Test everything again and again
All the hard work bringing those first guests in the door is for naught if the TV doesn’t work or the bed is uncomfortable. “Everything in our guestroom is tested by us,” Hnedak says, explaining that he personally sampled every piece of furniture, bedding, coffee maker, and more before it became part of the DreamCatcher guestroom. He adds that product testing should be done well in advance of the opening date so that if something isn’t working properly there’s time to replace it—custom pieces like furniture can take time to replace. “I don’t know of an opening where someone didn’t discover something that wasn’t working,” he says. “That can create a lot of problems for the guest experience.”
Jalbert adds that it’s important to focus first on aspects that directly impact the guest experience when it comes down to the wire. “You have to say what can wait that doesn’t affect the guest experience and what can’t wait because it does,” he says. “You have to make tough choices and see what can be done and what can’t. It can be nerve-racking.”
Expect the unexpected
Of course, Jalbert says that in planning for the grand opening, hotel owners and managers have to prepare themselves for things to go wrong. “Sometimes you have to adjust,” he says. “Some decisions are made and sometimes they work out well and sometimes you have to adapt.”
For example, after opening the walls at the St. Martin property, they discovered that the wiring wasn’t up to standard and had to rewire every guestroom. “That was not scheduled,” Jalbert says. “I had to create a case for the head office and let them know it was going to cost another 2 to 3 million Euros.” Then, a month before opening, a nasty storm flooded the entire first floor, and as a result, the hotel had to replace the carpeting and some furniture. When the unfortunate occurs—and most likely it will—Jalbert says it’s important to stay focused and devise a plan that will allow the opening to stay on schedule.
In the end, successfully opening a hotel requires an ability to handle whatever comes your way, be it hot water supply, construction deadlines, or Mother Nature. “You have to keep your cool, roll with the punches,” Jalbert says. “You have to readapt the plan every day.”