GM Talk: Constance Schrader, General Manager, THE ONE Executive Suites managed by Kempinski
With a career spanning more than 20 years in the international hospitality industry, German native, Schrader, has held management positions at home, various Middle Eastern countries, the Maldives and China. In her first role as General Manager, she is responsible for all aspects of the hotel’s operations, including enhancing employee development and guest satisfaction, strategic planning and brand recognition. After almost a year in Shanghai, Ms. Schrader tells us why Shanghai has already found a place in her heart.
Talk: Why did you decide to relocate to Shanghai?
Constance Schrader: Shanghai is a beautiful and vibrant city; it combines international flair with traditional Chinese culture. From the iconic skyscraper skyline of Pudong, to the more traditional Puxi side and the heart of Shanghai, where you can stroll through the old town, not only areas like Xin Tian Di or Tian Zi Fang, there is so much more.
Talk: How are you differentiating yourself from your competitors in the city?
CS: THE ONE –Executive Suites managed by Kempinski – which offers a luxury home-like experience for our guests in one of the fastest growing metropolitan. We are unique in what we are and what we can offer, by delivering our brand promise of European flair. We provide business travellers (our primary audience) a comfortable size of room space; with a team that ensures a personal touch for each guest. We are recognised by our regular guests for our flexibility to cater to their personal preference arrangements and confidentiality in a more familiar atmosphere. Kempinski started in 1897, and being the oldest European Hotel company, we like to uphold our traditions and history. Nowadays, there are different generations, which we have to bring together and at the same time it's also about the personalised touches and privacy, it's the experience, our guest value. THE ONE Executive Suites is not as big as other hotels; we reflect an understated elegance and charm. When you walk in, we have a small lobby because our concept is more a familiar lounge style, which gives us an advantage because we get to know our guests better than in larger hotels. We know their likes and their dislikes, and this is why they like to return to us. We have quite a few international team members, I must admit, this makes a big difference, our guests prefer personalised cooking, personalised set-ups, and you can do this more if you are a little smaller.
Talk: What is your favourite dish in the hotel?
CS: The dishes change by season for me; I like to eat seasonal dishes. Right now, my favourite dish would be the cold cucumber and wasabi soup. It’s very refreshing. I also love steak, and I have a great German chef here who cooks to order. That’s why we have many regular guests who don’t look at the menu anymore. They literally ask for the chef and say, “I feel like something fresh today” or, “Could you prepare something with feta cheese for me?”
Talk: What is your ideal day out in Shanghai?
CS: I like to go to the old town. I love to go out with myfriends, and you have fantastic areas on Hengshan Lu, or even here when you go around Jing’an. You have tree-lined streets, you can stop at any café, you can sit there and let the world pass by, whilst people watch. It is relatively relaxing. I enjoy socialising and dancing, so part of Shanghai for me is having a good dinner and going out afterwards. There are so many choices in Shanghai; we have an abundance of it! You have some small hidden gems and the top, trendy places, so there are quite a lot of places you can choose from. But there is also a time when you just want to, get away from it all, sit in the park in summer or in a cosy café during winter, Shanghai offers it all. You can just read a book and enjoy the day. Also, Shanghai offers great opportunities for art and cultural activities. It’s a vibrant lifestyle suited for many different personalities, be it a night at the ballet or a concert, fine dining or casual culinary cuisine, there are always emerging, innovative concepts and trends.
Talk: How do the top tier cities in China compare to European cities back home?
CS: Looking at Shanghai, I’m positive that the city can easily compete. The trends and the concepts here are very fast growing. Shanghai evolves faster - it’s more dynamic. Europe, over the years, has moved a little bit slower. Yes, they are established, but I would never underestimate the Shanghai market. I like the dynamic here, and how innovative people get. In China, I believe that innovation and art are very strong, and this is what makes it so different. I think the city can compete far more than other international, metropolitan cities.
Talk: Finally, what are your plans for the future of the hotel?
CS: The future for us is definitely going in the direction of quality and service; looking into what our customers want. It’s not all about what we think has to be set in place, it’s about what our guests ask for. Expectations are rising within the local market; increasing brand awareness relating to Kempinski is one plan, in order to share our rich history and traditions. We need to focus on people and what is relevant to them to create those unique experiences they are looking for.
Service apartments are growing in Shanghai, and in other cities. People prefer the atmosphere of having the time to sit in a room, having the bedroom separated to enjoy a different design and being self-sufficient. So for us, this is the way forward to market the hotel.
Finally, it’s about the team and the people you have who are the key to success because it’s their passion and heart everyday that make us different. These people, our teams, need to be recognised and without them we would not have been able to be successful.