EP #35 – Secrets to Running an Award Winning Hotel

Deirdre McGlone from Harvey’s Point Discusses the Importance of Service Culture.

Have you ever wondered what is in the secret sauce of an award winning hotel? How do they manage to win awards year after year? Is it their picturesque location? Is it their finely appointed guest rooms? Or, is it the genuine hospitality that exudes from their staff? Yes. The answer is yes to all the above. But only one of those elements has the power to negate the other two. And, it is the one element that hotel leadership has 100% control over.

Award-winning hotelier Deirdre McGlone from the acclaimed Harvey’s Point in Donegal Town Ireland shares their recipe for success in episode #35 of the Hospitality Academy podcast.



Deirdre and the rest of her family and staff at Harvey’s Point exemplify Irish Hospitality at its best. “It always is about the people” she comments as she reflects upon what sets apart the good from the great.

In the hospitality industry, service is king. For hotels and other hospitality providers, making an emotional connection with your guests is important. You find that many reviews and comments focus on the service that they received during their stay. While location and amenities certainly play into the success of a hotel, service is what guests will remember the most about their stay.

This is a great thing, as the level of service you provide is completely in your control. Creating a positive service culture sets your hotel apart from the competition.

Harvey’s Point opened as a small guest house back in 1989, and since then, has grown in size and popularity. The hotel is the recent recipient of numerous awards including Top Hotel in Ireland five times in a row, according to TripAdvisor. Deirdre attributes her hotel’s success service-minded culture that perpetuates within the staff at Harvey’s Point.


Topics discussed in this episode include:

  • Cultivating a service-minded team
  • Finding the balance between service and process
  • Establishing the right first impression
  • Hiring for attitude and train for skills
  • Creating standards that the whole team supports
  • Ensuring a good work-life balance for your team


Deirdre started working at Harvey’s Point 27 years ago. Her start at the hotel was a summer position in reception. Her now-husband, Marc, is the brother of Jody, who created Harvey’s Point. At that time, Marc was working as a chef in the hotel, and from there, a romance bloomed. In 1996, Deirdre and Marc purchased the hotel from Jody. Since then, Harvey’s Point has become a shining example of Irish hospitality. Deirdre describes her partnership with husband, Marc who is Swiss, as a marriage made in hotel heaven – “the precision of Swiss hotel-keeping combined with Irish Hospitality.”

I have been to Harvey’s Point personally and found it to be a magical place. The recent awards the hotel has received comes as no surprise. The atmosphere is amazing, the location is spectacular, and above all, the staff and the service they provide is incredible.

During our discussion, Deirdre focuses on the importance of genuine care from her staff. She feels like a guest should be treated as a person, with needs and emotions. Treating guests like room numbers does not provide the welcoming feel that makes for a great experience.

With that in mind, the staff at Harvey’s Point focus on their guests as individuals. The goal is to make them feel welcome and to anticipate their needs providing the best stay possible. As she explains, “it comes down to one thing ultimately, which is our wonderful team. Each of whom are special people who embody the best of Irish Hospitality.”  It’s that natural welcome and friendliness, coupled with the high standards of service which, sets them apart.

Even with the high focus on service, the hotel still needs to run. Deirdre talks about the importance of keeping balance. There must be a balance between great service, and maintaining margins and other business concerns. A friendly hotel is not going to do well if they are disorganized. Just like a well-organized hotel will not do well, if the staff are too mechanical.

One of the highlights of our discussion is the importance of building a relationship with your guests. This starts well before you ever meet them. It is important that you make a good first impression, and that begins with a great website. Not only do you need to frame your hotel in a pretty light, but you also need to be careful not to overpromise.

Once your guests are in your hotel, it’s now up to the staff to provide an exceptional guest experience. Proper training can teach the right staff the skills they need. As Deirdre points out, they prefer to hire people with the right personality for the job and train them the skills needed for their particular role. The first part of any new staff member’s training is to learn the origins Harvey’s Point. By learning the story of the hotel, her staff starts their training with the most important part of working at Harvey’s Point, the service culture. From there, new team members are paired with an experienced staff member. She states that shadowing works well to show firsthand how to succeed in their role.

Deirdre continues to praise the teamwork of her staff. Even after training is complete, staff still works together to provide the best in Irish hospitality. She builds a culture where everyone feels part of the bigger team.

[ctt template=”3″ link=”364Y8″ via=”yes” nofollow=”yes”]It all comes down to one thing ultimately, and that is our wonderful team @HarveysPoint [/ctt]

In continuing this conversation, Deirdre mentions an important piece of the success equation. Her staff members hold the same sets of standards for the hotel as she does. Because of these standards, the hotel is well run, even when she, or the other owners, are not physically there. She has trust in her staff, which leaves time for her to think strategically about the business. One of those strategies is to keep reinvesting and coming up with new ideas to delight guests.

Finally, Deirdre talks about the importance of keeping your staff happy and well-rested. She expects a great deal from the team, but there is always a balance to be kept. She discusses ways her hotel keeps their housecleaning staff from burning out. They work in pairs because of the large rooms and heavy mattresses. It is safer for them to work together. All the rooms in Harvey’s Point are very large, and working in pairs makes things easier. She also encourages cross-training staff. This allows staff to rotate duties to keep things from becoming mundane, as well as meeting the unexpected demands of the business.

As she explains, she wants her staff to work hard, but not be too exhausted for the next day. Having a work-life balance is an essential part of creating an excellent service culture.



Important Links, Mentions, and Resources From This Episode

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