The Mandrake Hotel Lobby

Navigating the subjectivity of luxury in hospitality

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When people have different definitions of luxury, how can you ensure all guests get the kind of experience they’re looking for from your property? David Zitzelsberger, Director of Revenue at The Mandrake, shares how they’ve achieved this balance

Luxury is subjective

It’s a fundamental truth that no property can ever be right for everyone.

I come from a very traditional hospitality background, and The Mandrake is different from anywhere else I’ve ever worked. We’re fully aware that we’re not everyone’s cup of tea.

That’s why we’re very deliberate in the way we describe ourselves. From the language we use to the images we share on social media, we want to show who we really are so that people make a conscious decision to stay with us.

For instance, we recently had a world-famous tattoo artist, Mark Mahoney, come and set up a studio as a week-long residency. Some people might not consider this a luxury experience, but our guests who were interested in getting a tattoo from one of the best in the craft were very pleased.

When guests do choose us, we give them the right experience before they even arrive. For instance, guests coming on a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday tend to want more of a “vibey” experience and the feel of being at the center of the party, whereas Sunday to Wednesday tends to be a much more laid-back, calming stay.

By steering people in this way, we’re able to make sure every guest who walks through our doors has a good idea of what to expect. After all, if there’s a fundamental mismatch between their expectations and who we are, no amount of high-quality service will be able to fix their experience.

Once we’ve got the right people at the right time, that’s where the real work begins.

Offer each guest their best experience

Customer experience requires a full-time, company-wide effort. My job title is Director of Revenue, but I still consider my role to primarily be one of crafting the best guest experience possible.

That’s why we run a program internally—Catch Your Guests—that empowers all staff to make a direct contribution to a guest’s relationship with us.

The idea is fairly simple. Every time we have an interaction with a guest and learn something that can help us offer a better experience, we write it down and add it to the guest’s file.

It might be direct information relating to their stay, such as dietary requirements, how they like their coffee in the morning, or their favorite drink in the evening. 

But just as valuable, if not more so, is the information about them as a person. This is what allows us to ask about their dog by name, to make sure there’s a record player in their room with records they might like, or to arrange a taxi because they mentioned they were planning to walk across town – but it’s just started raining.

These little details might not be expected, but that’s precisely what makes them so powerful to the relationship.

We believe true luxury is about mind, body, and soul

Most luxury stays will cater to the mind and body. Our ethos is to take this one step further and cater to the soul. Our Spiritual Wellbeing Concierge service is about having a point of contact dedicated to nourishing the soul just as much as the mind and body.

Many aspects we handle in-house, such as yoga classes. For other requests, we have a list of consultants we can bring in, from crystalline sound baths to tarot card readings.

We started this pre-pandemic, when it was seen as a nice-to-have, but it has grown hugely in popularity as people have started to be more aware of their needs. While most guests used to use a stay with us as an escape from work, now it’s often an escape from work-from-home. That brings with it a growing sense of mental wellbeing, properly getting away, and looking after themselves in a manner that they might not have even considered before.

I think it will be a growing area in hospitality – especially as more and more people realize what a luxury stay can truly be.


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What do you think of this page?

  • Customer experience requires a full-time, company-wide effort
  • No experience—or property—can be right for everyone. It’s about creating the right experience for each guest
  • Managing guests’ expectations before arrival is a key part of making sure they get the experience they’re after
  • Opportunities to go above and beyond those expectations are invaluable
  • Since the pandemic, there’s been a rise in demand for spiritual wellbeing – something David expects will continue