Federica Fuga
HOTEL MANAGER - Singer Palace Hotel
Federica Fuga
H:
Federica, tell us a little about yourself and the path that brought you here to the management of the Singer Palace Hotel.
FF:
My passion for hospitality stems from a trip to the United States where I had the opportunity to stay in both New York and Florida in wonderful facilities. I observed the staff at the reception, in the restaurant and in all other departments and I began to be really fascinated by this sense of ‘extended home’. I am a lover of travel and discovering different cultures, but also of the sense of home, so I found myself very much in this experience. I was only nine years old and after that trip I was left with this beautiful memory.

When I was approaching the choice of university, I made some evaluations, whether to go to Switzerland or to do a university focused on business and then management. I chose the latter and went to study at the American John Cabot University in Trastevere, where I did the entire course in business administration in native English. At the end of the first year at the American university, you have three months off from June to the end of August, until classes start again. That year I started working in a beautiful 4-star luxury hotel in Parioli, from mid-May, I started as a receptionist.

Starting the new year, I approached the commercial office where I followed all the sales, contracts, relations with travel agencies, site inspections, all F&B services etc.
After two and a half years in the commercial office I moved to London where I worked in a smaller facility of 48 rooms at the time, the Blakes Hotel South Kensington.
I stayed there for almost 2 years. In the booking department, they were looking for a person who could do all the booking work. It was a hotel that made a lot of direct bookings, by email and/or by phone, and I managed all that.
There was some site inspection there too, and every now and then I supported the events department, which was much smaller than my previous experience.

In 2014 I moved to the Four Seasons Park Lane, still in the reservations department. Here I looked after both the London and Hampshire hotels in the countryside (with a total of almost 600 rooms). I was also in charge of selling services such as the spa and other activities like horse riding, falconry, fishing, etc. It was wonderful and a lot of fun. I also stayed there for almost two years, after which I came to know about this new project, this opening in Rome.

I initially applied for a consultancy, to support the staff in the opening, given my experience abroad. Shortly after I applied, I was asked “Would you be willing to follow it up?” and so at the age of 25 I said “Gladly”. So we started the whole study of the product, the image, the logo of which I still have all the drafts, the website, texts, translations, photos etc. We built it step by step, there was no reception, there was nothing. Of major importance was the training of the staff and the assignment of the cleaning and porter service. In short, a very complex job that lasted a couple of years

Then the opening on 2nd July 2018 with the first Miss and Mr Ford customers arriving at 1pm at the hotel. It was a great thrill!
H:
Tell us more about the facility, how is it organised, how many members of staff do you have, how many rooms?
FF:
We have 30 rooms in total, 20 rooms consist of the bedroom and bathroom and 10 suites have the living area as well and some have a double bathroom. They are 30 units on 4 floors. On the 5th floor we have our restaurant open for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and all the food & beverage services that accompany the internal and external guest throughout the day. We have a bar on the 6th floor, the roof top, which is open for both our internal and external guests for a cocktail break.

From the terrace you can see all the roofs of Rome and at sunset there is a charming atmosphere.
We are a few steps away from the Pantheon, a few minutes from the Trevi fountain, and other major sights such as Piazza Navona and the Colosseum. The exterior is truly a jewel, you can breathe in the beautiful Rome.
H:
The pandemic certainly affected you and, like everyone else, you were still able to stay open most of the time. How did you perceive the change in the host and your staff from before to after?
FF:
The strongest change concerning guests was the longer length of stay; thus, the average length of stay increased from 2.3 to 3.2/3.3. Guests, in this post-pandemic phase, choose to make longer trips or decide to make fewer stops and stay longer. So in Rome we no longer see a booking for 1 or 2 nights but 4, 5, 7. In short, it’s a beautiful response.

As for the staff, in the beginning we had difficulty finding professionals and young people eager to enter the industry. As the months went by, we managed to find the most suitable people for the vacant positions and we are now a complete team. However, we try to do more, our organisation does not shrink in staff, we always want to give a lot of service in an organised way.
So, for example, you could always add a figure to the bar, a helper in the restaurant or add a figure to the front office, but it’s not always easy to add a new resource. When we find it, we focus on her/him so that she/he can feel comfortable with us and can grow and learn a lot.
H:
The post-2020 customer has much less patience, he/she seeks a personalised service, many guests demand an experience. In short, it is a world that has evolved. Have you, with regard to these aspects, taken any specific steps to help and support them?
FF:
Yes, we have changed some procedures. When guests arrive at Singer, we already know in general terms their programme, what they want to visit, where they want to eat etc. We follow them all the way, even after their stay, since often, those arriving from afar tie Rome to other stops.

As far as the arrival at the hotel is concerned, we adopt a customised methodology for each client. Already in 2018 we had started to do a real extended reception at the hotel, since when guests stay at the Singer Palace they are taken to our restaurant, to our terraces from where we let them admire Rome, and a receptionist comes off for about 20/25 min to stay with the guests. This is because we have always wanted closer and more personalised contact with the guest. Post pandemic even more so, and since we already had this guest orientation approach, it was easier and much appreciated by the guests.
H:
This is very interesting, also because being a small hotel compared to the average, you have a very high sense of home and welcome.
What is the guest experience like for your staff? How much do they feel they belong to this place?
FF:
The staff is very close to the guest, we call our guests by their first name. There is that leap towards the guest and the guest feels the closeness with the staff. The guest can experience the hotel as if they had a trusted person there all day. Customers feel very cuddly, they feel at home and they are genuinely sad when they leave and ask us where they can buy or how they can have items sent to them that they see in the hotel. So there is an attachment with the facility, where the guest becomes tied to a particular table, cushion, statuette, etc., and wants to keep it with him or her, wants to buy it or have it sent and this happens.
It is one of the signs of appreciation. Another sign is the many returning guests, guests who also return more than once or who, when they return, bring the rest of the family. For example, a while ago an American family stayed with us; the first time the lady came, with her husband and child, this time they also brought their parents, i.e. the child’s grandparents, and they stayed more nights than the last time.

I do a lot of conversation, entertainment, advice, there is a lot of interaction and the guest is enthusiastic. We guide the guest to the ATM, to the garage, which is outside the facility, and with which we have an agreement (it’s close by but still has to be indicated). I personally often get in the car with the guest and guide him to the car park, and then we drop off the luggage and walk back to the hotel. I book the ticket with the client for the next stage of their tour: Naples, Venice, Positano, Bologna, etc., we call the “agriturismo” or hotel where they will be arriving to make sure they have all the services they need.

This shows a strong focus on guest care, and obviously the guys working with me are also keen to learn, replicate and personalise the service because they have seen how important this is.
Some customers have been really surprised by such proactive attitudes.
H:
One last question Federica, you are under 35 and have a lot of experience. What advice or cue would you give to a colleague of yours regarding improving and developing relationships with people, staff and guests?
FF:
My advice is always to empathise with the guest, because only by doing so can you get a critical view, in a good sense, of the synergy that is created between the different departments of the hotel, and then you can best accept the offers, advice, suggestions and answers that come from the actual guests.
Hence immersing oneself in that guest of that specific nationality, of that age, with whom he or she is travelling, for how long, what schedule he or she has, how stressed he or she is, how worried, how excited, how happy, etc., all with the aim of living here and now. Being focused on the moment and grasping the reason for the trip, whether a person is used to travelling, whether it is the trip of a lifetime or whether it is the last trip, (because we happened to have a couple making their last trip together because their wife was ill). We welcome guests with very different reasons for travelling and this must always put us on our toes and make us approach the guest in an emotional way.