What does it mean to manage a hotel that is part of an international chain? It’s definitely a new challenge for the ambitious team of CPI Hotels, who are now operating Courtyard by Marriott Budapest City Center since April 1. Despite the adjustment to working within a large franchise system, they are happy to merge the highly standardized rules of the international brand with their enthusiasm. As the only 4-star Marriott hotel in town, they offer not only 234 rooms in the city center, but a restaurant available to offices and inhabitants nearby.
For this interview, we sit in a well-known hotel in the center of Budapest, which was delivered fromMarriott to CPI Hotels 2 months ago. What does this transfer mean for the CPI group?
Dóra Anek: We have been running two 4-stars hotels in Budapest: Mamaison Hotel Andrássy and Mamaison Hotel Residence Izabella. One is a 4-star boutique-hotel, while the other is a 4-star business hotel on Andrássy street. After signing a franchise contract, Courtyard by Marriott Budapest City Center joined our group on April 1. Guests probably won’t recognize the change, because it mostly affected the background team: departments of HR, finance and sales, and the appointment of a new general manager, Gergő Franciscky. The hotel has a strong international background and outstanding conditions, so our task now is to make it successful in the current situation. It’s not a new challenge for us to work with 3 hotels in the same time, as we had our Starlight Suiten Hotel Budapest until it was closed for a renovation. However, this is the first hotel in our portfolio managed in a franchise system. We have to get to know a totally new product, which is more than exciting. You may ask how difficult this is now, at the end of pandemic restrictions. It really is not easy, while on the other hand it’s better to learn the principles in a season when the hotel is not so crowded. We have to prove our suitability in a very short time. It also depends on the circumstances, but we will do everything we can to make this house successful again.
Gergő Franciscky: I’ve been working for 18 years for CPI Hotels in various hotels and positions, and this is a thrilling change to work in a structure of an international chain of hotels. In the beginning, most of our time is spent getting to know the hotel and the brand itself. In many aspects, CPI has a lot to learn from Marriott. However, we are ready to use our knowledge and professional experience, easy-going attitude and creativity; of course, without braking the international rules and standards. Marriott hotels are running with a highly standardized system, clear rules and with separated departments. In contradiction, our other hotels are running with a smaller team responsible for every part of the daily routine. In this new franchise relationship, I would like to use this same approach. We are working together for a common goal, and we are working for every member of our team. So, the strict borders between the different departments are becoming more flexible now. We try to reserve more energy for our guests with a high level of expertise. I am thankful to ???my foregoers?Marriott??? for the team I inherited. They have a professional attitude and strong commitment to our guests. Now, I must motivate them with our kind of dynamism, to make it clear that we really have to struggle for every room booked, or every person entering our hotel, and this we can do only together.
We tasted amazing dishes in this restaurant which is maybe not so well-known among locals.
Dóra Anek: We really would like to make our restaurant better known to Budapest locals. We think we are lucky to have a valuable restaurant located in our downtown hotel, and it’s better not to keep it just for hotel guests. The current situation is forcing us to do this as well, since booking numbers are still not as high as they used to be. We plan to introduce our restaurant to the local community in the upcoming weeks. Our chef has prepared a light summer menu. He is an experienced professional with an international background as he has worked in many highly appreciated hotels abroad. He brought not just local tastes to our menu, but special snack offers connected to the UEFA European Championship. Every participating country is on our menu with a traditional snack. We are targeting people who can’t wait to take part in the social activities they lacked of during the pandemic, and thankfully they can now meet to watch the football games accompanied by a great dinner. Another project of us is to offer the menu our chef is preparing for workers in the hotel to office buildings and people living nearby. Our menu is available for home or office delivery as well. So, we are really trying to build a connection between our restaurant and our ambience.
Róbert Melis executive chef: in the beginning, we would like to let the community know that we are here, and we would like to get to know them. We have a special snack menu with the favorite snacks of countries taking part in the UEFA European Championship. These are tapas-styled dishes so guests can try many of them. We refreshed our drink menu with new wines and we also rearranged our prices to be affordable for as many people as possible. We have the general Hungarian and international dishes like every hotel: salads, burgers, and the Gulasch is really the best in the city. We would like to offer honest, simple dishes and create a good atmosphere for guests to have fun. I find it important to communicate with the arriving guests, while I know all of the returning ones. Our kitchen is open, so everyone can come in, or order the meals directly from me. We definitely would like to make this place interactive and personal. We know what our guests like. It’s time for people to get together again, and gastronomy offers a great chance for this. I would like to create a steady clientele that is happy to taste our new dishes, while we are always ready to hear what they would like to see on the menu.
The main challenge for the hospitality industry now is to attract locals. What kind of plans do you have for this?
Dóra Anek: We would like to make Budapest a bit more exciting for locals. There’s a lot of attractions and activity options in this city which can be interesting for locals as well as tourists. I think every participant of the hospitality industry has the responsibility now to promote the values of our city, not just for foreigners but Hungarians as well. Our gastronomy, our culture, our beautiful historical buildings. Our city is appreciated internationally as a travel destination but I think it can amaze not just foreign tourists but also people crossing these streets every day.
Gergő Franciscky: Marriott can reach out for a huge number of international travelers who have a constant connection to the brand, and I think they will start to travel as soon as possible. They are the people who prefer to choose Marriott every time, enjoying all the premium offers of the hotels. Although there are many Marriott hotels in Budapest, we have the only 4-star Marriott in the city. We really hope that tourist groups will come as soon as international trips are possible for a wide range of people. We hope the same for the international conferences and events. Our sales group has a new challenge to book all the 234 rooms of this hotel in the near future.
You have two other hotels under renovation. One of them is the former Starlight Hotel, which will open as Mamaison Hotel Chain Bridge Budapest, while you also have another hotel opening soon.
Dóra Anek: Both of these projects are very exciting. We have two buildings next to each other in the city center, in Mérleg street. Not only the location is excellent but the design concept is also very special. We fell in love with the plans right in the first moment. Both of the plans were created by Zoltán Varró. Our 4-star hotel is targeting the top of the category, reflecting to the 1920’s in style, with huge rooms, 54 suites in total, part of them offering long term rentals with kitchen. There will be also a 200 square meter spa and a high-quality restaurant in the house. Next to this hotel, a 3-star design hotel is under construction, with 99 rooms. This will be a trendy place with an exciting design concept of Zoltán Varró, who is always ready to create something really unique, merging great design with functionality. In the lobby there will be a carousel awaiting guests, a reference to the Hungarian movie The Carousel, featuring scenes from the film on the walls as well. Every part of the hotel offers this kind of retro feeling, with two huge Rubik cubes as a reception desk. Renovations started in 2019 November, the main construction is complete, now we are waiting for the final work and the decision of the opening dates. We really hope that we can open at least one of the houses this year.