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This may come as a surprise, but I’m going to address cleanliness as a concept.

Many, if not all, will tell me that it’s a given. Or ask me why I would even address this as a subject.

Having just come back from yet another trip abroad, I spent some time thinking about how different cultures or different people think about cleanliness.

And that cleanliness is a statement about the individuals or about the company, in this case a large hotel.And that it is very much a cultural thing also.

Without naming specific nationalities, but we all know there is a different perception of what cleanliness is in Asia or in Europe.

In Europe, Kings and households would move from castle to castle, because these castles got so filthy of so many people living inside them, that they simply had to leave. They called it traveling through their Kingdoms.

The French court of Louis XIV and following used perfume to mask the stench of not washing or bathing.

Not so long ago, Europeans didn’t wash because they thought it would bring diseases.

The world has turned over many times since and has become very much smaller.

We have customers from all over the world, we have staff from all over the world and yet we keep seeing differences in how clean hotels, restaurants are, depending on which part of the world you are.

I do acknowledge that for some individuals or regions, cleanliness is a luxury that they may not have as a first priority, but in our world of hospitality, we must strive to attain levels of cleanliness irrespective of cultural or geographical preferences.

But observed cleanliness is really just the result of how a company is run.

Is there a proper training in place on that specific subject, are staff inducted properly and do the hospitality people spend equal time and attention every day in making sure standards are upheld?

We all know the answer to that question, but we must combat fatality.

We must train our staff, explain the reasons and the benefits, but above all we must keep the eye.

Avoid being numb and no longer seeing things.

And I come back to a subject that I have been writing on already, the world seems to produce GM’s and HOD’s that are more involved in producing reports in their little offices, than spending time on the floor seeing things and talking to guests or staff.

Coming back to my trip abroad, I was utterly shocked to see the state of cleanliness in the building that I was visiting. This was a building whose main purpose was to welcome people, to be a beacon of excellence in the country or the region. Nobody was seeing what I was seeing, at least nobody on site.

They are a mix of foreigners and nationals but all were numb, seeing things but not really seeing them. Accepting the overall situation as the normal thing for that part of the world.

I had great difficulty to explain to them that their customers were seeing this very differently and comparing what they saw to their experiences elsewhere and their customer expectations but also to the expectations set by the company when it advertised that it wants to be a beacon of excellence in the country or the region, setting the standard of hospitality.

By saying one thing and delivering another, this company creates mistrust with its partners and they might not enter into a relationship with it, for if the promise of excellence is broken by the bad state of cleanliness of the building, a client may genuinely assume that the rest of the services or promises will be of the same low level.

So cleanliness is a really a message, a promise to our visitors and guests.

By showing attention to cleanliness, we’re really saying that we’ll take good care of our customers, that we care about their well-being and comfort and that we’re also seeing and taking care of the details, of the little things.

 Cleanliness is not just floors and hardware, it also concerns staff.

I was in a restaurant of late and a customer came in with his dog. It was a cute dog and all staff, because they knew the client well, had to pet the dog, cuddle with it, thus probably increasing sales as well.

But my question was : did they wash their hands before bringing me my food? I’m almost certain they did not.

Or another visit I made to a shop selling coffee pads. The person helping me showed hands so dirty, that I felt compelled to tell him and refuse to be helped by him.

Even though these coffee pads may be well packaged, the association of foodstuff with bad hygiene turned me off.

The worst thing was that the individual hadn’t paid attention, his supervisor hadn’t paid attention and none of his colleagues had paid attention.

Being numb, not seeing or saying things is a real danger and I feel really fortunate that I can work with colleagues that understand the importance of real and genuine feedback on a daily basis.

It’s no surprise that we’ve made positive and genuine feedback on of our preferred subjects in many of the discussions and trainings that we deliver.

For more on this subject, and more, visit us on www.lhcconsulting.com


Photo P.Verbeke 4×6

Pierre Verbeke Senior Consultant at Lausanne Hospitality Consulting SA

Pierre Verbeke is a Senior Consultant at LHC. He has an extensive career in hotel operations, pre-openings and re-brandings. He is first and foremost an operational person having managed several hotels in Belgium and having set up many pre-opening teams in different countries. He also has gained a wealth of experience opening hotels for a large Hotel Operator in various European, North African and Eastern European countries. He is particularly at ease with project management and knows how to deliver the highest quality of service within the agreed timeframe.

Pierre has experience with leased, managed and franchise properties and undserstands the various demands from owners, investors, and operators within the different projects. Pierre is an alumnus of Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne. He speaks Dutch, German, French and English, with some notions of Spanish.