The Grand Budapest Hotel Guide to Running a Successful Luxury Hotel

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Running a luxury hotel requires finesse, tact, and an impeccable sense of hospitality.


Take Monsieur Gustave of the critically-acclaimed movie The Grand Budapest Hotel. While overdramatic, overtly romantic, and hopelessly silly, this concierge knows the essentials of how to deliver exceptional service and cater to every guest’s needs, despite getting mixed up in a murder plot.

Even decades later after M. Gustave’s death and the eventual decline of the hotel, its reputation for being a shining beacon in the luxury world remains.

It’s a reputation other hoteliers can only dream of.

So how can you get your own luxury hotel at the Grand Budapest level?

Not to worry. I’ve got it.

Below, I’ve outlined three easy steps, ranging from providing exceptional guest services to designing lavish interiors, all with the aim of enabling you to run your very own successful luxury hotel.

Provide Flawless Guest Service


We’ve talked about this a bit before with Linda Belcher, but if there seems to be a theme across films and shows featuring hospitality, it’s that sometimes passionate professionals go too far with their service.

In The Grand Budapest Hotel, M. Gustave is known for not only crossing these boundaries, but reveling in them. Whether it’s seeking the attentions of rich older women or relaxing in the smoking rooms with the wealthy elite, to M. Gustave, boundaries are only blockades preventing exceptional customer service.

Even so, M. Gustave’s lavish attentions do say something about the quality of guest service hospitality professionals should offer those staying at their hotels. While M. Gustave’s services may be overbearing, they still touch on the more personable aspects that popular hotel alternatives, like Airbnb, thrive on.

I know what you’re thinking. Airbnb isn’t even in the same league. But you’d be wrong.

According to a report earlier this year, “HVS [Consulting & Valuation] estimate[s] that hotels lose approximately $450 million in direct revenues per year to AirBnb,” says Ahmed Mahmoud at HospitalityNet. “Additionally, many hotel employees are losing their jobs because of these decreasing demands. Airbnbs are less labor-intensive than hotels because they do not require the same level of service. Over 2,800 jobs are directly lost to Airbnb, a loss of over $200 million in income for hotel employees.”


In total, that amounts to $650 million loss every year. If those stats don’t grow, of course.

So what to do?

There are no clear answers here and tons of routes to go down. But one thing that an AirBnb listing does lack is a staff of hotel professionals who can provide the kind of memorable guest experience that results in a flood of positive online reviews.

Your hotel may not be the Plaza per say, but think about it in comparison to the more intimate feel of an AirBnb listing. What are you missing? Is it a more approachable staff? Do you have hotel rooms that feel more like home as opposed to just another humid room with single-serving shampoo/conditioner combo packets?

Despite living in a tech renaissance, your guests still crave those personalized touches that make them feel more than welcome.

Luckily, technology can still help you do that.

For example, there are tons of hotel management solutions or even booking engine software options where you can store guest details (including whether or not they’re returning guests) to help increase customer satisfaction. Specifically, if one of your guests prefers extra towels or is a customer returning for their tenth time, you can take steps to further accommodate or reward them for their loyalty.

Similarly, even with the advent of social media, many guests take to these platforms to air their grievances and frustrations with business. Having an online marketing professional handling customer outreach can be a great way to tackle problems with quick fixes and proves that you’re listening to your guests’ needs.

Incorporate Creative, Innovative Design


Speaking of hotel room layout and redesign, renovations or a redecoration overhaul may be the best thing to turn a hotel around.

Think of it this way: In The Grand Budapest Hotel, Mr. Mustafa (now owner of the hotel) speaks to the author about his hotel’s heyday, back when he was just a lobby boy. Though he acknowledges it’s seen better days, there’s still an old charm about the place, which Mr. Mustafa has tried to maintain through new decorations and design in the common areas.

As a hotel owner, ensuring that your hotel maintains an aesthetic that’s both modern and true to its theme is important in not only generating a positive impression, but also achieving a stellar reputation.

