105 – TMG Hospitality Trailblazers: Richard Alberigo

by | November 30, 2022

Join host Ryan Embree as he sits down with Hospitality Trailblazer Richard Alberigo, President & CEO of Alberigo Hotel Management.

These two hospitality experts outline 2023 travel trends and traveler behavior, the true meaning of hospitality, exciting developments at Alberigo Hotel Management, and so much more.

Episode Transcript

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Ryan Embree:
Welcome to Suite Spot, where hoteliers check in and we check out what’s trending in hotel marketing. I’m your host, Ryan Embree. Hello everyone, and welcome to another episode of The Suite Spot. This is your host, Ryan Embree, continuing our fantastic TMG Hospitality Trailblazers series. Got a great guest with us, another first timer to the podcast. So very excited to welcome him on. Richard Alberigo of Alberigo Hotel Management, Richard, President and CEO. Welcome to the Suite Spot.

Richard Alberigo:
Hey, Ryan, thanks a lot. I’m glad to be here.

Ryan Embree:
Yeah, we’re really excited to have you, Richard. Again, my first question, I always start out, especially with the first timers, just hearing about experience, right? This is one of those industries where if you had a hundred bucks, you could never guess. Nobody’s taken the same path twice when it comes to this industry. So tell me a little bit about your hospitality experience and what ultimately that journey that led you ultimately to founding Alberigo Hotel Management.

Richard Alberigo:
Well, sure, Ryan. So, it was not planned at all back in the, I guess, 80’s, somewhere in the mid 80’s. I took a job as a bellman in a hotel, at a full service Hilton Hotel. And the industry was really not even in my mind, right? You know, I did it for money. Somebody told me, you make good money as a bellman. I did that for like two years, and they learned a lot about life as a bellman, and everybody loved Richard, you know, because, and they gave me money. They threw cash at me every night. So I came up with a big wad of cash and I’m like, this is great. Yeah, nothing better. And somebody told me, well, you know, if you wanna make this a career, Richard, you may have to work at the front desk. So I looked up at the front desk and I said, you know, well, you know, it looks like a glamor job up there. You know, I’m kind of slaving with luggage and taking people to the airport, you know. Up there, I’m kind of, I’m all that. So I took the front desk job, and then after about three months, I’m like, maybe this isn’t for me, because now everybody hated Richard and nobody threw cash at me. So, you know, I, I basically took a cut and pay. So I, I hung in there, hung in there. I always like to talk to people. So I guess that was, you know, I love to talk. So I guess, that was a good thing for the front desk. So then I just worked my way up through the ranks, took a job as a, general manager about three years after that. And then, took a job with, IHG, which is the Holiday Inn Corporate Office, and did that for seven years as a, regional support person. And following that, started my own company nine years ago. I was gonna be a broadcaster, actually, that was what my job was gonna be, sports broadcasting, which I did a little bit on the, that on the side. But hey, you know, weird things happen. And now I’m a hotelier after 35 years.

Ryan Embree:
This is, you know, some broadcasting here, you know, on the Suite Spot podcast. But yes, bellman to former bellman. I think that’s so interesting. I, I started the same way in the hospitality industry, and you do learn a lot. Front desk, you could be doing some things, you could be helping housekeeping, delivering things. But you’re really talking to the guests most of the time. So you get a lot of insights there on, you know, what’s bringing them into town, why they’re visiting and stuff like that. I absolutely love to hear so many of the leaders that we’ve had on this series, you know, have had some very humble beginnings when it comes to our industry, and love to hear that career path kind of evolve in advance. So, well, let’s jump a little bit further into the future, right? You know, we’re now a couple years removed, Richard, from the start of the pandemic, which was absolutely devastating to our industry. You know, I’ve interviewed a couple leaders in this series, reflecting back on some of the, the lessons learned from not only their group, but the industry as a whole. Let’s start with Alberigo Hotel Management. What lessons did you take for the group moving forward? And then maybe let’s widen and broaden that up to look at the industry as a whole, lessons that they’ve learned over these past challenging couple years.

