|The Road to Four Diamonds.|
By Merritt Zucca, Operations Manager, Quality Assurance
Thursday, 8th November 2012
This past April, Revere Hotel Boston Common opened as Boston's premiere independent luxury hotel and entertainment destination.
The property pays homage to the city's rich history and storied past while embracing a modern edge and reveling in the non-traditional. Revere was the former home of the Radisson Boston and The Stuart Street Playhouse and is located in the heart of Boston's theatre district.
Following a dramatic transformation under the new ownership of Northwood Hospitality, the boutique-style hotel launched with 356 rooms, more than 35,000 square feet of meeting space, and exciting new concepts for nightlife (the Emerald Lounge), film and live entertainment (Theatre 1), and events (Space 57)….without ever closing its doors.
An Interview with Simon Mais, General Manager of Revere Hotel Boston Common
The exterior of the Revere Hotel, Boston
Prior to its opening, hotel leadership contacted LRA and outlined a goal – they wanted to achieve the first ever AAA 4 Diamond designation for a property at that location…and they wanted LRA's assistance. The LRA team designed a rigorous, high-volume inspection program designed to gauge the property's progress towards that goal; with LRA providing steady feedback and consultation, Revere was recently notified of its newly-earned 4 Diamond status, which will be formally presented in 2013.
Recently, The Loyalty Leader, in the form of Mr. Merritt Zucca, spoke to Simon Mais, the hotel's General Manager, who was LRA's primary contact through the process and spearheaded Revere's campaign.
MZ: Hello Simon – congratulations again on your success! Revere opened in the former Radisson Boston but the physical plant predates that property as well. How old is the building and what are all of the hotel's prior incarnations?
SM: The site of the hotel was originally the "57" restaurant, and then was expanded to open as The 57 Park Plaza Howard Johnson back in 1971.
MZ: I have read that $27 Million was spent in renovations and transforming the Radisson into Revere.
SM: That sounds about right. Most of the investment was cosmetic. We had some structural changes required for ADA compliance but the majority of the money was spent on design and décor.
From left to right: Karim Lakhani - Executive Vice President of Food and Beverage/Procurement at Northwood Hospitality, Simon Mais, and Dave McCaslin - President of Northwood Hospitality.
MZ: How long has Northwood Hospitality owned the property and are there some other notable properties in their portfolio?
SM: They purchased the Radisson Boston in October 2010; Northwood also owns the iconic New York Palace and the Cheeca Lodge and Spa in Islamorada, Florida, which recently was ranked number 18 in the Conde Nast Readers Choice Awards for Best Resorts in Florida
MZ: How long have you been associated with the property and where were you before then? Let's hear the bio!
SM: I was born in Jamaica and moved at age seven to Vancouver, BC. I graduated with a degree in Economics from the University of British Columbia and began my climb up the ladder within the hospitality industry, looking back in feels like I’ve worked everywhere and for everyone, at one point or another! While attending University, I worked with Princess Cruise Lines in Vancouver, BC and continued on in the hospitality industry working with my first Hotel Job in sales for the Holiday Inn Vanouver. I then went on to hold other positions as FOM (front office manager) at Ocean Pointe Resort, Regional Sales Manager Hilton Worldwide, Director of Rooms Sheraton Guildford Hotel, AGM Hilton Metrotown and then returning as the GM of the Sheraton Guildford. I was then transferred to Nashville TN where I ran the Marriott Vanderbilt Hotel and Stadium Club and was honored as the General Manager of the Year by the Tennessee Hotel and Lodging Association. I have also been with the Hilton Mission Valley in San Diego, Le Meridien in San Francisco and Morgans Hotel Group at the Clift and Hudson Hotel in New York prior to joining the Radisson Boston as General Manager last year.
MZ: What do you feel most contributed to this award?
SM: Number one, the designers, as the final hotel product exceeded expectations. Number two was having set clearly defined goals. Since January 2011 we used the monthly LRA evaluations as a measurement tool against our service goals which provided us with the ability to continually monitor our progress. Finally, and most importantly was the ability of our cast members to deliver 4 Diamond service.
Simon Mais, right, with Pam Suhr - Executive Vice President Marketing & Revenue at Northwood Hospitality.
MZ: What are some of the pitfalls you encountered along the way?
SM: Nothing major, but having gone through this process now twice, it was important to remember that there will be peaks and valleys until the service culture is second nature to the cast members. Ultimately, having the patience to persevere until it comes together is key.
MZ: If you could get a "do-over" on one thing what would it be?
SM: I would say to include more follow-up components in the task lists; this was something that became apparent through the LRA reports. We had task lists which could have had a more defined "Full Circle" approach whereby each cast member takes ownership of a request and there is follow through to ensure completion.
