I visit San Francisco pretty regularly for work and pleasure, but haven’t stayed at the Sir Francis Drake until January. For many years, I walked right by it without realizing that it is a Kimpton property. Over the course of 90 days, I had the awesome opportunity to stay 3 times at the Kimpton Sir Francis Drake hotel near Union Square in San Francisco.
My first ever visit to Sir Francis Drake
I’ve always looked upon the Drake as a really high-end property. It is an iconic building in the heart of San Francisco that was built in 1928, it borders San Francisco’s Union Square, and the Beefeater uniforms of the doormen are so unique. Being a Kimpton Inner Circle member, I also had high expectations for how well they would take care of me.
I was in San Fran in January for a finance conference and, rather than stay at the host hotel, I took the opportunity to stay at the Sir Francis Drake one night and The Buchanan the second night. Gotta get my stay credits to maintain Inner Circle status! And, the added benefit was that I made these reservations during October 2015’s double-stay credit promotion.
The room I was booked into was a fairly basic room, as I normally do, relying instead on my Inner Circle status to receive upgrades to a nicer room. The rooms in any San Francisco (or any big city, for that matter) hotel are generally pretty small, especially when the building is historic.
I was ok with the room being fairly small since I was only there for one night, but the Welcome Amenity was so basic, it showed that they weren’t really trying.
As usual, I posted a pic of the room and my amenity on the Bald Thoughts Instagram and Twitter feeds, but also added that I was a little disappointed with the amenity. Yes, I understand that some people would consider this petty, since they usually don’t receive anything at all when they check into a hotel… to that I reply “well, you haven’t stayed at a Kimpton and experienced how awesome things can be.”
Kimpton’s social media team is pretty fantastic and responds extremely quickly. They told me to hold on, that an upgrade would be coming my way. A little while later, a bellman came up to my room with an upgraded amenity and offered to upgrade me to a larger room. I’m always willing to take the upgrade, so I quickly packed up and we moved to the new room with the bellman carrying the new amenity.
The new amenity added some great local beers and a tray full of fruits, cheeses, and breads. It was nice of them to upgrade my amenity and the room, which I really appreciated!
Because it was dark when I got back to my room after dinner, the lighting wasn’t as good, but this room was definitely much nicer than the original room.
As someone who likes to take small/easy steps to help the environment, I like that the Drake is offering an incentive of a $10 voucher to Scala’s Bistro or In Room Dining for each day that you decline housekeeping service. Great job Kimpton!
Second stay at Sir Francis Drake
In March, I was back in San Francisco, so I wanted to give the Drake another chance. There was a great deal where Kimpton was offering a discount off the normal room rates plus a $25 dining credit when I made my reservation.
Unfortunately, my plans for an evening arrival and relaxing dinner at the Drake’s on-site restaurant Scala’s Bistro with my blogger friend John and old classmate Eric were ruined by a 4-hour flight delay from Ontario to Oakland. Rather than arriving at the hotel by 8pm, I didn’t arrive at the Drake until midnight.
By the time I arrived, as you can imagine, I was tired and cranky. I was greeted warmly at the front desk, but when given my key, they forgot to give me my $10 Raid The Mini-Bar voucher. I asked for it and they quickly apologized and obliged.
When I got to my room, I was hungry, thirsty, and was looking forward to relaxing for a bit before crashing out so I could grab some breakfast with John at Scala’s before my work meetings. The room was a definite upgrade from either of the rooms from my first visit to the Sir Francis Drake.
I was disappointed big-time when there was absolutely nothing waiting for me. I was too tired to complain to the front desk, so I walked across the street to CVS and made my own Welcome Amenity… Reese’s and water.
Since I was unable to use the $25 dining credit for dinner, I met John for breakfast. The food was tasty and the portions were a good size. Being an Inner Circle member, there’s usually a “Chef’s Taste” (special complimentary appetizer) brought out ahead of your meal. I asked about it and the server consulted with the manager, who let us know that the Chef’s Taste wasn’t available during breakfast.
The next morning, Lauren, the assistant to the Drake’s GM called, apologized, and wanted to make it up to me. By this time, I was already on my way to my work meeting, so I asked if we could talk later. When we talked in the afternoon, she figured out that my Welcome Amenity was actually in another room and wasn’t moved when my room was upgraded.
Mistakes happen. I could tell that Lauren was sincere in her efforts to make things right.
Best experience yet at Sir Francis Drake – 3rd times the charm
While I was in Hawaii, I received a really awesome email from Kimpton asking if I would be interested in helping them shoot some video for their employees. I would talk about why I loved Kimpton (the unique personalities of each property and how they take care of me and my family – like they did for Timmy’s birthday at Shorebreak Hotel), and what are some of the areas they need to improve (such as being able to book award nights online).
Excitedly, I jumped at the chance, and Kimpton flew me up to San Francisco earlier this month. Kimpton booked a room for me at the Sir Francis Drake, and I was able to meet Lauren and get to know her a bit before meeting Kimpton’s social media team for lunch at their HQ and shooting the video later that evening at the Drake.
My room was the biggest room of the 3 stays, and it had a really awesome picture of Sir Francis Drake hanging on the wall just about the couch and sitting area.
The bathroom was huge by San Fran standards… not only was there a shower/tub combo (typical), there was also a standalone shower. I can imagine that setup is extremely rare in San Francisco.
The room had a king bed and there was a sitting area with a couch and coffee table to relax, plus a desk area to get some work done between meetings.
The Welcome Amenity was on the coffee table and, not only did it contain my normal preferences, there were a couple of goodies that I could take home for Anna and the kids.
Timmy was so excited with the San Francisco snow globe, that he brought it to school for “Share Day” later that week!
My last stay was certainly the best of the 3. After meeting Lauren, there was no question how much she cared about the guest experience. I know that future stays at Sir Francis Drake will only get better than my last experience, if that’s at all possible. I recommend considering the Drake the next time you’re in San Francisco.