When I travel, one of my favorite hotel chains that I rely on is Four Seasons. Ever since I experienced the Four Seasons in Berlin as a little boy, they have defined the standard for a high quality luxury hotel. I still remember how they wowed me with their attention to detail and care. Their employees made a huge difference and defined the industry. Decades before “engagement” was studied, measured, and the topic of seminars, the Four Seasons reached the nirvana where both employees and customers lived for the company vision of the ultimate experience. Since then I have been in Four Seasons hotels around the world from Bali to Hawaii. While I have always enjoyed my stays, lately there has been a trend to lower quality. This is of course a relative term, since the hotels are always well kept and well run, so let us look at my last four stays and go into detail: Vancouver, Prague, Las Vegas, and San Francisco.
Four Seasons Vancouver
The Four Seasons Vancouver is one of the oldest Four Seasons and still one of my favorites. The service level is fantastic; the location is great and the seafood restaurant ‘Yew‘ is one of the best in the city. It highlights local ingredients like spotted prawns and British Columbia wines.
The concierge is equally impressive and knows how to assist with any needs or desires.
The hotel felt old in some aspects, although without being out of date.
Even the fitness center, pool, and spa were outstanding in that there was a clear focus on the fitness and wellness experience, rather than being the afterthought as is the case in most hotels.
The Vancouver property captures the Four Seasons experience to the fullest, conveying to its guests the best of its locale.
Four Seasons Prague
The Four Seasons Prague has the perfect location in that city and an interesting combination of old and new style rooms. The property was quite impressive in that it felt very classic or modern, while always being authentic. The service is attentive even though a little cold, although not to the point of detracting from the experience.
The problem at this hotel is that aside from the property itself, it does not curate the locale. An Italian restaurant that could be anywhere in the world is generic, and sadly it seems so stereotypically like any premium hotel restaurant that is not memorable. I do not understand why they would not want to highlight some local cuisines.
The concierge had very limited knowledge of the city. They had great trouble giving us suggestions for dinner or nightlife, and they seemed out of their depth when asked for a recommendation for traditional local fare. The gym seemed like it was a re-purposed storage room, but the sauna was nice, although small. The fitness and wellness facilities were not a focal point here. Considering that the Four Seasons is supposed to be one of the premium hotels in Prague, it lacked a lot of key ingredients necessary to get the local experience.
Four Seasons Las Vegas
The Four Seasons Las Vegas is located within the Mandalay Bay hotel but still separated enough from the craziness of the casino.
The pool area and gardens are beautiful and the staff very friendly.
The rooms have interesting views of either the airport or the city and are very well appointed.
I enjoyed my stay there but it was not very memorable.
Everything was done well but it did not feel special, which is quite sad because it had excellent execution but no identity.
Four Seasons San Francisco
The Four Seasons San Francisco was my least favorite Four Seasons. It feels even more generic than then the Four Seasons in Prague or Las Vegas. From the breakfast to the front desk, everything is just very average. The staff lacks friendliness and acts very entitled. One does not feel like one is welcomed home. It feels like management focuses more on spreadsheets and streamlining the business than paying attention to details, like for example, what is Champagne and what is not.
But this is not a fast food restaurant; luxury hotels define themselves by offering exceptional services. It feels like the hotel is like a robot, only what is in the programming can be achieved. Anything outside the standard program is being ignored. Perhaps this is the Silicon Valley experience?
As the Four Seasons hotel chain has grown, it has shown signs of becoming less consistent. Maybe it is more difficult to manage a larger collection of hotels and the attention given to the individual hotel is less. To an extent, it seems like the Four Seasons brand is just stuck unto a hotel these days without necessarily meaning something. Like with other industries, it is difficult to preserve quality when your scale becomes too large and a lack of focus can be very problematic.
The problem is that if you forget your identity, so will your customers.