Tonight (Monday 13th December 2010), ITV take you on an exclusive behind the scenes tour of how the luxury London hotel, The Savoy swallowed up £220m and 2 years during its record breaking refurbishment.
“You will be the wind beneath the guests’ wings. I am extremely passionate about what I do…I want to make this the best hotel, I’m going to say in the world, because I think we will.”
Sean Davoren, Head Butler, The Savoy, to his new team of butlers ahead of the hotel’s reopening.
The Savoy was Britain’s first luxury hotel and for over 100 years it has been synonymous with extravagance, glitz and glamour.
Now, for the first time, cameras have been allowed into this exclusive and elegant establishment to witness the closure and re-opening of the hotel after a staggering £220m, two year refurbishment.
ITV1’s The Savoy has been allowed unprecedented access at key points from the moment 650 staff were told the shocking news that the hotel was to close, to the moment the swivel doors started turning again more than three years later.
The cameras were there to capture all the crucial stages of the restoration, which took twice as long and cost twice as much as it was originally expected to. And we see how the hotel and its staff fare in the first weeks following its grand reopening.
From the builders and the butlers to the boss, key staff members talk to the programme about their part in reclaiming the glamour and glory of the iconic hotel, providing a revealing insight during one of the most pivotal moments in its illustrious existence and the people striving to meet the challenge of restoring its stature as a global leader in elegance, luxury and service
Project manager, John Ferrari, is seen ruthlessly enforcing the strict health and safety codes to the hordes of workers and expressing his grim determination to ensure what he describes as the biggest hotel refurbishment ever carried out in Europe meets its deadline for completion. As the pressure mounts in the race to get the hotel finished in time to receive its first guest, he leads cameras through the hotel’s labyrinth of unfinished corridors and even into the £10,000 a night Royal Suite.
Head butler, Sean Davoren, who has been a butler for 30 years and served every European royal family, leads a rigorous recruitment drive to select and train a team of world class butlers, for the hotel’s reinstated butler service – the first time the hotel has offered this service in 50 years.
And general manager, Kiaran MacDonald is followed at close quarters as he sees the refurbishment project through from start to finish, patiently waiting for the moment when the hotel will finally reopen.
The first film sees the day the hotel closed its doors to its last customer before the restoration process began.
When the hotel first opened in 1889, it was the height of modernity and the first hotel to have electric lights, lifts and en-suite bathrooms. As the hotel prepares for a full closure for the first time ever and the customers leave the building, Kiaran is on hand to reassure them about the changes that are about to be made.
He tells one customer: “There’ll be absolutely some changes, but the changes will enhance what we have today, it’s a restoration project.”
Out of the 650 staff who worked at The Savoy, only 25 were promised a job when the refurbishment was finished. Head receptionist Oli Ormond was one of them. He tells the programme: “We have had some people who are a little bit angry with us that we are ruining an institution. The Savoy is an icon of London, but, overall, people have been happy and are looking forward to seeing what we are going to come back with.”
The cameras visit the hotel a month before it is supposed to re-open, but it is still like a building site and the £100m budget has already been spent.
Chorus Construction Group project manager, John Ferrari, gives the cameras a guided tour of the building. He says: “This is, without a doubt, the largest hotel refurbishment ever in the whole of Europe.”
Kiaran explains that the project has over run due to a structural problem which only became apparent once work began.
The documentary revisits the hotel 18 months later when the end is in sight. Staff are starting to be hired, carpet is being laid and the £80,000 glass fountain is being lifted into place at the hotel’s entrance.
Three hundred thousand pounds has been spent on new uniforms for every member of staff from the chef to the front of house staff. Head butler Sean declares: “The uniform is everything. This is my stage clothes and I perform when I wear these clothes and so I have to feel comfortable in it for me to do what I want to do. It’s everything for me because I change from Sean to The Butler, when I put this uniform on. I do feel changed. I want customers and people to look after.”
Twenty-eight thousand people applied for 600 positions at the hotel and Sean is in charge of hiring the butlers.
John shows the cameras the hotel’s Royal Suite, which runs the entire length of the building. The suite boasts two bedrooms, a private dining room for 12 and a shoe cupboard with its own climate control.
As the restoration nears completion, the documentary follows Kiaran as he announces to his staff the exciting news that the hotel is going to re-open.
John and his team have a new deadline to meet and he tells the programme: “The goal posts have moved so many times but we will hit target, it’s not an option, we will hit target, as simple as that. If we don’t, we’ve failed, but I have never been on a job that’s failed.”
On the day of completion, the cameras are there as Kiaran prepares to take receipt of the keys from Chorus and move his staff in. Along with the 600 staff members, 600 pieces of specially commissioned art, 2000 chairs, 270 flat screen TVs, and 52,0000 pieces of china will also be moved in to add the finishing touches to the hotel.
Sean is now able to train his team to do everything from run a guest’s bath to dress them. He tells them: “I want to get you hyped up, I want to get you into that mode…and that is the mode of a butler. You will be the wind beneath the guests’ wings. I am extremely passionate about what I do…I want to make this the best hotel, I’m going to say in the world, because I think we will.”
As the hotel is now owned by a different company, the doormen and the receptionists explain that they will be learning to do things in a new way. Every staff member has to take part in a training day with one phrase at the heart of it: ‘I am Savoy’. During the training the staff are encouraged to do Mexican waves, singing, miming and role play to prepare them for their new jobs.
Sean says: “I’m like a little excited child…counting the days to Christmas. That buzz you get out of that guest, those challenges that are put in front of you, they make my day.”
After six weeks of moving in, the cameras are there as the staff prepare for their first guests. Kiaran is overseeing delivery of the final plants and blinds, while Sean advises his team to sit on the toilet of each guest room to see what the guest sees and make sure everything is perfect.
Finally, the head chef is preparing every one of the 36 dishes on the menu for Kiaran to sample and Oli and the other receptionists face the ultimate nail-biting dress rehearsal when Clarence MacLeod from the head office jets in from Canada to test the service.
Will they pass the test and be ready for the arrival of their first guest?