-read and like to truly get under the skin of the city they are visiting. Always on the lookout for authentic opinions and unexpected travel tips, a guest at The Hari is eager to experience the more hidden and curious side of travel.

There’s been quite a success story with The Hari London’s TripAdvisor position in the last four years. What has contributed to this success, and do you have your eyes on the number 1 spot?

We would be lying if we said they weren’t! The team have worked incredibly hard to get to where we are, and I think it naturally comes down to our personalised service. We are always keeping an eye out on how to make a guest’s stay more memorable. We call opportunities like this our ‘Stories to Inspire’ with which everyone is encouraged to do something unique for a guest whether it be to reinforce something positive like an anniversary, or turnaround a negative experience and relieve stress. “Have you had a tough day? Let me send a glass of Champagne to your room” – that can work magic.

The Hari extended it’s offering with the opening of il Pampero in 2017. What can visitors expect to see on the menu?

At our neighbourhood restaurant, il Pampero, you can expect a traditional Italian menu complemented by an impressive wine and cocktail list – worth a visit alone for our signature Cacio e Pepe, which comes served tableside tossed in a giant wheel of Pecorino Romano. New this year, we will be launching a brunch offering at the weekend, offering typical brunch dishes with an Italian twist. Watch this space! 

Was there one particular person who inspired you within your career, and how?

I could name numerous leaders and mentors who have guided me but my shout out is for a golf Greenkeeper. I managed a resort property that went through a dramatic case of Norovirus which took most of the hotel team out of action. This young man came to me and said he would work on the golf course in the day but could help in the restaurant in the evening. I asked him what experience he had, and he said none. That evening he spent the whole night reading about wine, our list and the service skills he needed. The next day he was charming all of our guests with his innocent and well-intentioned ambition to look after them and demonstrate the very best in teamwork and collaboration during crisis. I take his example as an inspiration to not be defeated and be ever determined to achieve the impossible. 

We’ve seen one of the most unprecedented years in modern times, and its impact on the hospitality sector is undoubtedly disruptive. How do you see the hospitality sector post- COVID and how do you think hotels will operate differently to cope with these?

I am a strong believer that the hospitality industry will bounce back. For so much of this pandemic, people have had to put their life on hold and there are a lot of milestones and celebrations which have been missed. We’ve already seen a huge pick up in wedding enquiries as well as birthday and anniversary celebrations. People are so excited to socialise again and our industry is ready to welcome them. We don’t like to make a big song and dance about all our COVID procedures because for the most part high hygiene standards already featured in our day-to day practice and our guests who are visiting a five-star luxury hotel expect this to be the case.

How do you think people’s expectations of luxury hotels are changing?

Emphasis on sustainability is absolutely key moving forward and is only becoming more and more important. Luxury used to mean being able to provide a buffet sourcing premium ingredient from all over the world, but these days, luxury is much more focused on experiencing local culture and local cuisine. The next generation of travellers are incredibly eco-conscious and so they should be. It is up to us to continue and move forward with what they have started.

The importance of working as a team is a key part of your management style and something you encourage. How much does this factor play in running a successful hotel?

Do we all remember those dreadful words “That’s not my job”? I don’t believe anyone would ever say that at The Hari and the communal sense that we are all here for one another is our ethos. Encouraging work/life balance, taking time to know everyone’s background and story makes the workplace a secure place. I feel strongly that we are here to deliver excellence but also to have time to not take life too seriously.

You invest a lot of time in community-based projects and incentives. Tell us more about those that you are involved in.

We have long supported the local community and have run projects through lockdowns to provide assistance to our neighbourhood, from a mass production of meals for those who would have gone without, to jumping on our Hari bikes to deliver groceries.  2021 will also be about giving back and our charitable work will continue. We want to do even more and are working on projects to support the arts who are in as much of a crisis as us, through sponsoring graduate artists and supporting young live theatre.

If you could give your younger self any advice, what would it be?

A little mischief here and there is actually probably not such a bad thing at all…….

thehari.com

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