BTN spotlight: Anthony McHale, GM, Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park
Anthony McHale is the General Manager of the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, a post he took up in March. A veteran hotelier with more than 30 years experience of managing luxury hotels around the world, he joined from Orient Express Hotels, where his most recent position was General Manager of Keswick Hall Club and Estate in Charlottesville Virginia.
His career highlights include being General Manager of the Windsor Court Hotel in New Orleans, Louisiana from 2000 to 2005, and Hotel Manager of The Hotel Bel Air, Los Angeles.
Anthony, who is British with US and Canadian citizenship, was educated in the UK and has been a member of the Chaine des Rôtisseurs, an officer of Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin and a board member of the New Orleans Tourism and Marketing Association.
BTN: You have relaunched the Park Terrace restaurant – what are the new features?
AM: The Park Terrace provides a rare opportunity for all day outdoor dining on Hyde Park. In addition to our exceptional food, we offer the ultimate in al fresco service with a selection of sun creams, iced towels, designer sunglasses, pashmina shawls and classics from the hotel’s vintage library to ensure every desire is catered for.
BTN: Which aspects of the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park are you most proud of?
AM: Discreet and flawless service underpins everything that we do, and the group is committed to exceeding guests’ expectations on a daily basis. At Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park we continue to excel in all areas of operation and I am delighted to part of this exceptional team.
BTN: Which are your key markets?
AM: Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park has a cosmopolitan clientele with strong ties to Europe, the United States, Middle East and China.
BTN: How would you like the hotel to evolve?
AM: The group’s strategy remains focused on positioning Mandarin Oriental as one of the world’s leading luxury hotel brands. The growth strategy is to successfully operate 10,000 rooms in major business centres and key leisure destinations around the world, whilst continuing to expand our presence globally. Our current portfolio reaches across four continents, and we remain firmly on track with our development plans.
At Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park we are fortunate enough to have a solid base of history and tradition to build on. But one can never rest on one’s laurels, and now, in inclement times, we have an opportunity to further grow our product without compromise, which we will do.
BTN: Is it possible to keep a hotel traditional whilst also offering cutting-edge facilities?
AM: Yes, I think so. In keeping with our history, our rooms and suites are decorated in a traditional style with rich fabrics and handcrafted finishes which offer an air of classic charm and elegance, yet each room embodies the latest in modern technology and a level of refined luxury that only something of uncompromising quality can achieve.
All rooms are equipped with high-speed wired and wireless internet access, Bang & Olufsen flat screen colour TVs with satellite channels and iHome docking stations.
BTN: How would you describe the spa?
AM: The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, London is a haven of tranquillity within the heart of Knightsbridge that combines harmonious design elements with therapeutic rituals – and is entirely dedicated to the guest’s wellbeing. Adopting a different approach to the traditional spa experience, the spa offers a series of innovative and restorative treatments, known as ‘Time Rituals’, where guests are encouraged to book ‘Time’ rather than a specific treatment. Expert therapists analyse each guests’ lifestyle and characteristics at the beginning of each ‘ritual’ in order to tailor the experience to the individuals’ needs.
BTN: How is the downturn affecting your hotel, and are you noticing any benefits due to the weakness of sterling?
AM: Having recently transferred from the US, I was pleasantly surprised to see how strong business was in London. Though corporate is obviously not as strong as previous years, the gap has been reduced by strong leisure and transient business, in part due to the weak sterling.
(Right: The Park Terrace Restaurant)
BTN: How did you first get started in the hospitality industry?
AM: I was brought up at home with good food and wine and my parents would take me to nice hotels and restaurants, so I was always very comfortable in those environments. When a friend mentioned that he was moving into the hospitality business I was intrigued as to what ‘hospitality’ exactly entailed, researched it and a year later followed in his footsteps, never looking back.
BTN: What advice would you give to anyone embarking now on a career in hospitality?
AM: The first thing I would say is that you really have to work in every department of a hotel to become an effective manager. Joining a company such as Mandarin Oriental that recognizes the value of training and development and dedicates the necessary time in cultivating a career plan is also crucial to a successful career in this business.
BTN: Which of your achievements are you most proud of and why?
AM: Taking 600 guests through hurricane Katrina, the days following and ultimately getting them home safely.
Developing people. There are a few examples, but perhaps the most successful was a kitchen employee that worked for me over the years. He started at $5 an hour and by the time I left he was taking charge as the Kitchen Manager in a major hotel, making $100,000 a year. This is one of the most satisfying facets of being a manager.
BTN: What’s your favourite hotel outside the Mandarin Oriental group and why?
AM: Villa San Michele in Florence. It was a 15th century monastery and is set in the hills overlooking Florence. A glass of prosecco in the gardens at sunset is the start to one of those memories that will last a lifetime.
BTN: What key attributes do you look for in potential staff?
AM: Sincerity, grace, a positive disposition and a strong work ethic.
BTN: Describe your management style.
AM: I am democratic. I believe in surrounding myself with the best in the industry and then allowing them to do what they have been employed to do. My job is to provide the vision and then as a team we will reach our collective goal.
BTN: Describe your perfect resort of the future.
Mandarin Oriental, Sanya. Go to the website and see for yourself! www.mandarinoriental.com/sanya