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#034 - Hospitality Meets Anne Golden - The World Class General Manager
Episode 349th September 2020 • Hospitality Meets... with Phil Street • Phil Street
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Hospitality never stands still, there's always something new on the horizon. This week, we've got an amazing chat with the Opening General Manager Anne Golden who has the not insignificant task of leading one of the most exciting projects on the horizon in Europe, the Pan Pacific London (

In addition to Anne's amazing journey, we chat about Lockdown fatigue, learning from mistakes, emotional intelligence, training & development, check in and check out, overbooking, The Pan Pacific London (Naturally), making your own Olympics, gnomes, Jurgen Klopp and so much more.

Anne speaks with such humour and humility, it's not to be missed.


Recorded on 29th July 2020

Show transcription


hotel, people, pan pacific, hospitality, london, singapore, world, realise, moment, lots, industry, floor, sales, guests, experience, incredible, team


Anne, Phil

Phil 00:01

Welcome to hospitality meets with me Phil street where we take a light hearted look into the stories and individuals that make up the wonderful world of hospitality. Today's guest is Anne Golden, General Manager for the spectacular upcoming Pan Pacific London. Coming up on today's show. Anne pitches a new movie franchise idea...

Anne 00:21

The rise of the online travel agents and things

Phil 00:24

Phil lets out a Freudian slip live on the show... And of course you're getting rid of 1000 passengers, Getting rid, that's a bit harsh And we learn that both and Phil might be Jurgen Klopp fans. Yeah, I think Jurgen Klopp needs to write a book on leadership.

Anne 00:37

No, I think he needs to run the country Phil.

Phil 00:40

All that and so much more as Anne walks us through her story and journey to date. As well as giving us some wonderful insight into the magic we can expect at the upcoming Pan Pacific London. Don't forget to give us a like and a share across your favourite social channels. Enjoy. Hello and welcome to the next edition of hospitality meets with me Phil Street. Today, we're Back in London, and well, we welcome someone who has been tasked with leading one of the city's highest profile openings for 2021. delighted to welcome to the show, the general manager of the Pan Pacific London, Anne Golden. Anne welcome to the show.

Anne 01:15

Thanks, Phil. Good morning, really, really happy and honoured to be here. So looking forward to the chat,

Phil 01:22

Oh you're very, very welcome. How are you doing?


Doing really well, actually. Yes, we've had a good week had some wins this week. So it's exciting.


Great. I think we'll, we'll take wins in any form at the moment

Anne 01:35

(Laughs) at the moment, Yes.

Phil 01:38

Yeah, I had a really great Friday, last week where I ended the week on a on a major high and then on Monday, I had to have a conversation with HMRC which was a real law. And I think that's just the way the world at the moment. Some highs, some lows.

Anne 01:54

Absolutely, absolutely. Definitely. I agree. As long as we're fit and healthy then I think everything else just is a bonus, isn't it?

Phil 02:01

Absolutely. So where in the world are you at the moment?

Anne 02:05

I'm at home in Finchley. And as you can probably tell from my accent I'm originally from the northeast of England, Middlesbrough. Yeah. So, yep. And for my sins follow the football team.

Phil 02:20

How have they done this year?

Anne 02:22

Not that great

Phil 02:23

Okay, we can move on.

Anne 02:25

We can move on. We can move on. But my second team did considerably better because they're Liverpool.

Phil 02:31

And that's my team, as well as you can probably tell from my accent.

Anne 02:35

There we go. 45 minutes of football coming up now. So yeah, so back at home, we decided about 10 days before the official government's announcement to work from home if you can move to everybody to a remote environment. I think it's fair to say that you can't really class it as working from home because you have as have young children know me? Mine mines grown but dogs, Amazon parcels you name it. So I think you deal with a lot in this current situation.

Phil 03:13


Anne 03:13

Oh, I think everyone's done incredibly well. I have a team of 21 who are little superstars for what we've achieved during this period.

Phil 03:23

Yeah, well, there's no playbook is there?

Anne 03:26

There really isn't.

Phil 03:27

It's a purely reactive solution driven environment that we're in at the moment. And I think you'll well, you'll probably you'll be one of a handful of GMs in the world who can add preopening and COVID at the same time experience on your CV?

Anne 03:45

Well, hopefully we all get together and have a party on it. And yeah, yeah, that would be quite something. I think some of the sad things for me are that you know that the 21 of us have never been in the same room. Really. We had a number of people that actually came on board. We didn't interview anyone during this period we had interviewed previously but the timing of their you know, working notice etc. Yeah, timing of their appointments met that they've they've come on board during this time. So I think that's quite alienating, isn't it? You know, some people live on their own in. So you're staring at a screen of what is largely strangers on your first day. No one's made you a cup of tea and all the awkward introductions and you're just there. I think these these guys are rock stars, aren't they? You know, they've really got their heads down and we've we've done the archetypal drinks sessions on zoom. We've even played games on zoom with you know, mixed success. We've done wine tasting, chocolate tasting, but it gets old after a while really you do you just want to in the same room, I just got together to start building that that team, that team spirit really

Phil 05:05

I don't think I mean, I don't care what anybody says. I think that the actual face to face goes beyond the screen. I think the human contact. I think we were all realising, though, I hope that, you know, it just can't replace it. It's it's functional, but it's nothing more than that.

