In this series, we share some insights into the hotel’s key figures that are true champions of the hotel in their efforts to ensure each and every one of our guests have a memorable stay with us in the heart of London. The historic Strand Palace Hotel enjoys an enviable position right at the heart of London’s West End, with easy access to the financial centre of the City, just minutes away. For Tina Cadby, the hotel’s executive housekeeper, the journey to work is longer but evidently worth it given her huge affection for the hotel where she’s worked for almost twenty years.
Based in Carshalton in Surrey, she gets up at ten to four every morning, to make sure she’s at her desk at the Strand by ten to six. “The journey gives me a bit of peace because it’s the first tube out, I always get a seat. Then I get my kindle out and get absorbed in a book, take my mind off everything until I get to work.”
The commute is an oasis of tranquility before a non-stop day. “The first thing I do on getting to work is to catch up with everything that happened the evening before, whether there were any incidents or issues that haven’t been dealt with overnight. It gives me an immediate picture of the jobs that need doing, what tasks I need to give the team for the day, which rooms are ready for departure. I make a list of jobs for the maintenance team, make sure all the maids and housekeepers and everyone else is in place.”
Tina oversees a sizeable team, responsible for the upkeep of 785 guestrooms and a dedicated conference floor, catering for both leisure and business guests. It’s a job with a daunting scale of juggling logistics and expectations while maintaining high standards. Years of experience make it easier. “I’ve been here for almost two decades, and I’ve been in the industry for over thirty years.”
“I started as a room attendant then progressed through the ranks to deputy housekeeper and now the executive housekeeper. I’ve always known it’s the right job for me. It’s satisfying to start at the bottom and work your way up because I have a real understanding of all the roles. I know how everyone works, I appreciate how hard each job is, from bottom to top, because I’ve done it and got the T-shirt.”
After delegating the outstanding tasks of the day, it’s time for advance planning. We were speaking in the days leading up to the Royal Wedding and the FA Cup Final, so she knows already that the hotel is fully booked for that weekend. “I know that the road will be closed to traffic that weekend. So I need to work out now what we’ll do about linen deliveries, which is a challenge but we have to meet it. That’s the kind of thing you need to plan in advance, and because I have a good team in place and can delegate, I do have more time for forward planning.”
Once all the checking and double-checking has taken place, Tina heads out from her office to inspect the floors. “That takes me from 9 am to 2 pm, doing spot checks, making sure all the rooms are as they should be, that all the maintenance required has been done, that everything works.”
I ask if she then pauses for a spot of lunch. “I never go out for lunch, or to the canteen. I always have a working lunch at my desk. That might sound silly but I never have time. I know people say you should make time, but there’s not enough time in the day. Especially as the spot checks take time and then I have to deal with paperwork and invoices in the afternoon.”
But surely she must feel the urge to nip out for a coffee or a stroll? She laughs. “You must be joking. Never a stroll, however short, I walk miles here within the hotel every day. It keeps me really fit. When I go on holiday I really notice the difference after two weeks of not running about.”
As Tina finishes at 4 pm most days, that leaves her just two hours to deal with invoices, to check that staff rotas are in place for the next day, the evening staff is in. It’s an especially busy period for the hotel as the guest rooms are currently undergoing a substantial refurbishment, so Tina has to plan around that, with all the extra attention to detail that entails.
Then there are requests from guests, which vary from requests for fresh air, or discovering that they have left anything from a mobile charger in their room to a significant amount of money in the safe or forgotten their passport and not realising until they’re at the airport.
Dealing with guests is an aspect Tina enjoys. “People are spending time and money staying with us, so I want to make sure they have a good experience. I love meeting different people and some of them come back year after year, ask after you and come and have a chat.”
Getting feedback from visitors is the most rewarding part of the experience for Tina. “It’s always great when we get nice comments, about how sparkling clean the rooms are, or that they’ve loved the service, that the staff has been friendly.”
If she were staying at the hotel as a guest, Tina says she would enjoy a long meal at the legendary Carvery. “It’s wonderful, all of it, from the presentation to the quality of the roasts. The Carvery has been here since year dot, and evolved with the hotel, but it’s still traditional, still old-fashioned, and our guests enjoy that aspect and so do I. After that I’d go to our glamorous Gin Palace bar for a few cocktails, definitely. And I’d certainly take in a show, our location is so fantastic for theatres, you can’t beat it. “