Sharing his hospitality experience around the world, our HFC Operations Director now oversees pre-opening projects for citizenM in Paris, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, and Washington DC. In this interview, Mathieu Lacabanne explains the joy of helping clients as a strategic partner for continuous improvements.

HFC Amsterdam, Hotel Facility Concepts, Hotel Solutions

Having an extensive career in hospitality, what inspired you to join HFC?
Earlier in my career, I took on a variety of roles within the traditional hotel business. I never heard about Integrated Facility Management before I started with HFC. Learning about a new concept was something exciting. It was a challenge because I had to start again from scratch but that is what I liked the most. I am in something new again and it is refreshing. Meeting new people from different cultures has always been what I was looking for. To me, that is the most beautiful thing about the job.

What do you enjoy the most in the pre-opening process?
I am always amazed to see how hotels transform from a construction site to a welcoming haven within a few weeks. Moreover, I enjoy watching the teams getting together and working hard towards the same goal. Everybody brings professionalism and expertise but when the hotel opens it is very emotional. Hotel’s pre-openings are a special moment in the life of a hotel and a hotelier. It demands a lot of focus and patience. You can never fully anticipate everything that will happen; it creates special bonds with the people involved and the properties. Every time, it feels like you are adding a new member to your family.

Are you planning to open new hotels in 2021?
I am very proud that we have opened hotels in Seattle and Washington DC while dealing with the COVID-19 restrictions. It was challenging, but at the same time, it drove a lot of hope and confidence in the future. This year, we are planning to open 6 additional hotels for our partner citizenM. One on the Champs Elysees in Paris a.k.a. the most beautiful avenue in the world, one in Los Angeles, one in San Francisco, two in Miami and our second property in Washington DC.

What does pre-opening include?
We cover all Facilities services: housekeeping management, room cleaning, public area cleaning, linen logistics, linen laundry, bedding, carpet cleaning, window cleaning, stewarding, kitchen porters, greening, pest control, floor maintenance and waste management.  My team and I are responsible for the hotel setup and organizing and manage vendors we partner with. We also purchase equipment and supplies.

How does the pre-opening process look like?
The process starts for us a long time before Teams enter the building. We start by giving inputs on the hotel design and logistic flows. We also work far in advance on securing the right partners, we develop budgets and forecasts. A few weeks before the hotel opens, the final race starts: we manage our partners to set up the hotel, train their staff and make sure all Teams members are properly integrated.

What kind of services does HFC provide?
We are a global strategic facility management agent for hotels and commercial real estate. We not only unburden our clients and deliver day to day services but act as strategic partners for continuous improvements. We both optimize financial profits and guest satisfaction using a process-based approach and scalable data. We are driven by innovation and always initiate new projects. On top of an organizing role, we play an active and important role in aligning all stakeholders with our client’s culture. This is instrumental in the success of a hotel opening. Having all services ready and a clean hotel is not enough to provide the right guest experience. To be able to do that, we need to fully understand our clients and be fully integrated with their strategy.

What are your hopes for the hotel industry?
I do not doubt that the industry will recover but things will never be the same. Travellers’ behaviour and company travel policies will change. There will be opportunities, but hospitality companies need to be on top of trends and innovate. I feel confident that HFC is set for success and will not miss the train.

How do you define success?
I feel successful when I perform at work and can spend quality time with my family and friends. To keep a balance is sometimes challenging. I do not like to be bored and always value learning new things. Joining HFC has been a journey. In a short period, I had to learn about Integrated Facility Management and its dynamics while my scope of responsibility was constantly growing.

Mathieu Lacabanne’s journey in the Hospitality industry started in 1997. After his Hotel School in the south of France, he started as a night auditor in a 600 rooms hotel in Paris. From there, he has worked 18 years for AccorHotels. Mathieu grew to a General Manager position for different hotels, left Paris for New York and then Thailand and Vietnam. In 2015, he worked for the Dream Hotel Group, a lifestyle hotel company based in New York City, where he oversaw their four properties in Asia, based in Bangkok. Together with his wife and son, Mathieu lived many adventures in different parts of the world and stay strong and close no matter what happens. He returned to Europe in 2018 to take up his current position as a global Operations Director for HFC.