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Lost in London’s charm: a businessman’s journey through the Hippodrome Casino

Travel log by Derek Pacqué

There I was, walking the streets of London, wondering if I’d taken a wrong turn somewhere back at Trafalgar Square. The dread of being lost in a foreign country didn’t bother me, considering every corner I turned greeted me with architecture more beautiful than the last. I also had company. Business people were fleeing their offices for the day, and tourists congregated at intersections, gobbling up the city's extraordinary sights, sounds, and aromas.

“Which one am I?” I wondered. “Am I here for work or to observe?”

I had flown to London from the States for a business meeting with the largest casino in the UK. In a few short minutes, I was to meet with the Director of Customer Experience to learn about their cloakroom pain points and see if our experience and products could add value. But where was this place?

I’d heard through the grapevine that this casino is one of London's coolest places to visit. The Hippodrome has kept itself firmly in the limelight for over a century. Charlie Chaplin graced the stage In its inaugural show in January of 1900! Not a bad start!

The venue’s allure goes beyond performers like Judy Garland, Julie Andrews, and Sammy Davis Jr.; it also was home to a daring show involving brave acrobats that would leap off the roof and dive into a 230-foot deep water tank that held some 100,000 gallons of water. There were equestrian shows and circus acts involving lions, tigers, and bears. (Oh my!)

Along with its vibrant history came many renovations, I’ve been told. This has allowed the Hippodrome Casino to evolve, preserve its past, and become the icon it’s unfurled into today.

Then, I spotted it: “The Hippodrome!” Right across the street!

The stone facade glowed with golden lights. Handsome stone pillars fortified the walls, and a giant iron statue of a charioteer harnessing two galloping horses seemed to crown the whole casino. The steeds towered over me from the crest of the roof. It’s quite a venue to behold – and it should be! The Hippodrome is the most visited casino in the UK.

It’s quite a venue to behold – and it should be! The Hippodrome is the most visited casino in the UK.

Lisa, the Director of Customer Experience, warmly greeted me as I approached the doors. She offered me a much-needed cappuccino, and we sat down to talk.

Over the next few hours, Lisa and I had a meaningful conversation – one I still reference to this day. Not only was she a courteous listener as I explained how Chexology’s paperless coat check system would operate in the casino’s three cloakrooms (more about that below), but she mentored me through the process of building UK-compatible software and shared innovative hardware designs that we still use today. She thought of everything.

Inside the Hippodrome Casino in London many bars great nightlife

After our conversation, I set out to explore this fantastic space. It is quite a landmark. I was struck by the Hippodrome's many balconies, bars, restaurants, their Magic Mike Live show, and one of the most prominent theater stage curtains I had ever seen. You can’t help but fall in love with this place. Not only are you surrounded by fun people from all over the world, but the building itself is quite the character and a gracious host.

As I ventured further up the stairs, pulling back more layers of this wonderful venue, I discovered the popular rooftop bar. Popping out from behind the clouds, it was as if the setting sun had uncovered the patio section at the same moment I had. The roof of this entertainment mecca was the perfect final stop to grab a pint and collect my thoughts before returning to my hotel room.

Thinking back on my conundrum while wandering the streets of London earlier, I realized I wasn’t the businessman today; I had been the tourist all along. I left having received an education in European casinos, the cloakroom culture of London, and how to approach projects better.

London rooftop patio Hippodrome Casino

Fast forward

Five years have passed since that initial conversation. Thanks to Lisa, Chexology has helped the casino check over half a million belongings into their paperless cloakrooms. This has significantly impacted the Hippodrome’s sustainability efforts, eliminating hundreds of kilograms of paper tickets annually. Plus, their customers couldn’t be happier, says the Hippodrome staff.

Chexology has helped the casino check over half a million belongings into their paperless cloakrooms.

I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Lisa and her team at the Hippodrome a handful of times over the years, and during my more recent visit this spring, I asked Lisa if she’d let me interview her. I wanted to hear how she had nurtured such an outstanding organization. I also wanted to pick her brain to learn more about her ability to tackle new projects creatively. She once told me an interesting tale about her creative process of selecting the right toilet paper before the casino reopened. I know it’s hard to believe creative problem-solving exists in picking out toilet rolls, but it's a great example of how her mind works.

Without further ado, here’s my interview with Lisa May Jones, the Director of Customer Experience at the Hippodrome Casino in London.

Lisa May Jones and Derek Pacqué talk about London cloakrooms and customer service

An Interview with Lisa and the Hippodrome

Derek Pacqué: Lisa! Thank you so much for doing an interview with me.

Lisa Jones: Thank you for having me!

Derek: Let’s dive straight into the deep end. What makes you this creative doer? What makes you someone who's always thinking about innovative ways to get things done?

Lisa Jones: Hm! I would describe myself as very adaptable, and that definitely comes from my childhood, from my father being in the RAF and changing so many schools in different countries that I had to adapt. You have to learn quickly. Know what the new kids do here. How do you make the other kids like you? My resilience and adaptability have come from that experience.