Richard Alberigo:
The lessons, Ryan that we learned is never assume, because, you know, we’re hoteliers, you know, by nature, you know, we have a lot of confidence in our ability to predict, right? Because that’s what we do. We forecast, we budget. We learned right away that we really didn’t know anything about the industry post 2020. What was before 2020 was a different animal, right? Just for example is, you know, we laid off people in 2020 most companies, and we thought they would come flying back to us. It didn’t happen, right? I mean, we couldn’t find people. We would’ve never predicted that in a thousand years that, that would happen. You know, we thought that we had it figured out with housekeeping in other, that like, if you clean the room, if you do the full housekeeping service, then the guests are gonna love it, right? No, they wanted limited housekeeping after that, right? You know, we thought leisure travel in a corporate market would come on the weekends, or would not even come in the corporate market would only go to the resort areas. And we, we didn’t have that figured out either, because leisure came back in 2021, just, you know, gangbusters completely threw our forecast out. Then of course, after 2021 this year, we thought it would come back again, and it really didn’t come back in the same, breath as it did in 2021. So I think, right now, to be perfectly frank, us smart leaders we’re just throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks, because we just don’t know what 2023 is gonna be like. I think it’s gonna be a great year, but I mean, how do you really know? Because, you know, there could be another, emergency pandemic, something around the corner. So we have to be ready and willing to change. I think that’s the key is, you have to change on the fly, and you have to assume the worst, to be honest with you. You have to assume whatever you’re predicting now, you know, what, if it doesn’t materialize, what’s our next step?

Ryan Embree:
Every example that you gave talks about adaptation and changing quickly, and you’re absolutely right. In hospitality, you know, we have been known to roll things out sometimes a little bit slower than other industries. We like to test things and see if this works, if it doesn’t work, but you’re right, post 2020, that kind of went out the window. If we’re gonna adapt and get this occupancy here, or we’re seeing leisure travel really take the lead on generating occupancy for us, we gotta put all of our marketing eggs right now towards leisure travel until we’re seeing that group business come back. And when group business and business travelers come back, are they coming back during the days? Is this the same business traveler that left us after Covid? So I think you’re right, those are some great examples there of how adaptable our industry needs to be. And I think that’s a great segue into our next question, because I love this relationship that our industry has with technology. I feel like sometimes we’re very quick to embrace technology. Other times it takes us a while, and our guests are the same way because they’re on such a big spectrum. I’m sure when you were at that front desk, Richard, some of those people maybe didn’t wanna have that conversation with you over the front desk. They just wanted to go straight up to the rooms, which they now have the ability to do with mobile check-in, right? Others maybe wanted to have a conversation and felt like if you weren’t spurring that conversation along, you know, that could really be detrimental to customer service score. So how do you find that balance? And let’s just talk about Alberigo Hotel Management in specific, that balance between technology and service.

Richard Alberigo:
So, we have a lot of training classes for Gen Zs. Gen Zs are huge for us right now, because that’s the future of our industry. And, and I’ll be honest with you, gen Zs and hotel business, it really doesn’t, it doesn’t match to be honest, with Gen Zs. I mean, when they were born, they had a toy and a cellphone in their crib. So we have to adapt to the actual employee on how they relate to the guests, because the Gen Zs, they communicate through texting, and it’s all technology for them, and we have to kind of do training classes with them. We have to do, role play, which they really hate, but it’s good for them to show them that, you know, you’ve gotta talk to people, you’ve gotta inquire, but also you have to pick up on the body language. If they don’t want to talk, then you, you send ’em on their way. So it’s a fine line, and there’s really no perfect you push the button and you know, you, you become a great front desk agent, but you know, you have to teach them the different scenarios, and then they have to just adapt to the situation, you know, that comes. But you’re right, I would say the majority of the guests right now, it’s all about quick check-in. But if you don’t develop some kind of rapport with the guest during that time, then they’re just gonna go down the street. Because right now everybody has everybody’s card, right? Everybody has a frequent state card from Hilton, Marriott, IHG, whatever. So you have to do something to make it unique, no matter if the guest wants to talk or not. We always try to find out that company name. It’s a great conversation piece. Obviously it’s good for sales, but it’s a great conversation piece to find out, you know, something about them, and then ask them questions about their company, which makes everyone feel good, because everyone really, if they wanna talk, they’d like to talk about themselves. So build that bond even in a short 10, 15 second clip to show you care. Because if you don’t, then the next stay, if they have an adequate stay, that’s not good enough anymore, they’ll just go down the street.

