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50 Best Companies to Watch 2023

Shaping the hotel industry: Banking on deeply-ingrained Nigerian culture, The Wheatbaker has come a long way, becoming Lagos’ most iconic boutique hotel.

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“We do not just represent The Wheatbaker, the hotel; we know and take pride in representing the city of Lagos and our amazing country, Nigeria.”

Nigeria, Africa's most populous country is home to over 200 ethnic groups speaking over 500 languages, with a warm tropical climate and a wide variety of cultures, art, music, film, fashion and food waiting to be experienced. From sun-kissed coastlines, beaches, waterfalls, natural springs, and magnificent plateaus – Nigeria has it all. Lagos, Nigeria's vibrant capital is well-known for being Nigeria's most costly city, but it also has a thriving art and music scene. With so many entertainment options and things to do, each experience is certain to be one-of-a-kind. It is what this metropolis has done over the centuries, attracting traders, explorers and migrants of all types. As Nigeria’s commercial and entertainment capital, Lagos remains a magnet for people, Nigerians and foreigners alike, welcoming them with its warmth, energy and color. It’s in the DNA of Lagos to welcome visitors and make them feel at home, whatever the length of their stay.

Love visiting Lagos but find all of the hotels to be too ordinary? Then give The Wheatbaker a visit. Located in the heart of Lagos, The Wheatbaker is an art boutique hotel that has fashioned the "art of hospitality" for over a decade and welcomes tourists with warmth. Guests at The Wheatbaker enjoy art from throughout the country in the lobby, concierge services, spacious and well-appointed rooms, free WIFI throughout the hotel, and exceptional service. Because it is located in the city's residential center, the hotel can provide a highly private experience due to the location's security.

Paul Kavanagh, General Manager of The Wheatbaker, spoke exclusively to The Silicon Review about what makes them one of the best boutique hotels in Lagos.

Interview Highlights

Q. What inspired the creation of The Wheatbaker? How did the company maintain its adaptability over the years?

The story of The Wheatbaker is about the perfect alignment that occurs when a dreamer meets someone who is practical. But then both sides change, and the practical exceeds the dream substantially more. The structure itself had a rich history and a fascinating past, and it played an important role in the progress. The building's objective at the time was to reset the benchmarks for a city's industry and establish a new standard. This it did, and as a result of that ambition, we have always had to preserve, if not expand, on that dream.

Setbacks are a part of every growing business. Tell us about a few roadblocks and learning lessons that helped The Wheatbaker grow through the years.

To be fair, except from the obvious, the epidemic, the hotel has not suffered any major difficulties. Yes, we deal with the same issues as those in our industry, and they are copious and unique in Lagos. Our strategy is to greet them with a smile and a positive mindset. Our managers are encouraged to be creative and innovative in order to come up with solutions rather than dwell on the problem. One advantage of working somewhere like this is that you quickly learn how to tackle obstacles, conflicts, and problems while knowing that another one is just around the corner.

Q. Can you introduce us to your services? What are their key features?

I am not aware of any hotel in the world that promises "bad" service. Everyone does. However, at The Wheatbaker, we have deliberately set out to make guest service as the one thing that distinguishes us. We have extensively invested in our employees and team in training, exposure, and advancement. We believe in both quality and quantity. More than half of our staffs have been with the hotel since its inception. And this results in those great times when friends greet friends. On the practical side, in addition to beds, restaurants, and a bar, we boast one of Lagos' most prestigious spas, gym, and pool.

Q. Can you provide us with one or two success stories describing the challenges your clients faced and how The Wheatbaker helped them overcome those challenges?

Perhaps the most difficult question you've asked. Not because we don't have those moments; every hotel, in my opinion, does. But for us, these are everyday occurrences. But, more crucially, when it comes to our guests, we just do not discuss it. If a guest wishes, we may resolve any difficulties they may encounter. We deal with everything in the hotel business, from the bizarre to the mundane. Our ability to forecast the future and be prepared and ready for it is an important aspect of daily life. However, once completed, it is not discussed; instead, the guest's privacy is respected.

Q. What's the one thing you want The Wheatbaker to be known for?

I believe the one thing I want the hotel to be known for is the people at The Wheatbaker. For us, we do not just represent The Wheatbaker, the hotel; we know and take pride in representing the city of Lagos and our amazing country, Nigeria. Every day, we want people to know and experience the natural hospitality that defines who we are, not just as Wheatbaker employees but also as proud Nigerians. We realize that the pressure makes us better. It is about being genuine, honest, and sincere. Yes, we face challenges outside of the hotel, but when we walk onto the stage each day, we park them and serve.

Many of our visitors will be staying with us for the first time when they visit our country. As a result, it is our responsibility to guarantee that they see and experience the beauty of our country through our people, culture, art, music, food, and smiles. Although it may appear simple, never underestimate the power and impact of a genuine smile.

Tell us, what’s next for The Wheatbaker.

I mentioned earlier how we set out to redefine a market when we opened. We did that. And now we will do it again. We are deep into the process of writing the next chapter in our story. And because we are The Wheatbaker, we are looking at the options in a very inventive and creative way. Of course we can do the obvious and the easy, but we also want to do the challenging and unique. We want to once again raise the bar, exceed expectations, and push ourselves to deliver a product to the delight of our guests.

Q. Is there anything you would like to add before we wrap up?

Perhaps it has already been conveyed in my prior responses, but perhaps the most essential thing I would convey through this platform is that we are very proud of who we are, of being Nigerians, and of representing Nigeria, our people, and our country. I emphasize it in order to use it to promote our country to the readers of this magazine. Look to Nigeria or Africa if you are a businesswoman or man looking for growth and expansion. We are not just the land of "milk and honey," but we also have the majority of the world's natural resources, a large and skilled work force, and, most importantly, we are the land of opportunities.

Paul Kavanagh, General Manager | In his own words

I have always believed, and strongly believe, that it is never about me. In the world of hotels, we are the collective of every part. No one in a hotel delivers without the seen and unseen support of so many others. I have worked on four continents in a career that has spanned over forty years. And yes, I have won a long list of awards, titles, and accolades. But throughout all that time, each and every day I see how it is never just about me, as the General Manager of the business.

I was born in Ireland, the land of the world’s friendliest people. I left home as a young man, started my working life in London, and soon realized there was a big world to discover. I moved to Africa in 2009, first to Nigeria, but also to Ghana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Kenya. I have opened two very special hotels, saved the fifth star of a Jozi legend, and managed some very special hotels around the world. I have over 100 awards, including “African General Manager of the Decade”, but my greatest achievement is easily the now-12 other General Managers who were once my staffs; their achievement easily outshines any of mine.

“Our responsibility is to ensure our visitors see and experience the beauty of our country through our people, culture, art, music, food, and smiles.”