Movie Mondays: How to Run a Business like the Grand Budapest Hotel

By katie simpson on April 14, 2014

The Grand Budapest Hotel, the new movie by Wes Anderson, tells the story of the last great days of a European hotel. A hilarious winding tale, it focuses on Monsieur Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes), the concierge who runs the hotel. Watch Gustave closely and you’ll see a case study for a successful business. 

Fox Searchlight

One: Attention to detail

Near the beginning of the film, we see Gustave ordering many employees around a hotel room. Gustave asks direct questions to different people, as well as gives direct clear answers. Not only does he understand all of the guest’s belongings, but also where they should go, and how to help escort the elderly lady from the hotel.

Gustave’s attention to detail makes him an asset not only to his clients but also to his employees. The visitors to the hotel feel special and cared for because they are known as people.  It also helps his employees because he gives them clear directions, making their work easier. 

Attention to detail of the work isn’t the final piece– it’s the foundation to good business. For instance, one customer of ours found that losing those invoices was costing them up to $10,000 a month (hafsco link here). A simple issue of organization was reducing their cash flow and hurting their business.  

Two: Passion for work   

At one point, Gustave is in prison, accused of a crime he didn’t commit. What does he do while in prison? He serves the other prisoners food, even continuing his sermons on service and how to treat customers.

He may be in prison, but he’s still committed to service. Photo: Fox Searchlight Pictures

As absurd as this sounds, Gustave shows an undeniable and unbreakable passion for his work as a concierge. While passion may not be the sole reason for success, it is a strong motivating force. For Warren Buffet, Steve Jobs, even Mark Zuckerberg, passion helped keep them focused, and gave them the energy pursue and tackle incredible challenges. There may be aspects of your work that you hate, but passion will help you overcome hurdles and improve your business. 

Do you have to love what you do as much as Gustave? Probably not. But passion is undeniably a part of creating a truly sustaining and worthwhile business. 

Three: Anticipating Needs

Monsieur Gustave teaches Zero, the new lobby boy, his own strong service ethic and focus on putting the clientele first. Zero learns to read the elderly ladies body language, blocking “unseemingly sights”, to providing lighters before the gentlemen even begin to ask. They aren’t merely responsive, but anticipate their clients needs. 

This focus on anticipating customers’ needs or desires  is a struggle for businesses, even today. Not only do you have to be open and receptive to customer feedback, you have to imagine how you could do even more for them. 

You don’t need to have Gustave’s innate attention to detail or Zero’s incredible determination. Before anticipating needs, find ways to improve experience. Some ways you can create simple but powerful improvements include:

  • Offer a discount to customers who provide feedback. This helps you understand how your customers see your business, and will be important for anticipating their needs. 
  • Present your service with visual information. Photographs and drawings can be especially helpful if you provide technical services like HVAC or car repairs.  This way customers will more easily understand your work and you’ll spend less time explaining what you did.
  • Use understanding phrases in customer service. Have an upset customer? Using phrases like “I’m so sorry you’re experiencing this problem”. Not only does this show customers you understand their experience, but also reinforces that you will do whatever you can to fix the problem. 

Four: Giving things away

While in prison, Gustave shares wonderful baked goods with his cellmates in prison. While a short scene in the movie, Gustave does this for no ulterior motive. But this gift benefits him unintentionally. Gustave wins the trust of fellow prisoners, and becomes involved in a plan to flee the prison

Gustave stumbled across what a lot of businesses are discovering today. When you give, people want to give back to you. It builds your reputation, creates a sense of trust. Trust is crucial in making your business credible and forging deeper and longer lasting relationships with customers

You don’t have to give everything away to succeed as a business. But a few ways you can give are:

  • Free consultations or initial visits and estimates
  • Reward loyal customers with discounts or freebies
  • Surprise the 100th or 1000th customer with a free service/product-Share some of your knowledge or area of expertise

Five: Creating Relationships 

A main reason for the Grand Budapest Hotel’s success was Gustave’s relationships with the female clientele. His care often became sexual with the elderly ladies. It becomes clear that many come to the hotel just to see Gustave. 

While Gustave’s relationships are at the extreme, he hits on an important aspect of business: Creating emotional ties with his customers creates loyal and lasting relationships for his business. Thus, people stay at the hotel longer, return more often, and speak highly of their experience at the hotel, becoming referrals marketing the hotel.  

So what are ways to create a relationship with your customers?


  • Create opportunities for face-face interactions. People connect on a human and personal level. Having a real person they are talking to or working with will humanize your company. 
  • Communicate with your customers more than for a sale. Reaching out and showing interest beyond when it suits you makes your clients feel less like dollar signs and more like they are involved and important to your company.
  • Connect with customers on social media. Twitter, Facebook and other platforms can be great opportunities to create community and connect with your customers. Ask them questions, share helpful information, and think of it as a conversation, and not an announcement board. 


The old European Hotels may be dead, but these lessons are alive and well. What else has helped you run a successful business? Leave a comment and let us know!