Ryan Embree:
Right? Absolutely. And we’re gonna talk about, because of the near high, you know, rates that we’re charging, every moment that you have to be exceptional, you need to prove in the face of a customer, otherwise again, you, you could lose out on loyalty or the next opportunity for them to come in. And I think you make a great point with the way that our guests are going to start communicating with our staff. And one of the things that we consult with hoteliers about is always being on the lookout we call it social listening. I’ll always be on the lookout for people that are trying to reach you via social media. It’s crazy to think that a guest might feel more comfortable in sending you a Facebook message than they would be to just pick up that phone that every single hotel room has to give you a call or even to approach the front desk. So you really need to be listening at every stage of the guest journey. And there’s tons of insights. Richard makes a great point here that tons of insights that you’re missing out on. If you have a guest that comes in, you have the opportunity to maybe have that 10 to 15 second conversation. They walk right by you, check in mobilely and check out mobilely, and you don’t hear any sort of feedback maybe since the first time that they leave a review. And at that point, you’re kind of leaving it up to chance whether they had a good say or not. So many insights, but there’s definitely that balance there. We don’t want to be in our guest faces, kind of grilling ’em on questions and stuff like that.

Richard Alberigo:
Being able to adapt when they do want to talk. I mean, that’s the key. I mean, I think that there’s a misconception out there that, that guests don’t want to talk. They just don’t feel comfortable because they don’t know who you are when they, when they first walk in, it’s up to us to make them feel comfortable. If they don’t return a survey, they don’t tell us about their stay. If they go somewhere else at Alberigo Hotel Management, we take that personally. That means we didn’t do something right. We’re not gonna blame the guests and we’re not gonna blame the new culture. We’re gonna say, we didn’t do something right? So we’ve gotta get them to talk, because like you said, if you turn a 15 second conversation into a one minute conversation, you’ve built a big bond, and now the chances of them coming back are, are like a hundred percent better.

Ryan Embree:
That’s the core of all this. That’s the core of our industry, hospitality and hosting being a good host. I do wanna shift gears to a hot topic right now. Inflation, you know, I, I’ve been bringing this up on the series because we don’t know where it’s gonna go. As, as you pointed out, you gotta throw everything out the window at this point right now, the industry enjoying some really nice ADRs all time highs in fact. On the other side, the guest is seeing some all time high rates that makes the margin for error very, very small. What we’re talking about on this podcast, and, and I think a good thing for our listeners to hear is where are some opportunities to provide additional value, even if it’s not monetary, right? And investment wise, add some additional value to the guest experience or your hotel experience so that we’re not writing that narrative of, well, this hotel just cost way too much for what they’re charging.

