News for the Hospitality Executive
|By Melissa S. Monroe, San Antonio Express-News
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Apr. 13--A multimillion-dollar renovation at the Emily Morgan hotel downtown has positioned the inn with a New York flair, but with Southwestern hospitality.
The 1920s Gothic style building has dropped its Ramada brand to focus on an upscale clientele, said Scooter Yates, the hotel's new general manager.
"Ramada did a good job for what the building used to be," Yates said. "Ramada is considered more for mid-tier (hotel) markets." Since last July, the 177-room hotel has been undergoing renovations with a completion date scheduled for this month. Unlike most renovations that hotels go through every few years, Yates said this is a "soup to nuts" project.
The $4 million makeover doesn't include nearly another $1 million for a new restaurant, which will be completed in July.
Without revealing too many details of a "chic New-York style experience" balanced to San Antonio, Yates said the full-service restaurant will feature high-end, northern Italian food. He said prices will be average, ranging from $8 to $25.
This is a stark contrast from the buffet-style chafing dishes that guests were used to in the pink-colored eatery known as the Yellow Rose Cafe. In fact, much of the hotel interior's pink hue has been changed to limestone, mahogany wood trimmings and fireplaces.
John M. Keeling, senior vice president at Houston-based PKF Consulting, said renovations for the Emily Morgan are long overdue. He said dropping the Ramada brand is probably one of the best moves the hotel owners could have made.
"So often, the knee-jerk reaction when a hotel is not performing is to go out and get a chain affiliation," Keeling said. "It positioned the property below its comparables and hurt the average rate." Keeling said the next step for the hotel is to build a word-of-mouth campaign by getting travel writers to feature the hotel in prestigious publications such as Conde Nast Traveler or Southern Living.
Ken Slavin of local communications firm Big said the hotel will unveil a new marketing campaign and revamped Web site this summer.
But now that the Emily Morgan is running as an independent hotel, it will have to rely heavily on its sales force to generate business, said Todd Walker, vice president of Source Strategies Inc.
Source Strategies reports that Emily Morgan's revenue per available room, an indicator of a hotel's profitability, was $59 for 2001. This was just below the cutoff to make the top revenue properties for Source Strategies Hotel Brand Report list for 2001. Yates said hotel room rates will increase to downtown averages of about $130 to $150 a night. Last summer, Source Strategies said room rates averaged about $93 and occupancy was about 63.8 percent.
The Westmont Hospitality Group, which manages the hotel, is hoping its new general manager's reputation of turning around declining hotels will mesh with the new style of Emily Morgan.
Yates managed The Melrose Hotel in Dallas for almost 11 years, but was replaced in 1999 when another company took over the Dallas landmark. The Melrose is considered the "see and be seen" drinking and dining hot spot for many of the Hollywood guests it attracts.
Yates, a native of Mississippi, is not the typical general manager type. He started out by washing dishes and climbing the hotel management ladder. After leaving The Melrose, he partnered with former Dallas Cowboys Coach Barry Switzer to open Barry's Chicken Ranch in Oklahoma.
After opening two restaurants, Yates said he wanted to return to the hotel business to spend more time with his family.
He also plans to attract the Hollywood types to the Emily Morgan. He said one of the 177 rooms in the hotel will be transformed into a production room for movie crews. He's also hoping to woo guests with imported and domestic wine for the bar and restaurant and daily wine-tastings.
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(c) 2002, San Antonio Express-News. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News. CD,
Also see: H.L. 'Scooter' Yates Appointed General Manager at the Historic Emily Morgan Hotel in San Antonio / Jan 2002