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Beyond Luxury: How Meadowood’s Approach to Hospitality Earned Michelin's Three Key Designation for Excellence

with Jeff Wielgopolan, Meadowood Napa Valley

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Last month, the Michelin Guide introduced a new distinction: the Michelin Key. The program is intended to be the equivalent of Michelin Stars for hotels. Only 11 properties in the United States achieved the highest rating, and today, we’re learning how one of them - Meadowood Napa Valley - did it.


The “funnel” offers a roadmap for understanding a guest's journey from dreaming about travel to booking a stay at your hotel. It is broken down into four key stages: Discovery, Planning, Booking, and the Guest Experience. Learn how this framework can guide you in effectively attracting, engaging, and delighting guests at each stage.

How Meadowood’s Approach to Hospitality Earned Michelin's Three Key Designation for Excellence

Jeff Wielgopolan, Service Director at Meadowood Napa Valley

Jeff Wielgopolan is the Service Director for Meadowood Napa Valley - one of only 11 hotels in the United States to receive Michelin's Three Key distinction for exceptional hospitality. Today, he shares more about this property and how they achieved this. You can listen to us here on the podcast, and I’ve summarized some of my top takeaways below.

Why Jeff decided to work at Meadowood

Jeff has a fascinating career story. He previously led learning and training for Forbes Travel Guide, where he oversaw training and development for both line staff and management at hundreds of the world’s best hotels. (More on that here if you’re interested.) Despite seeing the best of the best in his career, Meadowood's approach to hospitality and its ambitious goals drew him in.

"We’re building something for generations.”

Takeaway: Evaluate your own career opportunities based on the organization’s vision and its alignment with long-term goals.

What he learned from Meadowood’s owner

Jeff was inspired by Meadowood’s owner, Bill Harlan, who applied a winemaker's long-term perspective to hospitality. Bill’s vision of creating a timeless, elegant experience resonated with Jeff, influencing his approach to service and property management.

"Can we create something today that's going to be just as timeless and just as elegant and just as thoughtful in 30 years from now as it is today?"

Takeaway: Adopt a long-term perspective to create a lasting, memorable guest experience.

Put this in action:

  1. Plan your strategy and investments with a focus on timeless excellence and longevity.

  2. Work with others who share a long-term vision for the property.

  3. Train your teams to think beyond immediate results and focus on creating lasting guest impressions.

Hospitality business as an ecosystem

Jeff emphasizes that a luxury property like Meadowood supports a wide network of small businesses, from farms and wineries to linen suppliers. Every element of the guest experience is thoughtfully curated to tell a story and enhance the overall experience.

"We're very particular in placing everything that tells a little story."

Takeaway: Recognize and leverage the interconnectedness of your environment to enhance the guest experience.

Put this in action:

  1. Partner with local businesses to provide unique, high-quality products and services.

  2. Ensure every element in the guest experience is thoughtfully curated and tells a story.

  3. Communicate the importance of these partnerships to guests to enrich their understanding and appreciation.

Deliberate touchpoints that tell a story

Jeff highlights the importance of deliberate touchpoints in creating a cohesive and memorable guest experience. Every interaction and detail at Meadowood is designed to contribute to the overall story of the property.

"Everything we do is very deliberate so people know that this is a true Meadowood Napa Valley experience in every single thing that they touch."

Takeaway: Design guest interactions and details to reinforce your unique story and brand.

Put this in action:

  1. Map out all guest touchpoints and ensure each one aligns with the property's story.

  2. Train your teams to deliver consistently excellent interactions that reflect the experience you want to provide.

  3. Ensure all physical and digital elements of the guest experience are cohesive and branded.

  4. Use guest feedback to refine and enhance these touchpoints continuously.

It all starts with the arrival

Meadowood has innovated its arrival experience by allowing guests to check in online, reducing the traditional front desk process. This change, while previously rare in luxury accelerated during the pandemic and is now used by nearly half of their guests. It allows guests to start their vacation almost immediately upon arrival.

"Their vacation can start three minutes from when they arrive at the hotel."

Takeaway: Streamline the arrival process to enhance guest satisfaction and get the stay started on the right note.

Put this in action:

  1. Consider offering an online check-in option for guests to streamline the arrival process. (If it works at Meadowood, it should work for you!)

  2. Ensure that your people at the first touchpoints (gatehouse and bell desk at Meadowood) are well-trained to provide a warm welcome.

  3. Regularly review and optimize the arrival process based on guest feedback.

And that’s a wrap! This email was handmade for you—it took me 38 minutes to write this. If you found it helpful, I’d be very grateful if you could forward it to a friend or colleague who might also enjoy it.

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A few final things:

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Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you here tomorrow.


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