Derek: Can you pull back the curtain for us and share a story where you had to be creative?

Lisa: If I think of stories back to, for example, the beginning of the Hippodrome, you know that when I joined, it was a building site, and my title then was house manager. So that covered a multitude of sins. One of the things, if I'm allowed to tell this story, was I had to decide how much toilet paper roll we needed. And it's like, I've got no idea, absolutely no idea. So I had a long think about the toilet roll dispenser itself.

When I finally selected the toilet roll dispensers – and I could have had all sorts of fancy ones, I went for ones that took a household-size paper roll because I figured if I didn't order enough toilet paper for the first few days, I could jump in a cab, go to a local supermarket and buy out their supply, because I knew that it would fit our containers. So when I say I'm practical, that's what I mean.

Derek: I mean, that's how you get things done, right? You get a lot of things done in your complimentary cloakroom, too!

Out of all of the hundreds of venues Chexology serves, the Hippodrome Casino is ranked number two on our client list regarding the total volume of coats/bags checked in a cloakroom. You've checked over half a million items thus far. That’s a lot of customers coming in and out of your doors! How do you cater to a larger audience and keep such a diverse group coming back?

Out of all of the hundreds of venues Chexology serves, the Hippodrome Casino is ranked number two on our client list regarding the total volume of coats/bags checked in a cloakroom.

Lisa: Obviously, we're in the center of London, so automatically, we're going to get a diverse group of clientele through our door. And by the same token, we have a diverse workforce, which is quite handy with all the languages as well. But I would say for the types of customers that we are not like most other UK casinos. We are not just a casino at the Hippodrome.

Magic Mike live show at the Hippodrome casino in London

We've got many bars, we've now got a number of restaurants, we've got the long-running Magic Mike Live show, which we had gone to see in Las Vegas, saw how well it worked there and brought to London – still doing amazingly well too. We've got a rooftop bar and other plans in the pipeline.

We've recently opened a Chinese restaurant. We've got a creperie on the outside of the building. We also have plans for Lola's downstairs, so watch this space. We're always making changes.

This keeps our customers interested. The person who comes in to see magic might is not necessarily a gamer, but they might, you know, come in, enjoy the atmosphere, and may have a little go on the tables. Or the gamer will see we've got dining options. There's everything under one roof. As long as you're over 18, you're gonna have the best time. There's something for everyone, truly.

As long as you're over 18, you're gonna have the best time. There's something for everyone, truly.

Derek: Yes! I couldn’t agree more. When I was there in March, I was having drinks at the bar right by the Magic Mike show and had a blast. Then, a group of us went downstairs and discovered live karaoke with someone on the piano. Everyone was singing; they were bringing me in to sing. I'm not a good singer, but you join in on the fun because everyone is having such a good time! And you just keep exploring and finding all these different things to do with new groups of people.

I’ve experienced the Hippodrome a few times now on my visits to London. The last time I was there, I was able to stick around to watch the cloakroom. What I noticed was that your team was constantly thinking about ways they could make improvements to the guest’s experience. Some of them were talking about the furniture selection, trying to figure out which would be the most inviting. I kept meeting other team members who were also visually observing and creatively talking to each other. It was so refreshing! You have truly nurtured a wonderful company culture at your casino.

Lisa: Thank you! That's kind of you to say.

Derek: Leading a team like that must mean you have to be at your best most days. Are there little rituals that you do to get you into that mindset of, “Let's attack this day!” or to refuel your energy?

Lisa: Honestly, if things do get on top of me, which is rare, I just take myself away from the situation. I’ll leave the office and go for a walk around the Hippodrome. Once I've been walking for 15 or 20 minutes, everything settles down and falls back into perspective. I think we could all use a walk from time to time.

Derek: I love that.

Lisa, I want to thank you for all your hospitality. Every time I come to London I get to meet your team and learn something new. And I appreciate you coming on and talking with me. I think our audience will learn a lot from how you think and how you approach things. I appreciate your time.

Lisa: Thank you. I really appreciate the opportunity to chat with you.

Derek: Talk soon, Lisa!

Exterior of Hippodrome Casino in London

Visiting the Hippodrome

Whether you live in London or are on holiday (even as a business person!), visiting the Hippodrome Casino is one of those must-visit destinations in the city. It’s an icon that’s entertained visitors for over 120 years, and it’s just as dapper today as it was the day it first opened.

If you’ve already been, I implore you to make another trip! The restaurants, bars, and shows are forever evolving, and there’s always something new to explore.

Oh! And while you’re there, feel free to check your coat or backpack in one of three complementary cloakrooms. You’ll receive a friendly text message as your confirmation. There’s even a photo of your belongings for added security! We think it’s pretty cool technology.

Last but not least, I want to give a special thank you to Lisa. She has a fascinating mind that has made a lasting impression on me and our team here at Chexology. Her grand vision for the Hippodrome has led to a happier staff and exceptional customer service.

What’s the Hippodrome’s address?

Square, Cranbourn Street, Leicester,

London WC2H 7JH, United Kingdom

Phone number: +44 20 7769 8888


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