The AA Hospitality Awards are a chance to celebrate outstanding commitment and performance in the hospitality industry, and The Milestone Hotel’s Executive Housekeeper, Tzveta Peneva-Ivanova, is the recipient of this year’s AA Housekeeper of the Year award. Tzveta is a well-known and much loved face at The Milestone, and she continually strives to raise the bar in every aspect of her role, from finding ways to reduce the hotel’s carbon footprint via its laundry services to providing thoughtful, personal touches for each and every guest. Here, she tells us about the highlights of her job, the hotel’s quirky traditions and the trick to making the perfect bed.
When did you start working at The Milestone?
“I started with The Milestone in October 2008, so I’ll be celebrating my 9th anniversary with Red Carnation Hotels this year.”
Talk us through a typical day at work for you.
“A typical day in Housekeeping? There is no such thing! No matter how well you plan, Housekeeping is a “live” department and it’s incredibly hard to predict the day. I arrive at the hotel at around 7am and one of the first things I do is make sure all guest requests have been co-ordinated and TNT (tiny noticeable touches) planned wherever possible. We love surprising and delighting our guests with unexpected personal touches.
To keep the hotel looking beautiful, I might do a walk-around with the Chief Engineer in order to discuss and delegate what is being done from a maintenance and housekeeping point of view in each of our rooms and public areas. We pride ourselves on being meticulous; a standard room takes an hour to clean while a suite takes between two to three hours. Our two-bedroom apartments take an average of five hours to thoroughly clean. Depending on the occupancy, if we are full and at 100% occupancy we will do 68 beds per day. The recognition of my staff members and colleagues makes my day!”
Can you tell us more about The Milestones ‘tiny noticeable touches’?
“One of the things I love most about The Milestone is our commitment to providing “tiny noticeable touches” or, as we call them “TNT’s”. This means carrying out small but thoughtful gestures for our guests that are personal to them. For example, if a couple is celebrating a special anniversary, I’ll make sure that there’s a romantic turndown waiting for them, complete with rose petals, heart-shaped chocolates and even a glass of Champagne. Or, if we have a young family staying, we’ll ensure that their room is equipped with toys and books. We also have a lot of returning guests, so it’s nice to provide them with a personalised touch, whether that’s a bouquet of their favourite flowers or monogrammed bed linen. It’s just the best feeling in the world knowing you’ve made other people’s holidays something to remember for years to come.”
Are there any housekeeping secrets that you’ve picked up over the years that you’re willing to share?
“Of course! For me, making the perfect bed is made much easier with top quality bed linen that’s been laundered to the highest standards, and a pair of very well trained hands certainly never hurts! For carpet stains like red wine, we use a magical spray that was recommended by our Founder and President, Mrs Beatrice Tollman. Generally, the quicker you attend to any stains, the better chance there is of being able to remove them. Visit The Milestone’s restaurant or bar, and you may well notice the gleaming silverware. My secret tip to keep silver brilliantly shiny is constant loving care and polish, polish, polish!”
One of the highlights at The Milestone is that each room is different and many contain unique features, such as the drapes on four-poster beds. Do you have a checklist for how your team should approach a room?
“One of the first things I did when I started was to create a “Master Bible” full pictures of how everything needs to look in each bedroom in terms of details, presentation etc. It’s a living document which is updated regularly as and when we make any changes or carry out room refurbishments. What’s more, we train the Housekeeping ladies ourselves on how to clean everything, including specifics on the cleaning of the drapes on four poster beds, which are particularly important.”
The Milestone dates back to 1689 and has had a colourful history. Does the hotel have any quirky traditions?
“The Milestone has many traditions, but one of the quirkiest is the annual nod to the original owners of No. 2 Kensington Court. Every year, on the 27th June (or thereabouts) the General Manager and a few members of the team sabrage a bottle of Champagne in our Tudor Suite to toast the original owner of No. 2 Kensington Court, John Athelstone-Riley, who had the residence built between 1884-1885. The reason we do this in the Tudor Suite is that the ceiling bears their family initials, and this suite (originally the music room of the house), was believed to be one of their favourites. Indeed, the musicians’ gallery is still one of the most prominent features of this room.”
Stay in The Milestone Hotel’s historic Tudor Suite and see if you can spot the founding family’s initials for yourself.
Image Credits: All images courtesy of Red Carnation Hotels.