Norman Mark at Maison Messmer
The luxury host in Baden-Baden
Norman Mark – The luxury host at the Maison Messmer in Baden-Baden
»Time and peace of mind are the luxury factors par excellence that we work towards for each individual guest.«
When was it clear to you that the path would lead to the hotel industry? Was there a whole specific trigger moment?
Actually, I have to admit that I have a bit of a family background. I am French and so an important part of my culture is food and drink. When I was very young, I started cooking with my Alsatian grandmother in her large, rural kitchen.
My travels with my parents to Brittany and the south of France also had a special influence on me. Enjoying with all my senses, the culinary, the scents, the textures, the get-togethers. All of this exuded a magic that stuck with me.
What did your start in professional life finally look like?
At first it went in a completely different direction. I started studying micro-biology in Strasbourg, but realised very quickly that it wasn’t for me in the long run. Fortunately,
I remembered my original preferences in time and I applied for a job at Brenners Park Hotel in Baden-Baden. There I completed my initial training. A tough time but with exactly the right focus on perfection and service.
Which stations and which people have shaped you the most?
The director of the Brenner at the time, Richard Schmitz, had a particular influence on me. He was an exceptional charismatic personality who really knew every one of his 260 employees, including the trainees, by name. It was he who awakened the desire in me during my apprenticeship to become the same and also to work as a hotel director later on.
After Brenners, early on I got the chance to take on very responsible positions at the Sheraton at Frankfurt Airport over a period of four years. This was also a 5-star hotel, but with different priorities and a much stronger focus on KPI-driven management.
The circle then closed for me in Berlin. There I had the great fortune to experience a very special supervisor in the person of the general manager, who coached me and gave me his fine-tuning with a lot of knowledge of human nature (laughs).
The concept of luxury is currently being supplemented by aspects such as mindfulness, sustainability and health. With which offers and measures can a house like yours take these values into account?
Houses in our category have to answer the question of what added value they can offer their customers beyond the standards. The better we anticipate customer needs, the more time the customer has for himself, and that’s what it’s all about, after all.
Time and peace of mind are the luxury factors par excellence that we work towards for each individual guest. Our offers for wellness, sport and nutrition play a big role. Here we have the opportunity to consciously incorporate the local specialities of the Black Forest, which can only be found here.
Modern luxury means offering a holistic approach that offers just as many exciting aspects for the body as for the mind and soul. That’s why we’re currently planning a multi-day kind of “survival” training course in the Black Forest for example that appeals to all the senses. A few years ago, however, this would not have worked at all. Here, needs have changed and evolved.
Our clients want to go back to the roots and recharge their batteries. That too is a luxury asset in a world that has become faster and faster.
Is there a personal favourite place for you here at the hotel?
I love the panoramic view over Baden-Baden from the terrace of our penthouse suite on the top floor. Stopping there for a moment and enjoying the view is fantastic.
There are many luxury hotels, but the people in service make the difference. What are the biggest challenges in staff management and training?
In today’s times, the biggest challenge is first of all to find employees with the right mind-set. I often prefer career changers with the right attitude to colleagues who shine professionally but show no empathy.
The best tool for teaching the important skills is concrete demonstration. I have to be on site and, if necessary, show how things can be done better. After all, a good hotel manager should rarely be in his office.
Is there a particular maxim that you give to your staff to ensure that the culture of the hotel is continuously felt?
We compete to create unforgettable moments for our guests. That may sound too much like marketing, but basically that’s what it’s all about. Sometimes, for example, it’s a special culinary experience that only we can offer, and sometimes it’s the moments that come about because we’ve thought along. It can be a small upgrade for a family with three children and suddenly you have already created incredible added value. That’s how guests become future regular customers. But you can only do that if you are an empathetic person who thinks at eye level.
In the traditional understanding and marketing of luxury hotels, the pure product was the hero. Today, it is about the added value and the meaningfulness of the stay in the hotel itself, because the alternatives have become more multifaceted.
A hotel can be a special stage for the city. Is that also your aspiration?
Absolutely. It is also a very deliberate aspect of the Hommage Luxury Hotels Collection, to which the Maison Messmer belongs. The aspiration is to revive the salon culture in each of our hotels. This automatically means an interaction with local protagonists and offers. Our house should establish itself as a hub for the highlights of our region.
What does the future look like? What is on the agenda for 2022?
Even though the future is difficult to plan, especially in these times, we definitely want to make sure that we open up to an even more international audience and also draw attention to ourselves outside Europe.
At the same time, we are devoting ourselves to many small but important adjustments in our offers. Be it in the gastronomy, the spa area or the already mentioned goal of reviving the salon culture in our hotel. That’s what I’m looking forward to the most!
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