Richard Alberigo:
At Alberigo Hotel management. We don’t think that the bells and whistles are really going to going to sell ’em. It’s all about the people. It, you know, it’s value of just going back to the basics, because right now you’re seeing, hotels all over the board. You’re seeing good hotels, poor hotels, bad hotels, terrible hotels. We have to have great service with our customers. Let that be the memorable, instead of giving ’em the extra three waters or the, the Coca-Cola or the beer, you know, when they check in because they, you know, they love it, but then it’s, they’re not gonna remember that because that’s not why they’re there. They’re not there to get a free Coke, right? They’re there for a long stay, and that’s forgotten within 15 minutes of the the stay. We’ve gotta make it memorable. When our desk clerks see the guests come in that door, door, I mean, it’s welcome to Courtyard, it’s welcome to Holiday Inn Express, and it’s every single time it’s consistent. It’s not 6 outta 10, 7 outta 10. It’s every single time that we say that when they come to the desk to check out, it’s, it’s not just how was your stay, it’s what could we have done to make it better? We need a survey. If there’s anything we could do to make it better, please let us know on the survey. And it’s not just give us a good survey, give us any survey. Because in the long run, they’re going to give you a good survey if they, if they like their stay and, and they’re not, they’re not. So it’s real. You can’t manipulate it. At the breakfast, it’s our, our leaders will be in the breakfast area talking to those guests before they leave, because that’s a great time to get them to talk about their stay and what we can do better. Because we’re learning, we may lose a guest here and there, but, you know, I always, I always say, if we can learn from it, then you know, we’re gonna be better for the next guest. So it’s just talking to guests, it’s making sure that they know that we care. Yes, we do the little goodies in the rooms at times and that kind of thing, but overall, I don’t think it’s the bells and whistles. I think it’s the people that keeps people, as you see in the restaurant industry now, the service is so terrible. You know, the C is the new A I always, I say now because you expect it, you expect poor service. It was a shock when you ordered your Big Mac and you got a quarter pounder, you know, in 2020, but now you expect 80% as the new A, right? So if we can do that consistently and talk to guests and do the right things, when a guest wants to switch from one room to another, call that room, find out what we can do to make it better and find out if that next room we switched them to and making ’em feel good. You know, doing things like that to me is, that’s gonna be more important than, than just the bells and whistles. And I think ADR, they’ll pay for service. It’s been proven. I mean, ADR right now, like you said, is, is a record high. And with the expenses with inflation, it’s not just the guest inflation, it’s the hotel inflation right now, the ADR is the only way we’re going to pay our employees with the higher salaries and the higher water bill and the higher light bill and the higher food costs. You know, we have to have the ADR. So if we are gonna have the high ADR, we have to have the a hundred percent service. You know, I always say, you can do, four season service at a Holiday Inn Express. You just don’t, you just don’t hire the person that goes around spraying air fresher all day. Service, you can still provide it.

Ryan Embree:
Absolutely. And that’s totally reflected on your online reputation, right? It’s a peek into what the guest experience is. And you’re right, my listeners are probably tired of hearing about it, but guests are giving you a blueprint every single day on how to perfect your guest experience at the property and they will pay more. That’s not just Richard and I saying it, thats TripAdvisor and that Cornell study of guests will pay more when they see that there’s better reviews for a hotel. You know, you think about the way that we purchase things on Amazon, right? You could be willing to spend that extra $5-$10 to know that you’re getting a quality product. Same thing goes along with our hotel industry and travelers. They wanna make sure they’re getting the biggest bang for their buck. The best way we can do that is providing that service.

Richard Alberigo:
We’re selling clean rooms and we’re selling, hospitality. I mean, that’s what we’re selling. You know, we’re not, like I said, we’re not selling all the bells and whistles. And if you do that consistently right now, you will stand out. You don’t have to give the ranch away in order to buy their loyalty.

Ryan Embree:
It’s a very nuanced way of thinking. Surveys in general, right? Cause I talked to some hoteliers, and obviously we don’t wanna see those bad ones. Nobody wants to see the bad ones, but you should think of it as a learning opportunity. Jump into those, figure out what’s wrong, fix it, make adaptions, and then you’ll see that reflected back on your scores. So hopefully when that survey’s returned back to you again, it’s gonna have better marks than the previous. I hate to talk about trends because you already set us up saying, you know, we gotta throw it all out. But I do wanna just say maybe your guess on business trends for 2023, we have been really missing that segment. Some people say it’s on its way, it’s returning. Other people say it’s actually harder to try to figure out who our core business travelers are. The whole work from home bleisure travel. What is your expectations of business travel for 2023?

Richard Alberigo:
Well, I’ll give it a shot, Ryan, but like, you know, I’m tired of being Nostradamus am that didn’t, that didn’t come through because I, I’ve struggled with my budgets the last three years, but here’s, here’s what I think. So like you said, I think corporate is showing some good signs here in the last, just the last 60, 70 days. It really is for this fall. Will it ever be back to pre covid levels? I don’t know. And I kind of doubt it. That’s why I think that it’s very important that we provide all these other experiences because I think that there’s very few to go around. I mean, you do have the online meetings now and you know, that was already going to be a problem on cutting down travel. I mean, we talked about that 10 years ago, right? That that was gonna be the new issue. And that hasn’t changed. That only made it worse when, you know, zoom became more popular and these company bottom lines, they say, Hey, you know, I don’t need to travel, you know, four times a year. Let me go down to three and let me go down to two. That cuts down. So it’s gonna be dog eat dog to try to get the corporate customer. But I do think corporate in 2023 will come back. But I think leisure also will drop a little bit even more than it did in, in 2021, because that was not real. That was pent up demand. I think the resort areas will continue to have leisure because people wanna do things. But, you know, you know, I reside in Houston, I love my city, but it’s not a place you wanna go for leisure, right? I think that the corporate business is, is going to keep us afloat. So we have to get out there right now and meet those corporate customers. Again, it’s almost like starting over because, you know, we thought we had our base of corporate clients that loved us and they’re not gonna go anywhere else. Well, like you said, it’s been hodgepodge the last three years and everybody’s gone everywhere and they may not have even traveled for three years. So we have an initiative with our sales leaders at our hotel is to get out there and start meeting the customers and they’ll do the online as much as, you know, if they wanna do online, fine, but try to get that face to face meeting. I mean, we did a, a sales blitz trying to, to drum up some corporate business about two or three weeks ago. And we were shocked when we went into the company that they were so excited to see us because they haven’t seen anybody in three years. And you’ve got these admin people in these offices just sit there and look at four walls all day. You know, it used to be one right after another hotel would come and it would get old after a while, and then they’d put up the no soliciting signs and all that. They wanna see people. So we’re going back out there. Even if we have to meet ’em at Starbucks, we’re gonna go out there and talk to them and build that face to face rapport with them. Because online and on the phone is great, but I think a lot of the hotels have fallen in love with that, and they think that’s the only way to sell. And we don’t believe that. We think we gotta build a rapport with our sales team and they have to build a rapport with the corporate clients. And, and if we do that, we think we’re gonna win the battle. But I’m kind of apprehensive if it’ll ever be the corporate demand like it was just because of the technology.

Ryan Embree:
You’re not the first one to share those sentiments of really kind of starting over. And I know that’s a scary place for a lot of hoteliers on this podcast to probably hear, but what better time would it be to do it then right now? And really see, okay, this is a completely different landscape that I’m in. Let’s go back to basics. Figure this out. Another great place that, you know, Travel Media Group works with hoteliers on optimizing is LinkedIn. This is a tool that wasn’t there or at least used in the way that it is today, a decade ago. So all of those DOS’ check on LinkedIn, a lot of these companies are very active. You can form relationships, network there. So it’s a great, great tool that we suggest hoteliers to do. But maybe starting over and seeing, okay, where are we gonna land for this next year? And who do we wanna target? Think that’s great advice.

Richard Alberigo:
And we do all the social media too, but you know, like I said, sometimes what we did 20 years ago is not always bad. And you gotta get back out there. You gotta talk to people and they have to know you. There’s so many times that we’ll walk, I’ll attend a sales call with one of my sales directors, and maybe it’s someone that they’ve dealt with on the phone or online for, you know, three years. And right when you walk in, suddenly they wanna book rooms. It’s just like clockwork. They wanna book rooms because it, that bond that you build and, you know, meeting someone face to face, you know, it’s never gonna be passe. It’s still going to be something that’s going to make you special. So I think that’s the key. But yes, you gotta do all the social media stuff because that’s the new age. I think old school sometimes is good school.

Ryan Embree:
Absolutely. I think both of us shared, prior to recording this episode that we were both at the Choice Hotels Convention out in Las Vegas in May, and it was just a different feeling being there. It’s been the first time in a couple years that Choice Hotels had hosted that. It’s just that different feeling, getting in front of people, shaking hands. So, and that’s what our industry is forged on. Our industry is all about people. So that face to face connection, very important. I wanna talk a little about your group, Alberigo Hotel Management, which was recently recognized by Lodging Magazine as one of the top 50 hotel management companies to know in 2022. Congratulations on that, Richard, what do you want the hotel world to know about your hotel management group? And can you express what this type of recognition means to you and your team?

