Although just minutes away from Dublin city centre, surrounded by the embassies and ivy-covered homes of Ballsbridge the InterContinental Dublin is a tranquil luxury hotel destination for travellers to the city, and locals too – like those in the lobby lounge on the day I visit; catching up with friends over tea and cake, or conducting a quiet business meeting in the plush surrounds of the lobby.
Set over two acres of landscaped gardens, new General Manager Nicky Logue says the scale of the property alone has been a lot to get his head around. “It’s a huge property, with a 275 staff. So, trying to remember all their names can be a challenge! I’d say I’m at 85% at the moment, but there are new people coming all the time!”
He may be modest about his abilities to match a face to a name, but Nicky Logue’s professional qualities are obvious: sweeping the room greeting tables of regulars before he settles into one of the deep velvet couches; reiterating to me his generous offer for refreshments; thanking the waiter by name as he is served his loose leaf Irish Breakfast tea in a silver tea set.
Hotels are in Nicky’s blood – his father was a hotelier, his brothers work in the industry too, and he himself began working in hotel aged just 13 years old, starting as a pot washer at a hotel in Ennis.
He bolstered his budding passion over four years of study at Shannon College of Hotel Management learning the hotel business fundamentals, as well as gaining professional practical training, at home and placements abroad in Switzerland and London.
So impressed by his aptitude for the job, in his final year the hotel he was working at in England promoted him from Duty Manager to General Manager all before he had graduated from college. At the age of 22 he became the first person at Shannon College of Hotel Management to graduate as a GM.
After eleven years in the UK, Nicky’s longest stint at one hotel came when he moved back to Ireland, where he became a familiar face at the four star Fitzpatrick Castle for ten years; earning the title of Irish Hospitality Institute General Manager Of The Year along the way.
He went on to spend three enjoyable years at the Gibson Hotel, in the lively Dublin Docklands area, before the opportunity to work at the InterContinental arose.
“I knew it was a hotel with lots of opportunity and that the new owners would be investing, and I also knew it would be a challenge,” admits Nicky.
“But I felt moving on to a five star was the next step in terms of my career.”
Under new ownership since 2015, The InterContinental Dublin is now part of the MHL Collection; a total of 10 luxury hotels across Ireland. Elsewhere in Dublin the group manages the Westin, Hilton on Charlemont, Trinity City, and recent acquisitions The Beacon, The Morgan, and The Spencer. There’s also the Strand Hotel in Limerick, and The Harbour Hotel, and Glenloe Abbey in Galway.
“They are all four or five star hotels, and even though there is a central support, they are all run individually.” ” I think it keeps the individuality and personality of the hotel, and it’s nice to have a unique identity. Each has a different location, each is a different type of hotel and each has a unique identity.”
Taking up the mantle at The InterContinental in November last year, his first challenge was keeping the hotel running smoothly during the busy Christmas period. “Now that I’m into January it’s about improvements and seeing how we can take the hotel to the next level.”
“Recently we introduced a new brunch which is going very well. In the lobby, we’re looking at the idea of Afternoon Tea, and we’ve recently updated the menu, diving into the archives of the RDS to add an equestrian theme to it.”
And although just newly refurbished Nicky says Seasons Restaurant too will change in the next few months, and he is currently working with a branding agency to create a new name and identity for the restaurant.
Indeed, almost every last square metre of the hotel has been transformed in the last 18 months, including the restaurant, ground floor, meeting rooms, function area, and 100 of the bedrooms – the final 97 rooms are in the last stages of refurbishment; something Nicky is involved with on a daily basis.
“I’ve been amazed by the rooms here since I started. Out of the 197 rooms, 58 of them are suites. I was going around for the first couple weeks blown away by room after room with big sitting rooms, double bedrooms, walk-in wardrobes, marble bathrooms. They are stunning rooms!”
On the difference between four and five star, he says the expectation of the guests reaches another level. “There is a huge expectation for the quality of the facilities and furnishings, within the rooms and public areas, but at the end of day it’s down to the level of service, and the staffing levels here would be at the highest level possible here.”
“At five star level, from the minute the guests arrive, there has to be a doorman and concierge to meet and greet them. For me there just has to be an absolute focus on the customer from all team members.”
“We have a philosophy here that you always try to satisfy the guest, so you never say no. If something is looking for something at reception and we don’t have it we will send one of the team out to source it. People have high demands and it’s our job to deliver on them.”
Proper induction, proper training, and proper presentation are the keys to achieving this culture within the hotel says Nicky; a system which he has perfected and polished since his appointment, down to the very last shiny gold button on the doorman’s coat.
“It’s all about regular communication. Communication brings the team together, and that’s what I’m trying to do here is build an ethos of team work.”
“It starts with managers, making sure they are all working together and open and frank, and then that will filter down to the team. By doing the regular what we call ‘townhall meetings’ with the staff it gives them the opportunity to ask me questions about the hotel, and for me to give feedback and let them know what direction the hotel is going.”
Starting his day at 6.30am in the hotel gym, although technically off-duty Nicky says even then he can’t help but to cast an exacting eye over the facility. “Mind you when I’m down there I’m trying to focus on the exercise and not get too distracted!”
After that, his working day usually starts on the floor; meeting guests at breakfast, seeing people off after check-out, and keeping an eye on presentation. During the day, Nicky says his attention is pulled different directions as he catches up on emails, briefs staff, and conducts meetings with everyone from suppliers to the heads of department.
“Although I get anxious if I am in the office for more than an hour, I have to go out and talk to guests and wander through the hotel to see how it is looking.”
Despite the long hours and demands of the job he says they are worth it when he sees a happy guest. “Be it speaking to a conference organiser, or a guest checking out, I love hearing ‘Oh my God, this hotel was wonderful’. That really is music to my ears. Getting that feedback really puts a pep in your step. I get frustrated if someone has been unhappy.”
“For me it’s all about the customers. The figures obviously must be kept in mind but I think if you get it right on the floor, get that consistency, and get the food and service right, the word spreads that it’s a great hotel and more and more people will come through the door. Then the figures will come right too. “
Constantly seeking inspiration, on recent trip to London Nicky tells me how he spent some time in the InterContinetal and other luxury hotels there. “I’m always looking for how to get that consistency.”
Does he ever switch off, I query. “I love switching off!” he insists, with a chuckle. “People say that when I’m away it’s like a ‘busman’s holiday’. But I enjoy nice things when I’m away, and staying at a nice hotel is one of them – but I do like to pick up ideas too.”
I suggest that this seems like much more than a job for Nicky, and he immediately nods in agreement and gushes: “For me, it’s a vocation really.”
“Work comes number one and other things follow. If there is a big dinner on in the evening I might not get home until very late. I try and take my days off but I think it’s important for the team and the guests to see me here on the floor. It’s a labour of love. In this business the more you put in the more you get out, and hopefully be doing so hopefully I inspire others to try and do the same.”
Erica grew up with a baker and confectioner for a father, and a mother with an instinct and love for good food. It is little wonder then that, after completing a law degree, she went on to do a Masters in Food Business at UCC. With a consuming passion for all things food, nutrition and wellness, working with TheTaste is a perfect fit for Erica; allowing her to learn and experience every aspect of the food world meeting its characters and influencers along the way.