Elegance is arrogance

"Elegance without warmth is arrogance"

Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen ”. Horst Schulze once formulated this credo. He already occupied himself with it at the tender age of 15: in an essay for the vocational school. "For that I got the only A in my school days," he recalls. And that's what he's built his career on. Because the summary drawn in the article “Who

Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen ”. Horst Schulze once formulated this credo. He already occupied himself with it at the tender age of 15: in an essay for the vocational school. "For that I got the only A in my school days," he recalls. And that's what he's built his career on. Because the summary drawn in the essay, "Whoever wants to be respected, must achieve top performance" leads to his very personal motto: "Creating Excellence".

For him, the decisive factor is empowerment, the transfer of responsibility to subordinates, regardless of the hierarchical level. If a guest is dissatisfied, the employee involved, whether page, trainee or department head, may / must / should do whatever is necessary to make the guest happy.

Horst Schulze knows the hotel business. From the very bottom he worked his way up to the CEO of the Ritz-Carlton chain. When Marriott bought the company and did not want to go along with the cost-intensive standards, Schulze had his shares paid out in 2001 and left.

Schulze studied the writings of Adam Smith, the founder of classical economics. Not only with the “prosperity of nations”, but also with the “theory of ethical feelings”, which deals with human nature and its relationship to society. Not a higher authority, but man himself set his limits. Schulze's service concept is based on this: Only those who are satisfied in their job do a good job. This perspective was the building block for his success at Ritz-Carlton - a customer satisfaction rate of a full 96 percent. The group received several awards for this during his tenure. And the Winninger-born was named "Hotelier of the Year and Greatest Hotel Pioneer of All Time" by the world in 1995.

Even at the age of 68, his passion for the industry still drives him. A passion that began with an apprenticeship as a waiter. Born on the Moselle as the son of a post office clerk, he made the decision at the age of 11: I'm going into the hotel business. He had never been to a hotel then. At 14 he started as an apprentice at the Kurhaushotel Bad Neuenahr. It was here - thanks to good trainers and role models - that he discovered his passion for the hotel industry.

The manager stands out in the world of luxury. Mainly because he has remained the down-to-earth type that one might suspect behind an everyday name like Horst Schulze. Despite all his successes, the man from the Moselle has remained fairly authentic, occasionally a bit boisterous, sometimes boyish. He is a man of decided opinions, anything but one of the "lacquered babblers" that the industry produces so numerous, says a colleague. Schulze lives and loves understatement. And he loves visiting his homeland, where he lovingly renovated his parents' house. He also "never" misses the wine festival in Winningen. Everyone there knows him: “The one with the hotels lives over there,” they say.

Most of the time, however, Schulze lives with his wife, four daughters and several dogs and cats in Atlanta, Georgia or in a vacation home in Florida. The frequent traveler can relax as much by gardening as by reading, fishing and "a little sport". For him, luxury means not having to travel. Nevertheless, he is restless. He had promised his wife after leaving the Ritz-Carlton that he would stay home now. But he got bored after a week. It appealed to him to start something completely new again.

Always restless, never unsuccessful

In 2002 Schulze founded the West Paces Hotel Group in Atlanta with the top product Capella and the 5-star Solis hotels and took over management of several private top hotels in the USA. And - for nostalgic reasons, but also because the project was promising - the Parkhotel Euskirchen.

It had long been clear that he wanted to create his own new hotel brand that would stand out from the existing luxury hotel market. But it took a few years for Schulze to nail his head. On October 6, 2005, the CEO of the West Paces Hotel Group revealed the secret of the name of his new top luxury group: Capella Hotels and Resorts. For a long time he had been looking for an internationally functioning name. By chance he heard of the constellation Auriga (the charioteer), whose sixth, brightly shining star is called Capella. He had this name protected, and Auriga at the same time: This is the name of the Capella Hotels spas.

For Schulze, the international hotel industry is and will remain an industry in which it is worth investing. Especially with mix-use properties - luxury hotels and luxury apartments under one roof - you can usually achieve significantly better returns than with office properties. “Our business is booming, the prospects are good, and you can earn decent money anywhere with sensibly managed hotel properties,” he said in an interview with Wirtschaftswoche.

The word got around among investors. “When we started five years ago, we still had to beg for money.” Today, Schulze receives several offers from project developers every day. The man who names the Adlon, Villa d’Este and Traube Tonbach as favorite hotels is out around 200 days a year to negotiate with potential investors. "Most of the projects do not meet our requirements," says Schulze. The rooms are too small, the infrastructure or the location are not right.

The Capellas, which opened in 2007, the Castlemartyr in Ireland and Velden Castle on Lake Wörthersee in Carinthia worked well. Everyone knows the neo-renaissance castle on Lake Wörthersee from television. Owner Gunter Sachs left it empty for 15 years until a bank struck in 2005 and invested around 150 million euros in resurrecting it as a Capella Hotel.

With the Breidenbacher Hof, the third Capella opened in May 2008, and four more hotels will be added in Ireland, Mexico, Singapore and Colorado by the end of the year.

What is a Capella Hotel anyway? A boutique hotel with a maximum of 100 rooms. The principle: With around 30 arrivals a day, you can prepare for each individual guest. However, this size means doing without volume business, because this is the only way to offer individual service.

Service, service, service

So it is a high standard that Horst Schulze now has to be measured by. That doesn't concern the hotelier. He leaves no doubt that a hotel is a company and has to make money. “Anyone who invests in this industry is entitled to a reasonable return,” says Schulze.

A focus group of brand experts from outside the industry, convened by Horst Schulze, came to a sobering conclusion: There is not a single real brand in the international hotel industry. The reason: From location to location, even within a chain, a service that is too different is offered. “Some are great, others mediocre, some just bad,” Schulze sums up, but the same (brand) name stands above all of them. Schulze, on the other hand, considers product reliability when it comes to service to be an important, if not the core, task of a hotelier.