Anne 05:25

Agreed. I think, again, I'm sure lots of people will agree that you know, everyone has really knuckle down and I've just started reading on LinkedIn actually articles saying that fatigue setting in which I actually think promoting fatigue started setting in about three or four weeks ago, right. Where it was almost like this great adventure wasn't shared adventure in the beginning, and we were all doing it for the greater good. Yeah, and high level of motivation. And I think we're all still motivated, but you can see the A bit of fatigue. Now, you know, we just want to get back on site. So we are starting to, we've got a couple of the team are on site this afternoon got some of the guys are on there now just looking around. And this is that can you imagine you've accepted a role to open a hotel that you've never even set foot in? So, you know, I'm just really happy that they've gotten to do that today. Yeah. So we're going to start moving a couple of people into the office on a rotation basis. We've made it safe now. But we're, it's been really, really cautious about that. Yeah. But underneath, if you need to, if you need to meet someone, or whatever we're saying, you know, Yep, sure work out of the office. But

Phil 06:46

yeah, but yeah, you have to respect everybody is on a very different path in terms of safety perception, that there's something I mean, some people are very relaxed and probably by day become more relaxed, and I probably class myself and in that category, but at the same time, I respect anybody's wishes, who is still facing a little bit of paranoia with the, your the virus situation. I think you've got to respect everybody's wishes on that front.

Anne 07:17

Yeah, absolutely. And I think people calculate risk in different ways that I mean, it does run broadly along gender lines, but also outside of that, you know, there's people who have a sheltering people at home that perhaps, you know, so nobody really understands everybody's circumstances completely. So. No, I agree on that.

Phil 07:38

Yep, indeed. Well, I'm going to move on because I don't want to make this about that. That nasty little virus. So yeah, well, we'll come on to the Pan Pacific, London and a lot more detail as we get through the chat. But before we do that, I'd love you to kind of go all the way back to the beginning of your career and kind of just just walk us through your your life and journey.

Anne 08:00

Okay, thank you. It's a little unconventional and in an attempt to make it sound more interesting, I'm going to say it all started when my flatmate gretta broke her arm. We were working in Guernsey probably been there for about two seasons, had decided that we wanted to shoot over to London in the close season. She was from Ireland, so had relations in Kilburn. We were going to lay there, get jobs if we could, but on our leaving party things got, let's say, a little raucous. And she ended up wrecking around. So she didn't she didn't make the trip. I came on my own and therefore decided that I would look to see if I could get a hotel hotel job because at that time, this shows my age. Accommodation came with a lot of positions. So walked into connections with was then based in the region's palace. It was the Forte recruitment centre. And I ended up with a receptionist role at strand Palace Hotel. And I think the rest is history. I think one of the biggest I learned such a great lesson there, which is, you know, Never be afraid to make mistakes. And I made so many mistakes, just didn't seem to be able to do corrections and adjustments on our PMS system, which at the time was Kara host. I'm sure there'll be some audible groans out there if there's anyone that was around and oh my god, Kara host it was a bit tricky, and I made so many mistakes that I ended up staying behind when we got new people, because I had done everything that was possible to do realise how to fix it and so was able to show them how to get themselves out of these situations. And that led to my promotion, which I became a supervisor. And I think that was, honestly, down to the fact that they saw that, you know, having done everything silly there was to do, I was sort of the best person to teach the newbies so that that was a big bonus.

Phil 10:18

You clearly you learned, which is the critical factor, right? And making mistakes because we all make them any level top to bottom. But if you're, if you're not learning, you're not moving forward yet. And yeah, and clearly you had the attitude to do that. And some people just accept that they can't do it and then say, well, that's not for me and move on. But clearly that was different with you.

Anne 10:42

Yeah. Well, by that time, I had completely fallen in love with hotels, you know, so it's gone from being a means to an end, you know,

Phil 10:48

That's a busy hotel as well.

Anne 10:50

Ah, it's crazy. I mean, you know, I'm not going to bore you with all the anecdotes but for anyone that knows that hotel, which is when forever have a piece of my heart. It has Think about 300 single rooms, our did back in the early 90s. So you'd be faced with all these people coming down for a romantic weekend with their partner coming to reception to check in. And we would actually split their room into two singles. Because we'd be over booked on doubles. So that was always a great shift to get forward to Friday mornings. And sometimes they're on different floors, which became a bit difficult to sell. But I think it you know, I built up your resilience, you had to have a really good sense of emotional intelligence, actually, because you had to be able to read people and see what it was if you were delivering bad news, you know what it was that would make it slightly more palatable for them? Yeah. And so I learnt so much there in you know, in that sort of environments with really great teams. Around me some some people that have gone on to do some really great, great things in the industry. So I've, you know, forever be grateful for that experience and you know what we just laugh You know, so much fun, really great team spirit.

