Anyone can own a hotel, and that's a huge problem.
On Gordon Ramsay's new Fox series Hotel Hell (premiering Monday, 8/7c, Fox), the famed chef and restaurateur turns his attention to struggling hotels, motels and bed & breakfasts. And although the various businesses have different difficulties, the crux of the problem usually comes down to the owners. "Because they've got the money, they think that they've got the right to dictate what they should be serving to the public because they've bought the place," Ramsay told reporters on a call. "That isn't the case."
People who enter the hotel industry without the proper training tend to make similar mistakes. Here's a breakdown of the major problems Ramsay has experienced while shooting Hotel Hell:
1. Poor employee management: From skimming workers' tips to outright rudeness and condescension, many owners are ill-suited to lead their staff. Even Ramsay says that bad hotel owners can potentially be more overbearing than bad restaurant owners. "I found the attitude a little bit more disconcerting and a little bit more arrogant, almost like they were a cut above the rest," he observed. "'You will do as you're told. I'm an owner and what I say goes.'"
2. Laziness: Dismal hygiene and outmoded decor speaks to a lack of initiative and standards. Ramsay points out that while airplanes receive routine maintenance, hotels — which are often open 365 days a year — don't receive the same upkeep and re-evaluation. In addition, some owners simply feel that they don't need to try. "When a hotel is off the beaten track or in a provincial town, they think that they're almost historic landmarks that customers will just travel to because they're en route to ski resorts or Disneyland," said Ramsay. "They think that's all they need to draw customers in. Well, it's not, quite frankly... You see the customer being undermined and shortcuts being taken in hygiene."
Case in point is his experience at Juniper Hill, a hotel that had problems so big (including the size of the co-owners' egos), that they couldn't be contained in one episode. In Part 1 of the two-night special airing Monday and Tuesday at 8/7c, Ramsay discovered an issue that had been plaguing Juniper Hill for four months. "I couldn't quite understand why there was this smell that was horrific, and the room was gorgeous," he said. "How can you rent this place out when it smells? And then literally, two days later, I found a pen of pigs downstairs in the basement... If that's what it smelled like in winter, goodness knows what it would have smelled like in the summer."
3. Questionable taste: Once again, owners often displayed ignorance of basic hospitality practices and business sense in the choices they made for the selection of menu or decor. In a San Diego hotel, Ramsay encountered an owner who had hired a car designer to handle the hotel's interior design. "He had all this high-tech, expensive furniture that just looked ridiculous," Ramsay explained. "It was so far in the future, it wasn't comfortable. I asked, 'Why should you spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for a designer that designs Ferraris to furnish your hotel?' He said, 'I love Ferraris and I have a Ferrari. They're unique.' I said, 'You don't sleep in your Ferrari. Why would you get a bedroom designed by a Ferrari designer?' He couldn't really answer the question."
4. Poor attention to detail: Antiques, fancy menus and posh surroundings are all well and good, but Ramsay feels hotels should focus on excelling at the basic comforts to foster true customer satisfaction. "Inside the wardrobe, when you hang your clothes up ... you want a decent hanger, a proper coat hanger," he said. "I find [the lack] so frustrating. So many towels are so small and unfriendly in terms of they're bloody rough... The way the bed's made: Is it made with a bit of love and attention?... Less is more. The more relaxed and appealing it is, the better the stay. I like things to look comfortable."
Although Ramsay is known for yelling and cursing profusely on TV and in the kitchen, he also lets off steam by running and is currently training for his third Iron Man competition. Putting up with all the stresses has paid off. Although one of the hotels featured on the show has entered foreclosure, Ramsay said, "We have a good above-average rate. Five out of six have worked brilliantly."
Check out this preview of Juniper Hill's odor problems from the two-part special edition of Hotel Hell, airing Monday and Tuesday at 8/7c on Fox: