🍍 Scaling excellence with a systematic approach to quality

Dominic Longo's story leading training & operations for 1,000+ hotels

“Too many people working in a corporate brand role lose touch with the operation. They didn’t really speak the same language as the people in the field, and often corporate expectations aren’t realistic in the operational world.” - Dominic Longo, Vice President of Training & Franchise Operations, Sonesta

Years ago I had the pleasure of working with Dominic when he was building a company-wide operational excellence initiative at Red Lion Hotels. Few have the credibility he has on this topic from working nearly every on-property role there is in hospitality.

This week, we’re going to look at how he uses those experiences now to lead training and franchise operations at Sonesta. First, the road he took to get to his current position…

The journey to operations leadership

Dominic started his career at the Bellagio as a valet parking cars. “I loved every bit of it. I wanted to learn more, and had a good mentor that showed me the things I needed to do in order to be successful and to pursue a career in hospitality.”

That guidance was to learn all aspects of the operation, and Dominic followed that advice. After valeting for a year, he moved to the concierge desk. “My responsibility was creating the experience for guests when they arrived in Vegas. We created trip itineraries to improve their stay. We visited shows and restaurants to familiarize ourselves with all that the Vegas service industry had to offer, which was an incredible experience.”

That was the fun side of operations.

The next step was managing the Front Desk, which taught Dominic how to deal with complaints and hostile situations. The key? Having the power to make decisions and not getting in the way of other teammates providing solutions.

Being able to take a bad situation and turn it around to create loyal guests forever was so rewarding.”

Things were going well in Vegas, but a trip to visit his brother in Spokane, Washington made him fall in love with that region. After applying to the Red Lion Hotels Corporation, he got an Assistant General Manager position. After some time in that role, Dominic was promoted to the corporate office to run the franchise housekeeping department, then rooms, then quality assurance - and finally to Vice President of Training & Franchise Operations at Sonesta (which acquired Red Lion Hotels earlier this year). This meant responsibility for more than 1,000 hotel properties - and a need to scale.

Scaling excellence with a systematic approach to quality

Having experience at the property level before moving to a corporate role provided Dominic with a unique perspective.

“I had an opportunity to tell hotel teams, ‘I come from the operations world, and now you have a voice at the table at the corporate office. We’re not just going to implement brand standards and SOPs – we’re going to provide you with a roadmap for achieving those.’”

Using his operational experience, Dominic had the opportunity to train everyone from the housekeepers all the way up to the general manager on areas such as cleanliness and service.

I made sure they understood the end goal – and showed them how we’re going to achieve it.”

That meant not only providing detailed process guidance but developing a robust onboarding program.

The result? Housekeepers knew expectations very well and the management team knew how to hold people accountable to those goals.

“Our GMs, front office managers and housekeeping managers would buy-in because they saw realistic expectations that could be met.”

Tomorrow, we’re going to look at how Dominic worked cross-functionally to design a better guest experience across his hotels.  

How do you scale excellence at your properties? Reply to this email to let me know, and I might share your story with the 3,000+ hospitality leaders that read this daily.