09 10 2010 1174

Breakfast with Liam Lambert


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Kolkata Grand - one of the famous historic hotels of the Oberoi Group


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Liam Lambert, President of Oberoi Hotels & Resorts
dividerdownload interview as pdf

Egypt’s Mena House is the legendary hotel in front of the Great Pyramid in Egypt. Our The Mena House Treasury is one of our best-selling books. Since 1971 the hotel is in the hands of India’s equally legendary Oberoi hotel chain.
I am having breakfast with Liam Lambert, President of Oberoi Hotels & Resorts:

liam lambert imageWhat is your preferred breakfast, with whom do you love to share it (the preferred one!) and how often can you have it?
L.L.: Mary, my wife loves Eggs benedict and my preference is Irish pork sausages, black pudding, two eggs over easy rashers washed down with great mugs of Irish Breakfast Tea. We enjoy this only once a week. Can’t handle the cholesterol so for the rest of the week it is muesli and fruit.

One year ago you were appointed President of the Oberoi Group, a hotel chain with a very, very good name in Asia. I have met you as the General Manager of the Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong, later we met again in London, where you managed the Hyde Park for Mandarin. Now you are running a group – The Oberoi Group, founded in 1934, with 28 hotels and three cruisers in five countries. Do you consider this a logical step in your career?
L.L.: Absolutely, as I felt I had hit a ceiling with my previous company combined with the fact that I wanted at least one last great career adventure. Working with Mr. Oberoi is truly inspirational and even at this time in my career he is teaching me many things.

Do you miss the opportunity to leave the office, take the lift to the lobby and chat with your guests?
L.L.: Yes indeed, even now at about 12.00 noon every day I snap to attention to do my rounds of the restaurants ... but sadly instead of taking one or two hours it only takes 5 minutes as there are no restaurants in head office. Meeting guests is the single thing I miss most at this point in my career.

Rai Bahadur Mohan Singh Oberoi, the father of Indian hotel business and the founder of the group you manage, was born on 15th August, 1898. He is the Mahatma Gandhi of hospitality. Do you feel like the curator of a museum?
L.L.: Curator not, museum not ……. but guardian, champion, cheerleader, standard bearer yes …… as we build properties and populate them with the finest of hoteliers. Rai Bahadur lived in three centuries, the 19th, 20th and 21st and his spirit lives on within the culture of our company.

What was your first step in your hospitality career?
L.L.: Dublin, 1968, cold, damp, dirty, depressed city, unemployment 19% and no hope for the future in my eyes. I needed to get out and feel the sun, investigate new cultures, taste new food and experience the colourful world of the 60s. The only way out I could see was the hospitality industry as there are hotels and restaurants in every city in the world, therefore jobs and food.
Went to Jury’s Hotel School for Hotel management in Dublin, Graduated in 1970 and first job was at L’hotel Claridge in Paris, on the Front Desk and working part time in Food and Beverage.

I recall interesting conversations with you - in Hong Kong, in Berlin, London ... you were - in my eyes - always a philosopher. I expect something special from you when I ask you: what is a hotelier?
L.L.: We do not make beds ... we weave dreams for you.
We do not cook food ... we inspire experiences for you.
We do not wash plates ... we prepare to astonish you.
We do not polish shoes ... we accessorize you.

How would you describe your management style?
L.L.: Benign, consultative dictator

How would you like a perfect guest to behave?
L.L.: To laugh aloud, to interact with happiness, to enthuse about our offering, to notice the little touches.

Recognising the importance of quality training in hospitality management, The Oberoi Group established The Oberoi Centre of Learning and Development in New Delhi in 1966. If you would restart the individual Liam Lambert, which direction would you give him?
L.L.: I would certainly have benefited from attending the OCLD where we have teach three disciplines: Housekeeping, Kitchen and General Management. OCLD has such a wonderful reputation that when I worked at Mandarin Oriental there was a policy that if anybody applied for a job who had graduated from OCLD we hired them immediately.

mena house image
The Great Pyramid of Giza, the only wonder of the ancient world still in existence - and in front of it stands Mena House (here in the 1890s).

mena house book coverThe Mena House in Egypt is A Select member of The Most Famous Hotels in the World. One of my greatest adventures was to research the history of the Mena House - an Oberoi hotel and to (after weeks in dusty Egyptian archives) confirm its opening date with 1886. We have given this hotel a great historical identity, if you allow me this little commercial about my job.
Here is my question: How important is history for a hotel?

L.L.: I think the history of an hotel is all important, a hotelier should also be an archivist obtaining famous signatures and photos as this reflects the very life of the establishment.

I have a selection of quick questions:
liam lambert at famoushotels.org
Q. What’s your motto in life?
L.L.: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Q. What do you want to have accomplished in the next ten years?
L.L.: Be the head of a Global Luxury Hotel brand.
Q. To whom did you listen in the past week?
L.L.: My wife, Mary. My wife, Mary and my wife Mary. Q. Is it too much or too little courage that sometimes makes you fail?
L.L.: Often too little, sadly.
Q. How often do you reflect about your own life?
L.L.: About 5 times a day.
Q. What books do you read at the moment?
L.L.: Richard Dawkins, Kurt Vonnegut Jnr. and Simon Shama.
Q. How do you balance business life and private life?
L.L.: When I get home I have a gin and tonic and a swim in the heat of the Indian evening, I paint in oils and acrylic and I scuba dive. My three daughters ensure that I balance my life.

Q. Which hobbies are absolutely essential for you?

L.L.: Reading, Painting, water sports.
Q.  Which languages do you speak?
L.L.: Gaelic, French, English (good and bad) with a smattering of Italian and Spanish.
Q. What was the most important advice you ever received?
L.L.: My Dad said “ Son, if you aim for the stars you will probably hit the sun, if you aim at the sun you will probably land on the moon, if you aim at the moon you will land on the mountain and if you aim at the mountain you will end up in the valley” … so I always aim for the stars.

Q. For the same budget, would you rather afford the smallest room in the best and most famous hotel of a destination or the best room in a lower-class hotel?
L.L.: I would rather the best room in the best hotel!

Q. When you visit other hotels what do you observe/judge in the first place?
L.L.: Smiles on hearts, eyes making contact and the gentle use on my name.

Q. Were you named after anyone?
L.L.: Liam is an ancient Irish name derived from William.

Q. Do you polish your shoes yourself?
L.L.: Not any more, but when I was in London I did.
Q. When did you last refill a fountain pen?
L.L.: Surprise ... TODAY, as I just ran out of ink after 2 weeks.

Do you like being asked questions like in here?
L.L.: ________________________

Just one word as an answer:

Black&white or colours: colours
Furs or synthetics?   furs
Electric or wet shaving?   wet
City or countryside?  depends on which city but country is always wonderful
Reading or watching?   reading
Tea or coffee?  tea
Open air or inside the music hall? music hall
Introverted or extroverted?  ex
What’s on your mouse-pad?  my hand
Where were you born? at the Rotunda hospital, built in the 1700s
and when?  1951

Thank you so much for your valuable time.
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Liam Lambert presides over the Oberoi Hotels & Resorts, with a total number of 4,000 rooms.
The Oberoi Group, founded in 1934, operates 28 hotels and three cruisers in five countries under the luxury ‘Oberoi’ and five-star ‘Trident’ brands. The Group is also engaged in flight catering, airport restaurants, travel and tour services, car rentals, project management and corporate air charters.

Oberoi hotels among The Most Famous Hotels in the World:

The Cecil, Shimla, India

The Grand, Kolkata, India

Mena House, Cairo, Egypt

 

 

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