Right in the heart of Antwerp city center lies Belgium's newest culinary gem; The 5-star superior hotel Botanic Sanctuary Antwerp, a complex of beautiful historic buildings with a botanical garden and no fewer than 3 Michelin-starred restaurants. I look forward to experiencing this hotel, which was already compared to George V in Paris or Hotel Bareiss in the Black Forest when it opened. Marc Alofs, the Managing Director I have been following since his time at Vue des Montagnes and Relais & Chateaux Domaine La Butte aux Bois, two wonderful companies where he has worked in Limburg.
Nothing is lacking at the hotel; on arrival my car is put away at the valet parking and I walk up a passerelle of luxury. Several showcases of leading brands glisten to me. The greenery in this hotel has been brought in from outside and gives a soothing feeling. The hotel bar called Henry's Bar, has an international feel and could have been in New York or Tel Aviv. Coffee is served with beautiful crockery and with all the delicacies, it is a real experience. The color palette and luxurious fabrics here are carefully chosen and we take a seat in an armchair that I don't want to get out of.
'Every day here is rushing hour; we have opened 14 business in a year in this 5-star superior hotel. Our team delivers top performance every day. At Michelin, the star hangs on the chef and the food. We had focus on hiring the right people in the right position and team. The stars came as early as 6 months. The ambition is full restaurants and happy guests. If it can be rewarded with more, we think that's fantastic. A lot of time and effort is put into achieving this level. We must train managers, passion for the job is important in this. Also, for the wait staff, training for this profession is not popular while it is wonderful what you can mean to other people at impact moments in life. This gives a lot of satisfaction. Gastronomy is going to become more expensive in the near future. Due to the decreasing number of employees and rising costs. To keep up with this, we are adapting and, for example, running one shift with limited opening hours.'
'We sometimes don't realize how good we have it here. There are beautiful places in the world but not everywhere you have medical care and a safety net if things go wrong. We shouldn't always want more. After Corona, I experience less patience from people, people are more focused on themselves, guests book two places at the same time, for example, only to cancel one last minute.'
'You always get back from guests how friendly Limburgers are. Greetings on the street, being socially engaged and showing respect are values I still carry with me today. I have imported Limburg to Antwerp.'
'You don't get freedom in work just like that, I think it has to do with ownership and perseverance. I stumbled 10 times and the 11th time I got back up and this was my learning curve. If you prove this, you get the confidence. This is also how I intend to lead this company to black figures. Not verbally up front, rather by deeds, it's all about guests leaving the door satisfied. Focus on details, sincere attention, and quality, that's what the team should exude. I am clear in the reputation I strive for. If you compare a hotel organization to a house, the foundation of the house is to build with set guidelines in which perfect service, clean rooms and very good food are normal at this level. This is where we have our hands full with the current job market. We distinguish ourselves significantly with the DAK (Details-Attention- Quality). Services are often stripped down and service goes down as a result. Decisions should not just be made with share price and efficiency as the priority. We want to be the place where service is provided, and we give space to make a difference at important personal events.'
"Eric De Vocht is a well-known Antwerp resident who acquired this place. This was complex in every way, because of the many archaeological excavations, the location in the middle of the historic center of Antwerp, buildings under Monument Conservation and because the buildings were owned by OCMW, an organization for the less fortunate. As a result, this place went from left to right of the political spectrum. Now it is a place where rich people meet.'