MZ: What areas have exceeded your expectations and what has been surprisingly well received?
SM: The scent in the lobby. It is one of those little touches that dramatically resonates with the guest and we are constantly hearing positive feedback. Also, the complimentary champagne at check-in, allows the cast members to spend more time with the guests and really provides a sense of arrival. Trip Advisor comments are extremely positive in this area, we may take a little longer to check-in, but we are providing an authentic, engaging experience for the guest.
MZ: What has been an issue with guests in your new incarnation?
SM: Surprisingly, there have been very few. We certainly lost some of our past clients that were rate sensitive, but those have been replaced very quickly by the lifestyle, corporate and group traveler. Everything was very well thought out from a design and operations perspective, whether you are a leisure or business traveler or a groups and meetings oriented guest, the hotel can suit your needs and surpass your expectations.
We were initially concerned that the bulk bath amenity dispensers might be a concern to some guests, but they have embraced the SKOAH brand and the environmentally friendly system which keeps thousands of little bottles out of landfills. We actually offer 11 amenities in the bathrooms. They include two options of shower gel, shampoo and conditioner along with facial soap, hand cream, hand soap, A-Tips and cotton balls. The system was well designed - all of the dispensers are lockable and we have the ability to change and sterilize the pumps which puts guests' sanitation concerns to rest. The brand also sells extremely well to guests through our lobby retail area.
MZ: How did your hiring, staffing and training plan impact this outcome?
SM: Having 18 months to set the expectations was a real benefit. We had to increase our staffing levels in the banquet department and lounge as well as at the front desk. We hired for attitude and personality, not necessarily for experience or technical ability. We wanted a service-oriented cast that would provide genuine experiences for our guests. We challenged our existing cast to elevate their level of service and carried through with those who rose to the occasion. Our goal was to make guests feel as though they were invited to stay at the cast member's home, which is especially evident in Emerald, the lounge where we wanted to provide a very personalized style of service; thus far, it has been very successful and well received.
MZ: What advice do you have to offer others contemplating such a major renovation while keeping the doors open?
SM: Think through how your guests will be impacted. For example we had to do a great deal of jack hammering which required a large measure of pre-planning to minimize the impact that it would have on our guests.
MZ: How has the decision to go it alone without a flag impacted your business model?
SM: It is a different model completely. We knew that the Boutique Hotels in Boston charged a $50 premium when we were planning the project, but earning that business requires a significant amount of exposure to drive in the business. The Internet is a big component of that exposure for us. We are always holding events such as the Vertical Fashion show to remain front and center in the press.
MZ: What was your primary reason behind the decision to partner with LRA Worldwide for your Customer Service Experience evaluations?
SM: My prior experience with other brands - Sheraton, Hilton, Le Meridien – all have used LRA, and LRA was actively evaluating the hotel for Radisson when I came, so I had a lot of positive prior experience to bank on. I also knew we would need an independent 3rd-party partner to help us achieve our goals. When I was at the Marriott Vanderbilt we created a "Mining for Diamonds" program for the staff to get the hotel to a 4 Diamond status and it worked very well with 3rd-party support. LRA provided us with constant evaluations and were able to customize the inspections to not only meet, but exceed the 4 Diamond Standards.
MZ: How did the LRA data contribute to your success with AAA?
SM: By being able to align our goals to a scoring model and receiving continuous feedback and service evaluation from LRA, we could address any issues, review the 4 Diamond standards and take action steps. We desired a guest experience that was "authentic" without scripting and using the LRA reports helped us provide that experience.
MZ: After all the excitement surrounding the new design and your awards how do you plan to maintain your status and keep up the momentum?
SM: We will certainly keep up the excitement levels by continuing with unique special events and promotions. We will also continue review a section of the 4 Diamond standards daily with each department across all disciplines. For example, today all "Turndown" standards were reviewed at each department meeting so that every cast member knows what the housekeeping cast member's job entails.
And I'm sure you'll be happy to report, we are staying engaged with the LRA evaluation program to help drive ongoing improvement.
MZ: That is good news and we're happy to be a part of the team! Congratulations again and thank you!
In addition to our programs with global and regional lodging brands, LRA works with a wide range of branded, independent and boutique hotels on a variety of "guest experience" initiatives; email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more. You can learn more about Boston's newest 4 Diamond property, Revere Hotel Boston Common, at www.reverehotel.com.
This article appeared in The Loyalty Leader, the quarterly publication ofLRA Worldwide, a leading research and consulting company in the emerging discipline of Customer Experience Management (CEM). LRA works with its clients to help them design and deliver consistently exceptional customer experiences in order to drive customer satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy, and company growth and profitability.
For more information, visit us at www.LRAworldwide.com