I am writing this on my way back to Paris from London, where I was a judge for one of the Cateys, and really enjoyed seeing some old colleagues again.
Back in Paris, I am happy to report that the Oriental Spa is now 100% open. Our guests love the spa and the service provided by Healthform. It's not over yet, however. There was plenty of squabbling due to a number of issues, made more difficult by added bureaucracy on this side of the Channel.
All went well with the group incentive scheme, and it hasn't stopped since. We just had Morgan Stanley checking out and Bristol Myers checking in. Springtime in Paris (March to May) is the time for huge group movements and then, as of June, it's back to individuals. I sometimes argue about having too many groups, but we do have 450 rooms and cannot fill them just with individuals.
April showed the first signs of a slowdown in business over here. Bank holidays fall on 1, 8 and 24 May, which is never good for business. The groups saved us. We were the only hotel fully booked and we still plan to finish May at 90%.
At the end of April, I attended Bass Hotels & Resorts' general managers' meeting in Frankfurt. The theme was "Food and beverage", and Tony Chi, a famous restaurant designer and operator, made an excellent presentation. Unfortunately, we have only a small budget and will not be able to use him. He doesn't see the importance of breakfast, but we, having just the one restaurant, are obliged to do so.
I believe I told you that we promoted Patrick Juhel to executive chef a couple of months ago. Patrick became a Meilleur Ouvrier de France in 2000 and we expect great things from him. Because the restaurant is not well conceived at the moment, we decided not to over-promote Patrick until we have done the changes, so we are able to announce the opening of a new restaurant and a new chef at the same time. This is planned for September.
PY Rochon did the hotel renovation and we are working with him on the restaurant as well. Since the budget is small, we have to be more creative. The brief is to have a fully fitted buffet - with no more skirted tables - which will disappear completely after breakfast. We will change the look from brasserie to café. Since it overlooks the Tuileries Gardens, the theme fits well. The first proposal is excellent, but we now await the estimates with trepidation. n
Dagmar Woodward is general manager of the Hotel Inter-Continental Paris
Next diary from Dagmar Woodward: 28 June