Richard Alberigo:
Yeah, so we’re very proud of Ryan, of that recognition. We, we’ve worked very hard. I mean, we started in 2014, so our hotel company’s still in its infancy. I mean, we’re only at nine years old and many of them are 20, 30, 40 years old. So when I started, when I was with IHG, and of course at that time I had like 50 hotels in my portfolio. So I saw a lot of different hotels. I had poorly run hotels and then the great run hotels. And, even at that time I was thinking, you know, there’s so much opportunity to build a management company that will help hotels get to the next level. So I think the key when I had that 50 hotel portfolio was to build consistency. We preach consistency. I think that is the key, but not so consistency where we get boring. We’re, we’re really big on throwing stuff at the wall and just see what sticks. I think you gotta try new things, especially in this day and age. So I think that’s important. So we say we’re unique, but consistent. We talked about limited housekeeping service. From what I understand, back in 2018, we were, if not the first, one of the first hotel companies to try the limited housekeeping service. First of all, every time we walked the properties, we would see all the Do Not Disturb signs. And we said, you know, do the guests really want this service that we’re providing, number one and number two, if they don’t want it and we don’t provide it, how much will that bring to our bottom line? So we did a test property, a 30 day test property to see what it did with our cleanliness scores. Our cleanliness scores actually went up and that told us this limited service towels and trash and, you know, replenish amenities. That’s really what the guests wants. Now, of course, it’s an industry standard for Covid because the brands are all rolling it out. And we’ve also rolled out things that, you know, didn’t work. We tried housekeeping bonuses and we tried extra vacation during the tough employment era two years ago. And, you know, and what we saw is, you know, that did not make people wanna work for you. So I think it’s very important for our company is to roll out new initiatives, be unique. But the most important thing that I saw during my tenure with IHG is that people weren’t being treated correctly. They were taken advantage of. I totally am going to follow my sword and say, you know what, maybe I didn’t do it consciously, but I probably took my housekeepers for granted as well subconsciously. I mean, we were paying a minimum wage, we would throw food at ’em once a month and thought that that was the way to retain employees. And you know what, back then it worked. But now we found out, you know, when the, labor crisis happened, that that’s not what it was supposed to be. So now it’s important. I mean, we have luncheons, not just luncheons, you know, we played games, we do themes, we do Mardi Gras beads during, you know, during Mardi Gras season we do, right now we’re doing football jerseys during football season on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday we have parties. We’re going back to treating our employees and giving them a unique experience because if we feel like if we give our employees a unique experience, then they’re in turn going to give it to the guests. So it’s not guests number one, it’s employees number one, for sure on that. So it’s very important that we treat our employees correctly and give them a reason to wanna work for us. And our company, we actually still come to the property once a month for sales, once a month for operation. Most management companies, maybe once a quarter, they’ll see the property. We feel that if we can’t see the physical property and talk to the physical, the, individual employees and actually know their name, we’re, we’re just gonna be, they’re just gonna be ANU to us and they’re not gonna respect us. So in turn, we’re gonna throw out all these initiatives and they’re not gonna buy in. So it’s very important that any of our properties that we know the housekeeper that’s been there a year, and we know the front desk agent that greets us and we’re not meeting ’em for the first time when they’ve been there three years, because then we’re just the pie in the sky. We’re the Wizard of Oz, you know? So it’s very important to see the property at the property level and, you know, find out what’s going on. Don’t just analyze from a computer because that’s no way to, to build a customer base and to build a employee rapport. So what we do is we go and we analyze it and we actually consult with the properties. We don’t treat ’em like, I’m the boss and you’re the subordinate. We consult with them and as a team, we come up with action steps in order to make the hotel better.

Ryan Embree:
Its that trickle down effect that we were just talking about between your employees and the guests, right? You know, sparking that conversation, making an impact. So glad to see that that goes, you know, all the way up to the operation side, on your hotel management group. What a great example with the limited housekeeping. One of the things we do on our end is respond to reviews and, and give a hoteliers a lot of sentiment information on what changes when they’re implementing changes, how is this affecting the guest experience? Is this a positive change or is it a negative change? And sometimes it’s just doing those little tweaks that you see those changes and you measure those impacts as you saw it improved your, your housekeeping scores, right? Probably something which was extremely happy to see. So, you know, obviously implementing the changes is important. Also, seeing the data on the other side and making sure that you’re, it’s resonating with the guests and that’s perfecting the guest experience right there. So, and I’ve also seen some of those events that you’re talking about on the LinkedIn feed, some of those events that you’re talking about with your employees. So that’s really, really represented very well there.

