|by Mark Hamister, August 2006
In the early 1980’s I realized that my assisted living residences would
gain a huge competitive advantage if I started operating them like luxury
resort hotels. After a careful study of the Ritz-Carlton and Disney
models, we implemented a hospitality-oriented customer service culture
and saw an immediate increase in the quality of service and experience
delivered by our residences.
Our company formally entered the hospitality industry in 2004, with
the purchase of one Marriott branded hotel and one Choice branded hotel.
Our demonstrated capabilities in running assisted living residences like
resort hotels led both franchisers to approve our purchase and management
As we continue to increase our number of owned and managed hotels, we
realize that many of our assisted living management talents can be used
with great success in the hospitality arena.
Here are few suggestions for hotel management companies:
Show that you care at every opportunity. Assisted living management
must be particularly focused on developing relationships with customers,
because our residents may stay with us for years, if not for the rest of
their lives. Developing a relationship with a hotel guest, who might
only stay the night, is more challenging. In assisted living we find
that if we show our residents how much we care about them every day, they
will forgive us for an occasional mistake. However, if you have not
developed a solid relationship with residents, even rare and minor mistakes
will become large obstacles to overcome. So we train our hotel general
managers to make our guests feel cared for and welcomed at absolutely every
opportunity, during every minute spent with them. Hotel guests may
not stay for years, but they will return if they have a positive experience
with us and if they feel that we truly care about them.
You made your bed, so lie in it. Over the years we have developed
a deep appreciation for the importance of quality sleeping experience and
bed comfort. Many years ago I tried sleeping on a staff-check mattress
in one of our assisted living residences. It was one of the worst
night’s sleep I ever had. Since then I have been opposed to purchasing
such mattresses. We have increased our mattress cost—because regular
mattresses have a substantially shorter life span—but we won’t have any
of our residents sleeping on mattresses that we’re not comfortable on.
During the first year of our management of the Smyrna Nashville Fairfield
Inn & Suites we replaced all of its foam mattresses for the same reason:
I wasn’t comfortable sleeping on them, so I didn’t want my guests tossing
and turning on them either.
Use your nose. Since we are committed to running our assisted
living residences like luxury hotels, we don’t want them smelling like
hospitals. Harsh chemicals can remove dirt and odors from carpets
and upholstered furniture, but they smell terrible. We spent a lot
of time exploring effective alternatives to such chemicals and developed
our own stain and odor removal techniques. These same techniques
now enable us to keep our hotels smelling fresh and pleasant, not antiseptic
Recognize when spending more now will help you save later.
Our assisted living experience has helped us to drill down to the most
effective methods for enhancing the appearance and durability of our properties.
For example, we are much more willing than other hospitality companies
to spend money up front for granite counter tops in bathrooms and at the
front desk because we understand that this material will look new for ten
years and give the hotel a fresher look. We are also more willing
to spend money on high-powered vacuum cleaners that get down into the pile
and remove more debris, therefore increasing carpet life-span.
In the words of John Ruskin, “Quality is never an accident; it is always
the result of intelligent effort.” At The Hamister Group, Inc. we
are committed to continuous quality innovation. One of the ways in
which we achieve this is by the intelligent application of the skills acquired
in one business sector to other industries. The result is both a high level
of quality and a fresh approach to common issues.
Make it fun. Our assisted living residents love events like
cook-outs on warm evenings or parties for special occasions. We have
started hosting similar events at the Knoxville Airport MainStay Suites
in order to add a fun and social aspect to their hotel experience.
Since our extended-stay guests are with us longer than most, these evening
and weekend events have created a strong sense of community at the property.
Hamister is the CEO of The Hamister Group, Inc. and The Hamister Hospitality
Group, LLC, one of the nation's rapidly growing hotel management companies.
The Hamister Group is actively seeking hotel acquisitions and management
contracts in the United States.