Meet Menlyn Boutique Hotel GM – Duncan Henn

Today marks the 12th edition of my weekly profile feature where I shine the spotlight on hotel managers. Duncan Henn shares with us his journey of being part of a guest house that has been transformed into Menlyn Boutique Hotel giving healthy competition to Sheraton Pretoria Hotel, the more established 5 star hotel in Pretoria.

Briefly introduce yourself, your career background before your current position…

  • Name:  Duncan Henn
  • Age: 26
  • Current position: General Manager

After completing my studies in hospitality management, I gained experience by completing practical hours at several hotels including the Southern Sun Pretoria and the Sheraton. I started my career as part of the team on the most luxurious train in the world, Rovos Rail, after which I ventured on and accepted an Assistant Manager position at the 5-star Menlyn Boutique Hotel.

Duncan Henn - GM at the Menlyn Boutique Hotel

Duncan Henn – GM at the Menlyn Boutique Hotel

What attracted you to this hotel and how long have you been on the current position?

The intriguing hotel industry captured my attention early on by its constant changing and growing environment. I wanted to be part of an everlasting solution of customer satisfaction and quality service, which is what the Menlyn Boutique Hotel strives towards. All employees and the owners aim to please through their exceptional facilities and service. I am honoured to have been part of the 5-star team for the past four years and to have been the General Manager since 2012.

What attracted me to Menlyn Boutique Hotel is that I knew from the beginning that we will be growing and expanding the business continuously and that I shared the same vision as the owners of the hotel: to become the best in our industry.

What have been your proudest achievements since taking over your current position?

Menlyn Boutique Hotel started out as a small 15 bedroom guest lodge and recently expanded its facilities to a 5-star Boutique Hotel – boasting 26 luxurious rooms, conference facilities, a fully operational gym, a relaxing spa as well as a signature restaurant, Black Bamboo.  In 2012, Tshwane Tourism Association awarded Menlyn Boutique Hotel the Tshwane Tourism Award for Best Guest House of the year, which was achieved in only two years.

Give us a breakdown of the offerings in your hotel?

The newly enhanced 5-star facilities boast 14 exceptional standard rooms, two fully equipped self-catering units, 9 Executive rooms and one Presidential Suite.  The conference facilities can accommodate up to 80 people with options for a 24 hour, full day or half day conference package.

When staying over guests can enjoy a fully equipped gym or relax with one of the various spa packages on offer.  The facilities are also open to host social functions including birthday parties, business lunches or year-end functions for up to 120 people. The signature restaurant, Black Bamboo, is also open to the public and promotes high quality dishes which will satisfy any palate.

What daily challenges do you face with your position?

As with any industry, keeping up with the latest trends is an on-going process.  Menlyn Boutique Hotel aims to cater to the guest’s every want and need and in order to include the vast array of customer expectations in the quality service we provide, we need to continuously rate and exceed our offerings.

What is the overall staff compliment under your supervision and what percentage of that is recruited from local community?

The current position of General Manager supervises 14 staff members, including Assistant Managers, house-keeping, security, maintenance and reception.

Do you have an example to share where your hotel has groomed a staff member from entry position to climb the career ladder?

At the Menlyn Boutique Hotel we aim to provide all staff members with an environment which lead to continuous training and personal growth.  All the teachers are also the learners and the other way around. An example of a staff member that has grown within our establishment is Johannes Ringane. Johannes started with us as a receptionist, and has since been promoted from receptionist to duty manager, and now to my assistant manager.

How does the hotel recruit new staff members?

In order to ensure that the advertisement is widely read and to ensure that the best possible candidates are reached, the hotel makes use of online market-related job advertisements.  Internal staff are informed of new position openings through internal channels in order to have the first option to apply, and therefore create an opportunity for self-growth. We hold extensive interviews with all applicants to ensure that the right person is appointed to join our team.

How do you ensure you turn once-off hotel guests into repeat clients?

The facilities of the Menlyn Boutique Hotel create a sophisticated environment catering to a vast array of guests, from a relaxing vacation seeker to the corporate businessmen. All staff go above and beyond to cater to all the needs of guests.

We are also open to any suggestions from guests in order to improve their next visit. We are not a large hotel, instead we offer a true boutique experience where each guest receives personal interaction and attention from management – as our name suggests. This makes our guest feel comfortable and at home.

What marketing strategies have proven profitable for your hotel and which ones has been a waste of resources?

The marketing aspects are outsourced to a company that are experts in their field.  Hereby the hotel staff can focus on ensuring quality service to the guests who are drawn to the hotel.  Printed material proved to be less effective in reaching our markets, whereas direct contact with the potential guest through site visit invitations, light lunches or a booking agent have proved to be the most effective methods of communication, as they give a more personal touch.

What percentage of your budget is spent sourcing goods and services from within your locality?

Menlyn Boutique Hotel and its staff believe in supporting local business as much as possible.  Should specialised products be needed, it will first be sourced locally and only if it is not found other channels of sourcing will be used.

We believe that South Africa has some of the best products available, we try and source all our products as close to home as possible. For example, all our meats, fruits and vegetables, breads, cured meats and dairy are sources within the Pretoria area. All our fish are fresh South African sourced from speciality suppliers and in line with Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI).

Is your hotel involved in any community upliftment projects…if so, please share details?

Menlyn Boutique Hotel aim to seize any opportunity to give back, and we used this year’s Mandela Day to raise funds for the Jahwe Care t/a Revelations 717. We also contribute to a vast variety of fund driven organisations such as:

  • Pretoria Care for the Aged
  • The Help-Net fund
  • SA Red Cross Society
  • The Salvation Army
  • Helping Hand Projects
  • Girls & Boys Town
  • Blind SA
  • CANSA
  • Vriende van die PTA Nasionale dieretuin
  • Abraham Kriel Childcare
  • SA Nasionale Raad vir Blindes
  • The JHB Childrens Home
  • Vereeninging van Mond en Voetskilders
  • Child Welfare SA
  • Cotlands
  • National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI)

How is your hotel impacting positively to the environment?

The Menlyn Boutique Hotel facilities have been upgraded to be more energy efficient by replacing all lights with LED, implementing timers on all geysers in the already established part of the facilities and installing heat pumps in the new section of the establishment.

Outside lights have been fitted with day/night switches to ensure there are no unnecessary lights burning during the day.  The Vingcard system has also been installed in order to prevent electricity waste when guests are not in the room.

What inspires you to wake up each morning ready to positively contribute in your hotel?

Each day brings new exciting challenges that force me to come up with new, creative solutions.  The ever changing industry means that no two days are ever the same.

What legacy do you aim to leave in your current position?

I strive towards putting everything into the activities that I have the responsibility for. I aim to do each task to the best of my ability.  I always aim to ensure that high quality service is maintained in all aspects and I hope the example I set will inspire other staff members to go above and beyond in order to create a sophisticated “home away from home” experience.

Author: Muzi Mohale

Hi there, am your host and I blog about the tourism industry in South Africa. You're also welcome to contribute your expert content on matters affecting the industry. You can reach me on muzi[at]tourismedition.com

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