Phil 12:12

Yeah, well, that accounts for a lot, doesn't it? You can achieve a lot more with a great team spirit.

Anne 12:20

I just want to give a big shout out to forte as well because the strand palace is part of the Forte group. And at that time, forte comprised around about 1000 hotels worldwide, I think, including all of their brands, meridian and heritage, etc. The training was so good. And I think, you know, if you if you talk to old timers like me, they'll they will cite that as being something that really helped them in their career because, you know, having left school at 15 not going to college, not going to university, not not going to hotel school, you are pretty reliance on the training that you receive. Yeah, you know, one shoot you've joined an organisation. So, you know, I mean, it was it was very, very good. I mean, at the time, you know, you've been rolling your eyes Karna another training, and you do anything, you know, fake death to get out some of them but you know, looking back, I mean, you know, how spoilt were we you know that those were the days when people were willing, you know, they had these big training teams and personnel as it was called, then, you know, you you've had that, that advantage, I think back then. Yeah. And I, you know, I'd like to see that comeback more. You know, I'd like to see more money you put into training, training our teams and not just expecting them to, to know how to deal with people.

Phil 13:44

Yeah, do you know, this is something I actually saw happening in front of my eyes before this all kicked off in March was I was seeing a trend for a lot more companies bringing more internal focus on that rather than relying on x Donald Trump was to come in and just do ad hoc, your training, I was seeing a real trend of more and more in house training and development teams being put together. I think, from a real practical perspective, it just made sense because backpack in March, which is all so long ago, the biggest problem in the industry was finding people. So how do you fix that? Well, one of the ways is, look after them and hopefully they don't leave and then you've got a much better workforce, are more engaged with what they're doing, etc, etc. So I totally got the reason why but I think maybe this will step us back a little bit as budgets are cut on the other side of this, but it was happening.

Anne 14:43

Yeah, I also learned as well, if I jumped forward a number of years to working at Morgan's which was just incredible, is actually telling people why you do things. So Morgan's was is no more sadly was the original boutique lifestyle hotel company founded by Ian Schrager of Studio 54 fame, and it very much really colour the whole way I think about the hotel industry now, but one of the things that was most impressive was that, you know, they, they would tell you why you had to put the furniture back in a certain way. It wasn't just, you know, make sure the furniture looks like this. It was like, This is why we do it. Yeah. And each of the hotels had an ethos. And you would you wouldn't do show rounds or site visits, you would do ethos tours, which were pointing out pieces of architecture within the hotel, unless you're actually explaining why they were there. And, you know, and how they added to the overall concept. Yeah. And I think that's that led to a highly engaged workforce in all of the hotels, you know, huge family. have like minded sort of people, it attracted a lot of creatives, we had a lot of actors, artists, you name it, people who were working either part time with us or, you know, getting time off for auditions and things like that. So it was just a very rich environment. And I think a lot of that was driven by us all having this shared vision and mission. Yeah. Which, which came from founder in the first instance, he and his passion for all things, entertainment, lobbyists, socialising. This was a this had been a new concept. So it was just it was very exciting and exhilarating. Yeah. And I think, to imbue people in this, you know, with this common sense of purpose, we used to say, you know, each of us have got different roles, but our mission is the same. It doesn't matter whether you're, you know, you're working in the kitchen and stewarding or you know, whether you're Director of Sales and Marketing Your mission is exactly the same.

Phil 17:01

Yeah, well, everybody needs everyone else.

Anne 17:05


Phil 17:06

you can deliver a wonderful plate of food. But if the the team are not delivering it in the right way out front, or it's not being marketed correctly, or it's not being costed correctly, there's so many parts of the jigsaw isn't Oh, that that have to come together

Anne 17:23

No, completely. And, as I say, you know, very, very blessed to get that opportunity to go and work at Morgan's overseeing the region, follow them here in London, you know, still have huge network of contacts from that time. All of which were pretty much gone on and done great things. So, yeah, it's, it was definitely a lesson in how to create a culture. Yeah. Really, really great experience.

Phil 17:53

You did jump forward quite far there, give us a kind of a snapshot of what happened between Strand Palace

Anne 18:04

So we zoom back to the 90s. Yeah. God, yes. So I transferred to the Cumberland, which was a bed factory as we used to call it. Yeah. And oh my god, that anecdotes. So, you know, we used to get again, we would over book, that was a strategy back in the day, I'm sure you remember those days?

Phil 18:28


Anne 18:28

And you'd have guests who desperately wanted to stay at the hotel, who you would you would book out and, you know, no intents and purposes, you were sending them to a much nicer hotel, if you like. You'd put them in the taxi, wave them off, come back to the front...