Richard Alberigo:
You, you really gotta make it memorable. And one last thing on that is, we figured out that the first day of an employee’s tenure with you was not getting the attention it deserved. I mean, I’ll be honest with you again, I’ll follow my sword. You know, back in the day our, the first day of a front desk agent, you work with Maria today because Maria will take care of you. And we’d walk away, we had no idea what she was gonna train on. So now we put together day by day checklist for our employees to make sure that those certain things are covered on certain, you know, and it’s time lapse based on the basics to the more advanced stuff. We make sure the first day for the employee is only a four hour day. We make sure that a general leader in the hotel actually has time to have lunch with the employee. And the first day is all bells and whistles. We show ’em around, we introduce, we talk about handbooks and standards and you know, how you clock in. But if it’s a front desk agent, they don’t even look at that computer. They don’t even look at how to check someone in a housekeeper doesn’t even look at a sheet. They don’t look at how to make a bed. They don’t do any of that stuff. It’s all wine and dine. Because we feel like when they go home, the first question they’re gonna get from their family is, how was your first day? And if it’s like, well, okay, you know, let’s see how it goes. That’s not enough. You know, we need to be, these guys are great. They had lunch with me, they showed me around. They, they were cheering for me. This is awesome, right? And that first day is the key, I think, to keeping employees around longer because that first impression, you know, never goes outta style.

Ryan Embree:
And I love that, especially in a time right now where, you know, our industry we’re going through staffing shortages, we’re going through struggling to find workers. So I love that first day mentality, making them feel part of the team. And when you talk about, you know, what this generation, I know we touched on it a little bit, what Gen Z is looking for this, is it being a part of something bigger than themselves. So I’m sure that goes a long way with retention. So that’s really cool to kind of give some insights there on your groups values and cultures around your employees. I wanna shift gears as, as you know, this is a, a hotel marketing podcast. Our company Travel Media Group. We specialize in helping hotels tell their unique stories, whether it’s social media channels, reputation management or review response, Alberigo Hotel Management, very diverse portfolio. You’ve mentioned a couple brands, you know, I’m wondering how do you ensure that each individual hotel is telling its own story, but also staying true to those values? And you know, that consistency that you spoke of prior to.

Richard Alberigo:
Again, I think it, it’s actually talking to the hotel. Our, our regional director of operations, they do one-on-one calls with their general manager once a week. And again, we visit once a month, right? So we’re, we’re talking to the hotels, we’re finding out what they need. Our general leaders will send out a little snapshot every day of the problems they’ve experienced at their hotel. So we kind of know what’s going on in the hotel so we don’t have to waste time picking up the phone and calling the general leader and saying, Hey, you know what happened today, right? That’s a waste of time for both parties and then they, they’re not gonna be ready for it and they’re not gonna tell you cause they don’t remember, right? So they send a little snapshot of three or four things that happen during the day, then we can address the actual problems and don’t waste time with that chit chat call, right? So I think it’s all about building the rapport with them, talking to them, finding out what the problems are, and I think that makes them feel comfortable being a part of our company. And then I, again, that goes down to the, the line level associates, right? So it doesn’t matter what the brand is. I’ve always said, you know, the brands are different systems. That’s the only difference. A hotel is a hotel is a hotel. In the long run, you maybe have some quality assurance standards are a little different, say a Hilton Hotel and a Choice Hotel, but you run the hotel the same. It’s again, it’s consistent. It’s building a rapport with the employees and it’s actually doing what you say you’re gonna do. I mean, when we tell a hotel, we’re gonna do something, we do it and we tell ’em, if we don’t, we want them to call us out. So we’re not too big for our hotels. That’s not like, I’m not gonna call the CEO because my, my phone line is always open. You know, if they, they, I want them to tell me, Richard, you promised XYZ and you didn’t deliver. And I want that. I mean we’re, we’re doing our employee opinion surveys for the first time this year. I’ll be honest with you. There’s a couple of ’em that aren’t too flattering and it’s easy for us to be defensive, but that’s the way we learn. It’s all about communicating. It’s not just communicating with from the hotel level to the guests. It’s us communicating to our leaders and not just doing that token visit every three months because, you know, somebody said, I have to do it because we want to and we know it’s important.

