Nissenbaum Raises Bar at Peninsula Beverly Hills
Near the corner of Santa Monica and Wilshire Boulevards, banners attached to lampposts encourage people to ‘Celebrate 90210.’ The prestigious postal code is sufficient to identify the classy, cultured community of Beverly Hills to visitors from around the world.
Just a few yards away, behind walls designed to keep away the paparazzi, the Peninsula Beverly Hills welcomes its upscale guests—from celebrities to CEOs—in true style. A bevy of employees—their various uniforms denoting their specific roles—greet visitors as they arrive in their Bentley, BMW, and Porsche automobiles. Nearby, the hotel’s fleet of Cadillacs and Rolls-Royces stand ready to whisk guests to a chi-chi restaurant or trendy boutique.
And if someone finds it just too much of an intrusion to leave the privacy of a poolside cabana to pick up that new Rolex in person, a hotel page—dressed in a crisp, white uniform straight out of Wardrobe at a nearby movie studio—will gladly collect it.
Nothing’s a problem for, and nothing seems to stymie, the employees at this posh, five-star hotel with a well-deserved reputation for providing service that’s superior even to its top-flight competitors that share the 90210 zip code.
“My motto is ‘we always have to connect emotionally with the guest,’” says Offer Nissenbaum, managing director at the Peninsula Beverly Hills. “Physically, there are magnificent hotels everywhere…but it’s not about the physical part. It’s all about the people process and how we look at what we do within the hotel that sets us apart.”
Some might say Nissenbaum—who joined the Peninsula in December 2007 after overseeing nine Omni hotels as the regional vice-president of operations—learned about the “people process” the hard way.
In 1983, as a young man who’d just completed hospitality management school in upstate New York, the Israeli native became a trainee manager at Leona Helmsley’s Park Lane hotel in Manhattan.
“It was a great, great learning experience for me, because I got to do so many jobs within the hotel,” Nissenbaum recalls. “I worked the front desk, night audit and reservations and really got to learn all the operations. And she (Helmsley) lived in the hotel so we had a tremendous amount of contact.”
Nissenbaum says he witnessed what he calls “some awful situations” —including the on-the-spot dismissal of an executive chef with a wife and three children—by Helmsley, who was known for her public tantrums and tirades.
“I was young. I had no fear. And my motto was, ‘What is the worst thing that can happen to me? She’ll fire me and I’ll get another job,’” he remembers thinking.
”I realized very quickly that when I got to a position of power, to a position of leadership, I will not be that way,” Nissenbaum says of his time at the Park Lane. “I saw how it affected the operation and the organization. It doesn’t work.
“I can be very tough, but to be mean, to be evil, to be intimidating to people, to throw things, to be physically abusive—things of that nature—it has no place in any business, let alone the hospitality business. And I’ve always felt, the way you treat the staff, they will treat the guests accordingly.”
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