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How Hotel 41 got to no.1 on TripAdvisor.

by Rajul on October 15, 2010

Staff at Hotel 41 – current TripAdvisor number 1 – are trained to get clued up on your preferences before you arrive and to “wow” you with their service at every opportunity

I recently visited Hotel 41 where I met the General Manager of this luxury boutique hotel in Victoria – Malcolm Hendry – as well as the MD of Red Carnation Hotels (and Hotelier of the Year 2009) Jonathan Raggett.

I wanted to learn how Hotel 41 had achieved the position of being rated the best London hotel by TripAdvisor reviewers over recent months.

I’d previously done a similar analysis on the company’s other 5 star hotels, the Egerton House and the Milestone, when they too had occupied the TripAdvisor #1 spot (both are still in the leading London hotel positions).

A “Junior Suite” at Hotel 41: all rooms follow the same distinctive colour scheme and there are nice 1920s English pictures on the walls throughout

To fully understand how Hotel 41 had won such acclaim, I asked both Red Carnation executives some questions and then took a tour of the hotel.  To get a second opinion, I also asked a colleague to explore Hotel 41’s TripAdvisor reviews (there are 444 of them so a good sample size) in detail.

The conclusions on how Hotel 41 has achieved no.1 are presented below:

  • “First impressions”.  The entrance to Hotel 41 is discreet yet grand.  Only guests are allowed into the hotel giving it the feel and tranquillity of a private club.  Décor is strikingly original as the images show – but is not overbearing and also imbued with a sense of fun.
As you enter Hotel 41 and walk through its grand corridor before being whisked up to the top floor, you know you’re in for a rather unusual hotel experience
  • “Best of both worlds”.  Hotel 41 is a small luxury 5 star hotel in the same building as a large 4 star hotel.  There is an opportunity to share resources and staff to give added value to Hotel 41 guests.  This kind of cost and value synergy would be hard for other hotels to replicate.
  • “A sense of history and occasion”.  The hotel is a unique property on Buckingham Palace Road (with views of the Royal Mews) which used to be a former ballroom where debutantes were presented to the Queen.

Check rates at Hotel 41

The mezzanine area above the Hotel 41 lounge provides a quiet place for guests to work (there’s free WiFi throughout the hotel)
  • “Disadvantages become benefits”.  The hotel’s lack of restaurant has been turned into a guest benefit.  For example, it is one of the few luxury hotels in London to serve kippers at breakfast – in fact breakfast is served 24 hours a day.  The menu in the lounge is based on comfort food (using impeccably-sourced ingredients) and you can ask for any item “to order”.  You can also “raid the pantry” (like BA Business Class) at will.  Informality combined with excellent service is loved by guests.
  • High staff-guest ratio and exceptional service.  There is an impressive 2:1 staff to guest ratio to facilitate a very personal service style.  As a lesser-known hotel, Hotel 41 probably sets lower expectations than places like Claridge’s while service levels are similar.  Since only guests are allowed in, the public areas are never as busy as other hotels and staff are free to give you their full and undivided attention.  I was struck by the extremely calm atmosphere in the Hotel 41 lounge.
The lounge of Hotel 41 is the heart of the hotel: it’s exclusive to hotel guests and will serve you pretty much anything you might wish “to order”
  • High repeat business rate (up to 70%).  Hotel staff aim to learn about individual guests and build their database across multiple visits.  First-time guests are sent a preference form and a big effort is made to source favourite items.  Malcolm Hendry explains the hotel’s edge succinctly: “What we really do well is know the guest needs exactly”.  The button on phones in guest rooms is labelled “Everything Anytime”.
  • A great General Manager whose personality “fits” the hotel.  Malcolm Hendry exudes calmness and is clearly someone whose feathers are not easily ruffled.  This is the ideal profile for someone running a luxury 5 star hotel of this type.  He says he feels “truly lucky” in his job…his calm management style and enthusiasm clearly get transmitted to the staff.

Check rates at Hotel 41

Hotel 41 doesn’t do “conventional” as this photo of the hotel’s one (and only) sumptuous boardroom illustrates
  • Product innovation.  Luxury hotels have changed because expectations of luxury have also changed.  People don’t now want “stuffy” or formal but still expect great service – so new ideas like “Raid the Pantry” really work.  There’s also a new concept of “hospitality suites” at Hotel 41 – these comprise both a comfy bedroom and an interconnected lounge with entertaining and business space.  All facilities are provided (WiFi, business equipment, PAs, etc.).  This is the ideal set-up for business guests who want to enjoy the 5-star surroundings but may have demanding business requirements too.  It’s a very 21st century marriage of high-powered business with a need to unwind quickly.
A “Hospitality Suite” at Hotel 41 will help you combine business with pleasure (they’ll even bring you champagne at the end of a successful day)

Recent guest comments from TripAdvisor reviews of Hotel 41 confirm the above analysis.  Here is a quick selection:

“Once you arrive in this hotel, it feels like coming home”

“Thank you for always bringing me Turkish Delight (chocolate)”

“Snazzy but not pretentious”

“Privacy and luxury with top class friendly service”

Check rates at Hotel 41

Hotel 41’s competitors (including the parent’s other luxury London hotels) clearly have their work cut out to dislodge it from the number 1 spot.

Photo credits: Hotel 41 (Red Carnation Hotel Collection).

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Michael Heppell October 18, 2010 at 4:52 pm

Agree 100%. A well deserved of the number one spot. It’s more than the best hotel in London – it’s one of the best in the world.


Twitter @michaelheppell

Geraldine Daly October 18, 2010 at 5:01 pm

Congrats to You and your team,

It is wonderful to see innovation in our hotel industry and great leadership. People like to have a choice and I still believe that it is the little things that count. But mostly your Guests know that they matter to you and your team.


Stanley October 20, 2010 at 3:54 pm

Mr. Jonathan Raggett must be so elated of this achievement. I remember in a talk Mr. Raggett gave us at Oxford Brookes University, he was so passionate about service, service, service. I think his determination to provide the best service through product innovation and CUSTOMER LOYALTY really paid off. In my view having your customers to visit over and over again is the greatest achievement ever (70% is exceptional) and not to mention the word of mouth Publicity which comes with it.

Well Done.

Nice Write up Rajul.

twitter @stanleydcosta

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