The anonymous, billion-dollar hotel deal maker

Plus: cutting internal email 80%, the "director of sonic identity," and top opportunities for improving guest satisfaction

Today, you’ll learn about:

  • An anonymous, billion-dollar hotel deal maker explains what it’s like to own and operate hotels in the US

  • The 26-year-old owner of 3 NYC-area hotels who cut internal email 80% to free his staff up to serve guests

  • The top two opportunities for improving guest satisfaction, according to a JD Power survey

  • Why a hotel in Baltimore hired a “director of sonic identity”

An anonymous, billion-dollar hotel deal maker explains what it’s like to own and operate hotels today

“I love independent boutique hotels. We’ve got a handful of them, and I think the brands will be followers and the independents will be leaders.” 

To operate hotels effectively, it’s helpful to understand the perspective of owners and investors. That’s why I appreciated hearing this from @SomeHotelGuy - as well as a comprehensive overview of what it’s like owning hotels in the US today - in a recent podcast.

“I think independent boutique hotels can be venues for experimentation in a way that branded hotels cannot. Because of that, independent hotels have historically driven a lot of guest service innovations. A lot of the amenity creation that we’ve seen in branded hotels has been copies of independent hotels. I think that will continue to be the case.”

How Shan Bhagat, 26-year-old owner of 3 NYC-area hotels, cut internal email use 80%

We can’t focus on serving our guests if our days are tied up with processing internal email. Shan Bhagat, owner of three properties in the New York City area, provides a good case study of how hospitality leaders can free up their teams to focus on what matters.

“ is software we adopted to track virtually every aspect of our operations. To be slightly more detailed, I have an online task board for each one of my hotels where we have tabs under each for items like sales, preventative maintenance, administration, human resources, purchasing, schedules, training/team development, accounting, and special projects. All team members can track assignments and responsibilities in real-time through those boards.

“The results have been overwhelmingly positive. I have cut my inter-company communications via email and phone by 80 percent. Instead of spending hours responding to emails, texts and calls, I am able to spend more time doing things like talking to guests about their experience, asking team members how their day is going, and optimizing purchasing for the highest financial efficiency which allows me to keep staff even when revenue is down. It's given time back to all of us; time we can now use to innovate and act.”

F&B and service are the top opportunities for increasing guest satisfaction

That’s from a benchmark survey by JD Power of third-party hotel operators with more than 14,000 rooms under management and is based on 3,085 guest responses for branded hotel stays from May 2020 through June 2021. The survey consisted of six factors: arrival/departure; cost and fees; food and beverage; guestroom; hotel facilities; and services and amenities.

The fact that cost and fees were not top areas of guest dissatisfaction stands out to me. Potentially an opportunity for better revenue management to pay for providing better service?

The Baltimore hotel with a “director of sonic identity”

The Hotel Revival, in the heart of Baltimore’s historic Mount Vernon neighborhood, has hired Jason Bass as director of Culture and Impact and Ryan Rhodes (aka DJ Impulse) as its first director of content and sonic identity. A community-driven effort led by atypical “hoteliers” that has a recognizable impact is part of a noteworthy shift as hospitality and its ever-changing traveling communities start to come out of the COVID-induced hibernation. New times require new programming for both operators and guests.

“We have been disrupted and have an opportunity to take a note of what the market is doing,” Bass said. “It is changing. We have a catalyst. It’s a pivotal moment and we have an opportunity to find ways to improve and use things differently. Look at QR codes – they were invented but the behavior was not in place to fully adopt them. Now everyone is using them. What can we explore to hone in on experiences to create for guests? We need to get the right people in the room to answer those questions – like DJs and people in the community. Stop using old hiring practices where you want people to fit a culture because that is a bias. Be supportive and open for change.”