30 June 2011

Let the People Choose

Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam

Since when is this possible with two, not one, attendants monitoring the taxi line? This option is offered in order to facilitate large groups with taxi vans and four or fewer passengers with sedans. If only all cities had sedan and van taxis widely available.

28 June 2011

The Little Things

From a friend in the field: Burger Up, Nashville, Tennessee

A lint roller in the restaurant bathroom came in handy for the white, Eco-friendly cotton napkins that shed and pill.

13 June 2011

Room Service - Service for the Room

I once read that a hotel is only as good as its room service is - between menu selection, delivery time and attention to quality. Pricing is sometimes left out of this run, but oftentimes a reason to cough up at - EUR 8,00 for an expresso at The Park Hyatt in Paris?

The kitchen for in-room dining is either separate from the hotel's signature restaurant or at other times not. The jury is still out on which is more efficient for the hotel, but as a guest, one is hard pressed to turn down ordering from Nobu while staying at The Metropolitan Hotel in London.

What I find even more interesting is how a hotel manages the delivery and presentation of in-room dining orders. Is it on a tray, and what kind? On a wheeled table with expandable leaves, with or without a warming box? Are metal covers used to keep the food warm? How are dishes stacked? After all, these are extensions of a hotel's guest experience.

At The Four Seasons Hotel in Santa Barbara*, someone decided to include an in-room dining table in each guest room during the design process. There it was, folded and placed in its own cabinet in the closet. They were consciously enabling a smooth transition from delivery tray and wheeled table to a solid table of our own, as table linens were being laid out. It is clear that the interior design planning took a step further into considering in-room dining - and the overall function of activities and services offered.

Another someone, at Babbington House in England, decided to source copper covers that allowed the stacking of hot bowls and platters. Genius.

Breakfast at The Four Seasons Hotel in Florence* was wheeled in on its own table, replete with decorative Richard Ginori china, reflecting the frescoed ceiling of the room and for every item on the table: separate white and brown containers, a berry bowl with lid and heating candle in the warming box beneath the table for the frittata, also on china. A linen napkin was folded in fours and left to handle the hot plate. It was deliciously decadent. So decadent that it broke my camera.

At a hotel in the South of France, the cover for our soup at was made of porcelain, a match to its bowl. But where was the soup? In a separate carafe to be poured by the server or ourselves. All of the porcelain was white and accented with bright, aqua-colored napkins - refreshing and reflective of the Cote d'Azur just beyond the windows. There was no wheeled table in this case, but a full set of linens was laid out on our in-room table. A wheeled table could have worked here, but perhaps the elevator could not accommodate them? I felt for these servers.

And by the way, all of the food served in the aforementioned hotels was exceptional, as it's probably no surprise if they've gone the distance with presentation and function.

*The inclusion of two Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts in this entry is purely based on their diligence in this area of service. There was no advertising support nor contact with the management company.

12 June 2011

Function As Service

Stonehenge, Wiltshire, England

Function: Instead of the impossible task of outlawing chewing gum at a UNESCO World Heritage Site, make its disposal convenient.
Design: Simple and usable, but I wouldn't want my fingers to touch the sides of the opening.
No gum buried in between archaic pillars of stone.
Placement: Almost camouflaged, it is hung next to a cigarette disposal on a wall along a walkway from the toilets and ticket booth to the parking lot.

05 June 2011

Hong Kong: Easy Spending at Harbour City

It's often still surprising how a little effort with some long-term foresight can go a long way, even in the short term.

Harbour City shopping center, in the busy Tsim Sha Tsui district in Kowloon, Hong Kong, has mastered how to capture, service and move shoppers through their 2 million square feet, indoor shopping center with finesse and sophistication.

Firstly: Dedicate opening hours of Monday - Sunday, 10:00a - 9:00p.
Secondly: Establish facilities that keep a recorded 200,000 shoppers per weekend moving from shop to shop.
Thirdly: Offer a range of tenants in their 450 shops that targets every kind of savvy shopper.
Lastly: Air conditioning. And lots of it.

Not only are the hours of operation convenient for early or late leisurely shoppers, it also caters to the development's 60,000 office tenants and 500 adjoining service apartments.

Facilities and services include 2 cinemas, the 50 restaurants, 3 hotels, various parking lots and a 'Shoppers Care Centre' that has thought of everything to make your stay, and shopping experience, all the more comfortable from mobile battery charging services and baby stroller loans to facial masks and vehicle battery boosting.

What is also not overlooked are the public restrooms. Typically attendants service high-end restaurants' restrooms by holding out a hand towel and a tip bowl. Here, an attendant assists an electrically-prompted light board that announces which stall is vacant for the next user. Not only helpful to the user, it drives us in and back on the shopping floor in no time.

And if mixing the human element with technological advances needs to be further expounded on, Harbour City has developed the 'i-Concierge', installed at various busy intersections of the shopping center. Not only is there a map, but a button to call a live concierge who by video can see us, and we him or her. "Where is the nearest Birkenstock shop?", we ask. As the screen changes to our current location, "Wendy", with her e-pen, draws where we are and where we should walk to get to our destination. If only she can print it out for us. Maybe that will be Wendy 2.0.

This "one-stop shopping experience", as Harbour City promotes itself, offers a specific range of decent brands to the varying consumers that come through. In addition to main stream brands, a section has been devoted to sports-oriented brands and gear where New Balance lines up near to Puma and a multi-brand sneaker/sportswear shop. If running or racket ball in Hong Kong is not your gig, then Chanel, Joyce and Dior line the Canton Road side of the complex. And the message is as clear outside these shops as they are inside the mall: efficiency through order, politely.

A center as this would not be possible without the sophistication and vision of its developer, Wharf Holdings, so it's of no coincidence that luxury department store, Lane Crawford, and Joyce Boutique in Hong Kong, are also owned by the same company.

Harbour City I 3 - 27 Canton Road I Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong I www.harbourcity.com.hk