But hotel companies today are more likely to be run by financiers and lawyers than by hoteliers. Service and luxury fall by the wayside: “We save on staff so that the result is right.” As soon as luxury hotels have opened, savings begin: “First the flowers, then the pianist, then the expensive soaps, and so on so it goes on. ”After two years the paint is off and most of the luxury hotels are no more. The successful hotelier finds the completely wrong approach. Instead of thinking, “Where and how can I save?” The task must be: “How does the guest spend more money?” For example, by seducing the guest. With tempting spa offers or in a first-class hotel restaurant.

Schulze has often proven that the F&B area is close to his heart and that it plays a significant role as a distinguishing feature in his concept. The kitchen in Schloss Velden should reach for the stars, and a lot is expected in the Breidenbacher Hof. With Cyrus Heydarian, Schulze has also hired a general manager for the Düsseldorf flagship who is very familiar with top gastronomy. Perhaps the Capella chefs will soon embark on a "Tour d’horizon" to the best restaurants in the world, as Horst Schulze once did with 45 chefs from the Ritz-Carlton Group through the best kitchens in France.

Ritz-Carlton's top F&B manager, Swiss Peter Schoch, has followed Schulze to West Paces as Vice President Culinary. Loyalty is typical of Schulze's colleagues and employees from the Ritz-Carlton times. You identify more with the man than with the brand. “Wherever Schulze is, there are standards and values ​​that I value as a work environment,” says one.

Schulze does a lot of things differently from others. His approach: “We follow the guest.” That means: “We do everything that is legally and morally impeccable.” Eating at 3 o'clock in the morning is as natural as the room furnishings, which have been thought through down to the last detail. A great hotel alone does not guarantee a great guest experience. Real well-being means feeling at home, cared for, completely individual. And the employees play a decisive role in this. Professional service is important, but warmth and cordiality are much more important. Then it makes less of a difference whether someone serves from the right or the left. Because, according to Schulze: "Elegance without warmth is arrogance." His recipe for success when it comes to employees is: "Motivation, good pay and intensive training." shouldn't be surprised at poor performance.

“You can only get satisfied guests with satisfied employees,” says Schulze. He probably speaks from the soul of many frustrated hotel employees when he sums up: "Bad staff is the result of bad management." The trained waiter also does not accept talk of the service desert in Germany: "A lazy excuse."

When selecting employees, it is less about experience than about "heart". Because cordiality cannot be trained. A few days before the opening of a hotel, President Horst Schulze and his Vice-Presidents arrive from Atlanta to personally prepare the new team for the tasks. And everyone is there, from the dishwasher to the director. For Schulze, service is a mission and the most beautiful job in the world. “I want to get people excited about it from day one. They have to be part of what we do, what our goal is, and internalize our philosophy, ”he explains. "I invite the employees to become the elite in the industry, and then the money will come by itself."

In Schulze's opinion, most hoteliers and, above all, their controllers are subject to a mistake in thinking: In the luxury segment, customers don't come because of the price, but because the product convinces them. That is why Schulze thinks a lot of the German market and its potential. "If you don't offer guests any service, you can't ask for much for it," he comments on the low room rates in Germany by international standards. In Düsseldorf he wants to prove that there is another way. The goal is an average room price of 350 euros per night. "We're not going to play discount games."

“The hospitality industry is dominated by chains that offer yesterday's answers for yesterday's guests.” This is what the West Paces Group website says. That fits in with Schulze's argument about price. “First comes the guest, then the service offered - and only then does the price.” At Capella, one does not orientate oneself to the competition, but to the value of the offered service. "It is crucial that we achieve a high level of guest satisfaction and an equally high level of guest loyalty - this is the only way to ensure a high level of occupancy for us," he says.

Schulze makes hotels for guests who, like himself, are out and about for a large part of the year. These frequent travelers could tell a song about what's missing. Because no guest wants to have to adapt to the hotel room in which they spend the night. No guest wants to look for coat hooks or sockets just because they are not where they are needed.

It's all about the brand mix

Schulze's high price concept seems to be working. Business is starting to be very satisfactory. "In the Capellas on Lake Wörthersee and in Ireland we are above our target figures," says the manager happily. And the Breidenbacher Hof? "He's already impressing with higher numbers than planned," he says. The boss of the luxury chain does not - yet - want to name any key figures such as occupancy and RevPar. The average rates are "very different from house to house" and also not meaningful, "because they are falsified by the seasonal differences".

How does he get his projects? He knows the right people; many of his current owners and investors used to own Ritz-Carlton hotels. It is often a coincidence. Schulze has identified a good 70 locations around the world where a capella could work. He assumes a mix of around 45 city hotels and 25 to 30 resort hotels. “We need a high room rate for Capella, and we cannot achieve that everywhere,” says Schulze.

Capella has no competitors of a brand, but unique individual hotels such as the Villa d'Este, says Schulze. Capella concludes management contracts with guaranteed success. Lease contracts and investments in real estate are not an issue for Schulze. There will be more Solis locations, because competitors for this luxury brand are "all hotels that are seen by the public as 5-star hotels, such as Four Seasons, Mandarin Oriental". He can also imagine both brands in one place: "Capella and Solis don't hurt each other because they serve completely different markets."

After a good five years of development work, Schulze has built up an infrastructure of developers and investors and can focus more on what he is passionate about: Operation and service are the basis for happy guests and investors. And so that employees can achieve top performance. That is what distinguishes a “Schulze Hotel”, sorry: Capella or Solis Hotel, from others: the heart.