Ryan Embree:
Yeah, that theme of connection is really stemming through this episode for sure with you and your team over there. So again, congratulations on being recognized in such a, a short period of time with, with your group. Feel free to give any secrets away, but what’s next for Alberigo Hotel Management in 2023 and beyond?

Richard Alberigo:
Well, of course we’re always still looking for new hotels. I mean, we feel like that we’re the best value in the industry. I mean, there’s a lot of hotel companies that have 300, 400, 500 hotels. Right now, we have 23 hotels, staff wise can give you that hands on touch looking ahead to 25, 26, 27, you know, we’re probably gonna have 50, 60 hotels, you know, I mean, that’s our goal. But even at that point, if we can’t establish that same visit structure, we visit the properties and has one on one calls every week, then we’re just not gonna accept any more hotels. We’ll just hire more people because we’ve got to continue this structure because we feel that it works. You know, we welcome anyone to sign up with us because we’ve been doing this again for nine years. The hotels that have signed up with us have always felt like we gave them better value than they were before. And you know, that’s the key. And you can sign up with us for different reasons. You can sign, maybe an owner has been running the hotel and they’re just getting tired and they don’t wanna do it anymore. Maybe the brands are starting to put pressure on ’em because they’re not doing XYZ and they need assistance. You know, whatever. Maybe they needed more of a sales effort and they just don’t know where to start. There’s all different reasons why you would sign up for Alberigo Hotel Management. And we’re very versatile and we can tailor contract with them based on their needs. Again, we take pride in what we do and we deal with a lot of word of mouth. So if we don’t do right for a hotel, we know that they’re gonna tell this person, they’re gonna tell that person before, you know, the word gets out, don’t sign up with them. So every hotel’s important with us, whether it be a 60 room hotel in Columbus, Texas, which is a real small town, or the fourth largest city in Houston. They’re all important because word of mouth doesn’t matter how large your city is.

Ryan Embree:
And it goes opposite way, right? With you do right by people and they’re certainly gonna share that story. So sounds like from this episode, I can definitely hear the passion for your group and the industry, Richard. So again, congratulations on everything Alberigo is doing towards the future and we wish you the best, certainly aTMG Hospitality Trailblazer embodiment. Any final thoughts before we close out today?

Richard Alberigo:
Yeah, well I’ll, I’ll try to be a better, hopefully after 2023 I can get back on a roll and start predicting, like, like Nosterdamus. But I, I’ve had, I’ve, I’ll be honest with you, the last three years, it’s like my budget has been thrown in the trash can a couple of times. I’m just like, Richard, is this you, you used to be so good at this, but you know, you know, I, I think that hopefully after 2023 we’ll get kind of back to, you know, semi-normal, whatever that is. Right?

Ryan Embree:
Absolutely. And you know, it’s exactly what you said and I think that’s great advice to our listeners. Do not be afraid to start something new. Try something new. Try an initiative. Obviously go about it the smart way. You know, you don’t want to just kind of just go in without a process or a structure, but if you do things thoughtfully and purposefully and you gauge your success based on real time data, whether that be insights from your guests or even some of the other metrics that you’re looking at in our hospitality, it can give you a really good shot at adapting to this new normal that Richard’s talking about. So Richard, I want to thank you so much for being on the Suite Spot. I wanna thank all of our listeners for today’s episode and we will talk to you next time. To join our loyalty program, be sure to subscribe and give us a 5 star rating on iTunes. Suite Spot is produced by Travel Media Group. Our editor is Brandon Bell with Cover Art by Bary Gordon. I’m your host Ryan Embree, and we hope you enjoyed your stay.

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