In this interview, the Shiji Insights team spoke with Gabriel Apitzsch, F&B Director at Schloss Elmau, a resort hotel in Germany’s Bavarian Alps and two-time host of the G7 Summit, a high-profile meeting attended by the heads of state of some of the biggest economies in the world. Apitzsch talks about how they manage high-occupancy, high-profile events and the logistics behind them, and offers up his own high-occupancy tips for hoteliers and hotel staff.
How did the experience of hosting a G7 meeting come about?
The meeting in June 2022 was the second time Schloss Elmau had hosted the G7. The preparations were very exciting, but expectations were also high, as the first time was a huge success, and times were different then, politically speaking.
Schloss Elmau knew in 2015 that they would be hosting nearly two years in advance. However, this time, we had much less notice. The hotel only signed the contract as the venue around November 2021, allowing us seven months instead of over two years of preparation. We couldn’t simply open a drawer and pull out the plans from 2015, firstly because there were very few senior members of staff at the hotel who had gone through the preparations the first time, and secondly because there had been a change of government in the intervening seven years, and they had different requirements.
What are the different elements that go into preparing for such an event?
The first thing that comes to mind is security. As a hotel, we were not responsible for security, since it is an international government event. Therefore, police from Bavaria and Germany were heavily present in the region, as were the fire department, military, and Special Forces. Additionally, every head of state had its own security service with them. So the issue wasn’t security per se, but rather feeding and housing all these people. Imagine nine heads of state (as the European Commission and the European Council were also in attendance, making it more of a G9 meeting), their partners, and their entire entourage. Schloss Elmau has just over 160 rooms, which would be barely enough for the entourage of only one of these heads of state. So we knew that we would be fully booked with top VIPs such as presidents, foreign ministers, secretaries of state, and other important government members from each attending country.
High Occupancy Tips
- Empower your staff to ease the workload and ensure things run smoothly.
- Establish clear goals and a timetable to manage time effectively.
- Have a contingency plan in place for unexpected situations that may arise.
- Build task forces to handle specific tasks and work quickly to meet tight deadlines.
- Have a passionate and committed team to deliver exceptional service and ensure guests have a memorable experience.
Due to the reinforced security, the hotel was completely closed a week before the event took place, and only people with clearance were able to get within ten kilometers of the outer security perimeter and then the three-kilometer inner ring. All 320 hotel employees and our suppliers needed to obtain special clearance and undergo daily security checks by the German Secret Service.
In close coordination with the government, we determined how many people we would need to accommodate and in what ways, such as turning less essential spaces like our spa into an interpreter center and reallocating spa staff to other functions.
We had to be very precise in anticipating our needs and stocking inventories, from the kitchen down to the other departments, as it wouldn’t have been possible to get anything in during the three days of the event without a massive logistical challenge involving all appropriate security services.
On the F&B front, we had our main restaurant turned into a huge canteen running 24/7 for five days, so we needed chefs and service staff there at all times, with some colleagues from other departments supporting the operations. As for the main VIPs, the nine ladies and gentlemen to be served lunch and dinner daily, it was more easily done as it was fine dining service style. One detail is that we had staff members who spoke the native language of each head of state serve them, and the only hiring we had to do was a former employee of ours, who is a Japanese national, to serve the head of state from that country.
Do you have suggestions for hotels handling similar high-requirement events? Any high occupancy tips?
As mentioned, empowering your people to get things done is absolutely necessary. It is also crucial to have a timetable and set goals, especially in the case of such short-notice large events. Everyone needs to switch gears immediately and become highly aware of the timelines, thinking about what is needed. It is also helpful to build task forces and work very quickly because otherwise, the event won’t happen.
Another important aspect is to be prepared for contingencies. We had a contingency plan in place for everything from power outages to medical emergencies, and it helped us manage any unexpected situations that arose.
Something else that set us apart, and I believe may have played a part in why Schloss Elmau was chosen as a host location, was our unique natural setting that set the tone for the conversations. For me, as a regular citizen, seeing them as human beings chatting, walking around a lake, and being friends was a good feeling, something that made me proud to be part of the team and the hotel that was the stage where it all happened.
A final high occupancy tip– it is essential to have a team that is passionate and committed to delivering exceptional service. We have a team of people who take pride in their work and are willing to go above and beyond to make sure that every guest has a memorable experience. This is what sets us apart and makes us stand out from the competition.