The Hyatt Regency in Chennai recently bagged the best international hotel marketing award. BrandLine gets a taste of the ingredients that went into its securing this honour.

A balmy Sunday afternoon; a perfect day to laze around . But, it wasn’t so for a group of men clad in beige at Spice Market, the large, bustling restaurant at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Chennai. The 240-seat restaurant was bustling with guests – children were running all over, while diners were moving to and fro between the many food counters, loading their plates. At a time when the hospitality industry has been experiencing poor occupancy and falling rates, Hyatt is looking to boost its food and beverage offering. “Particularly, our Sunday brunch is one of the hotel’s key attractions,” says Sunjae Sharma, General Manager of the property.

Launched in the second half of 2011, the hotel is now a prominent landmark. “All of us, as part of the pre-opening team at Hyatt Regency Chennai, were in consensus on one collective goal: that we had to launch the first Hyatt in the South with a difference and leave no stone unturned to get the right message out to our guests and patrons,” says Sharma.

The hotel recently bagged the ‘Best International Hotel Marketing’ award. Ask him what it took, and he says the hotel already received a bigger award: repeat guests. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. “Wherever we open our outlets, we always want to connect with the locals, as almost every visitor to the city will have someone here to recommend a brand of his or her choice,” he says.

Chennai residents, he says, are making a beeline to the various Hyatt restaurants and to woo them back, the hotel needs to offer them authentic cuisine. As Hyatt believes in appointing native chefs for authentic cuisine, it brought in three chefs from its Beijing hotel for its Chinese restaurant in Chennai. It imports all the ingredients from China. “In fact, as the chefs from China could not speak a word of English, we even had to appoint an interpreter for them,” Sharma recalls. The awards ceremony was held in London by ‘International Hotel Awards’, established as the premier programme to reward excellence throughout the hospitality industry worldwide.

The hotel business is very competitive, where constant improvement in service, innovative products, packages and promotions are the key drivers.

Chennai now has almost all the major global hospitality brands. Owing to such a highly competitive environment, each brand needs to carve a niche for itself to keep the brand sanctity as well as positioning intact. “We are doing just that,” he says.

Sharma points to the live kitchens and wide spread. With the brunch comes an offer of unlimited beer and wine, all imported. All these come at a price point of a little over Rs 2,000 per person. And to communicate this, print and online were the media of choice. Above that, if one delivers consistently, and even exceeds guest expectations every time, then the brand will get another great publicity medium: word of mouth. “What we see here is the result of it,” he says with a triumphant grin on his face.

Besides print and online campaigns, a team of hand-picked service professionals, periodic food festivals, interactive cooking events and huge art installations by reputed artists dotting the hotel’s corridors all worked in favour of the hotel. “More importantly, each guest touch point in the hotel is what we always focus on, as we see a direct correlation between guest experience and loyalty,” says Sharma.

Technology too comes in handy to offer a great guest experience – such as offering a video chat for international travellers with family back home. However, it is an industry where, no matter how technologically advanced one might be, the mantra for success lies in the personal touches and the customised service offerings for guests.

Being a global brand helps in this aspect. Once they visit, the hotel registers the guest’s preferences. And these preferences are stored in its global server. For example, if a guest stayed at a hotel in Europe, the housekeeping staff in the hotel knows the guest’s preferences – from his choice of tea or coffee to room temperature. If the guest prefers green tea, the complimentary facilities in the room will contain more green tea bags. “When he comes to the bar, we know his preferences – what whisky he drinks, and even to the extent he likes to drink.”

Sharma is also quick to say “We also make mistakes, but we learn from them and correct ourselves.” There is a mechanism in place for that.  “We listen to our guest for their feedback, either through their direct and unfiltered feedback forms or online reviews. It provides us an unbiased insight into our performance and competency,” he said.

As the hotel’s target audience is varied, ranging from teenagers to the elderly, business travellers to families on a leisure holiday, both domestic and international, “Our offerings too are varied to cater to each segment as per its needs – be it big rooms, a passion for art, food, meeting spaces, spa and rejuvenation.” Hyatt’s marketing mantra has always been to create memorable experiences. “To attain this we embrace the local culture, and be community-friendly,” Sharma says.

A senior industry person, who is also playing a key role in the South India Hotels and Restaurants Association, said primarily Hyatt has the advantage of location. The hotel is bang on Anna Salai, Chennai’s main artery. Though it may not be doing so well in terms of occupancy, thanks to the current slowdown, he points out that its F&B business is doing well.

“Of course, Hyatt is globally known for its food,” he says. According to him, Hyatt’s cake shop Biscotti is one of the best in the city, and “the hotel is also carving a niche for itself in the banqueting space”, he added.

Marketing alone would not have helped the brand. “You may bring in people, but to retain them one needs to deliver consistently,” he says.

(This article was published on November 29, 2012)
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