Even the setup and construction of your hotel can determine how your guests feel about your space. When looking at the Grand Budapest, for example, there’s plenty of open areas for guests to meets and socialize, complete with an open lobby concept that’s meant to both bathe guests in the glow of chandeliers and provide a welcoming atmosphere. It speaks both a social element and the wealthy status of those who stay there.

“Research shows that it takes as little as three seconds for us to form our impression of a new person or place,” says Amy Locke, director of interior design at Hatchett Hospitality. “That’s why your lobby is important — because it’s where guests start their visit and where they learn what to expect in every space of your hotel. It’s also where guests end their visit, so the lobby may determine IF the guest intends to return at all.”

Plus, how often have you been wrong about those initial impressions? It’s very unlikely.

So what are some design features that can make your lobby communicate a positive impression?

Locke describes a mix of architectural elements like “arches that are trimmed with thick wood molding, columns covered in marble or exotic woods, and dome or barrel ceilings featuring a mural.” She also recommends design features that bring in a bit of nature, like skylights, greenery, or fireplaces. Upscale materials are also a must, as is meticulous furniture placement to accommodate the modern lobby, which “serves as part business center, part meeting place, and part meal area.”

Don’t feel pressured to meet all of these recommendations at once. Rather, work your way towards this goal, finding quick fixes you can make now before major renovations. Having your lobby serve as a construction site isn’t attractive and the potential noise could deter guests. Consider undergoing renovations during an off-season to ensure you don’t impact revenue.

Also, investing in trendy colors may not exactly be a sound investment (can you afford to repaint with a different color scheme every year?), but trends that corroborate with guest preference may be a good place to begin.

Let’s take a look at adding touches of nature.

For example, “almost 25% of Americans are consciously trying to make eco-friendly choices when it comes to their hotel stays,” meaning that incorporating natural elements fits with guest mindset. Because hotel guests are inclining towards more sustainable initiatives, going green with your design can match their tastes and even save you money.

As with any new design, be sure your new aesthetic matches the overall feel of your space and will target and attract the kinds of guests you want staying at your hotel. Some trends may fit in well with what you’re trying to communicate with your space, but adding angular, stainless steel furniture may work better for some spaces more than others.

Be strategic and don’t get swept up in the hype.

Invest in New Technology


While much of The Grand Budapest Hotel takes place before hotel software streamlined the hospitality industry, its early-80’s framework demonstrates that this lack of new technologies only furthers the fact that the Grand Budapest is stuck in the past.

As a hotelier, you need to invest your resources in new technologies. Not just for your guests, but for yourself.

For instance, throughout the film, the wall behind the front desk is filled with hanging keys. That’s great for the film’s artistic appeal, but look at how often those managers flee the desk, leaving it unattended. No need to worry if you have great guests, but sometimes there’s an opportunist waiting to break into the rooms of your wealthy clients.

Guest safety and security needs to be your top priority. Your service doesn’t matter if your guest don’t feel comfortable or secure.  

With data security concerns sweeping the hotel sector, investing in wearable technologies as a key-card replacement and tools like network security or computer security software are great ways to demonstrate to your guests that you care for their safety.

Investing in new technologies can additionally assist in meeting the needs of your increasingly tech-savvy guests.

For example, self-service check-in kiosks are a great way to allows guests to check in without waiting in long lines. It may seem like taking the front desk out of the mix cuts down on time to form a good first impression, but ensuring your guests’ happiness and impressing them with time-saving tech can cut down the frustration that usually comes with waiting in line. Plus, it’s a technology that’s been sweeping the movie theater industry for almost a decade, so implementing kiosks into your hotel isn’t too farfetched.

Still, it’s important to make sure that the technologies you do invest in are here to stay. Incorporating virtual reality, for instance, without understanding its practical uses or benefits can be a waste of money. You want to “wow” them, but you also want that “wow” factor to have a function and purpose.


Can you think of any other ways The Grand Budapest Hotel demonstrates how to run a luxury hotel? Let me know in the comments below.

Looking for Hospitality Property Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Hospitality Property Management software solutions.

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