Interview with Eric Toren

“To forget something is human… but it shouldn’t be at the expense of the company”

What makes a hotel successful? This question often engages the hospitality world. Who could answer it better than Eric Toren, director of Hotel The Toren and owner of Hotel Sebastian’s in Amsterdam. In 2016 Hotel The Toren was named best hotel of The Netherlands for the fifth consecutive year (source: Tripadvisor). Hotel Sebastian’s is doing great as well. This young venture finds itself in the Dutch top 3 when it comes to service. “They ask me regularly: why do your score so high? That’s because in general little goes wrong in my hotels. And that is because I use Procs”, says Eric.

Erik Toren

Procs builds on a method he has been using in his hotels for years, having the focus lies on control or supervision. Something that is very necessary, because sometimes things go wrong. Eric: “I’ve had damages worth up to ten thousands of euros. A leakage for example, because someone forgot to remove the leaves from the roof.”

A forgotten assignment or one that hasn’t been properly executed, can cost a lot of money. But where there are people, mistakes are made, is something Eric realizes all too well: “It kept me up at night sometimes. To forget a task is human, but it can’t be at the expense of the company.”

In an effort to gain more control Eric started using detailed paper checklists in his hotels. On them were all the chores that had to be done, some of daily nature, others weekly, monthly or even yearly. Each chore was coupled to a controlling task. This meant that a manager in turn had his own checklist filled with controlling tasks, which were also then subject to their own review. The decision turned out to be a great one. The margin of error kept getting smaller, guests were complaining a lot less and soon rewarded Hotel The Toren with a 9,7 out of 10 on the Tripadvisor website. Other reviewing websites also received praising reviews on the four star hotel.

But according to Eric the approach was not waterproof. “Mistakes were still being made. The problem with paper is that it can get lost, it doesn’t get ticked off properly, it ends up in folders and is forgotten about. An assignment on paper no longer figures in your agenda the next day.”

The issue finally ends up at Qics. The software company in Katwijk accepted the challenge and came up with a tool to easily manage more than hundred staff members. “I was always busy all day: ‘did you think of this? Did you do that?’ But as a director I really only just want to know what went wrong. And that is exactly what Procs does for me”, says Eric.

To the cloud
After years of working with paper checklists Hotel The Toren and Hotel Sebastian’s decided earlier this year to integrally use its digital brother: Procs. Eric: “Controls on paper are hard and time intensive. When after the fact it turned out something went wrong, who is responsible and how do you prove it? That has changed now. When I receive an escalation, I can exactly see who did what and ask that person for an explanation”, says Eric.

Eric says to have also gained some financial insight. “I found out I had a management layer that was too broad. At the same time I had to hire more regular staff in order to also fulfil the now towering expectations.” He expects to save more than 5 percent on the total costs annually, just in Hotel The Toren alone.

Eric thinks that Procs can mean a lot to businesses. “I am convinced that this system is applicable to all kinds of businesses, so not only in hotels, but also in hospitals for example. And I expect that people will say: “This Toren guy is not so smart, so he must have come up with something really clever. Because how else is he able to run two hotels successfully? And then he goes off on vacation six weeks a year’. It used to cost me money when I went away, but not anymore. Because I have fewer damage and stress, I make more money and I have a lot more calm. So I can go on vacation without a single worry.”