|By Eric Eyre, The Charleston Gazette,
W.Va.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Sep. 3, 2009--CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Greenbrier's new owner has taken another step in his quest to restore the resort's five-star rating.
Jim Justice, who purchased The Greenbrier in May, has hired Patricia Jenkins to lead the resort's effort to regain Mobil Travel Guide five-star status.
"It's a challenge, and we're going to meet that challenge," Jenkins said Wednesday. "It's important to remember this is about the guest and service first."
Jenkins comes to The Greenbrier from Sea Island Resorts in Georgia, where she headed service and quality initiatives that led to Mobil five-star ratings at four Sea Island properties -- The Cloister hotel, The Cloister Spa, Georgian Room restaurant, and The Lodge at Sea Island Golf Club.
On Oct. 1, Mobil Travel Guide will become the Forbes Travel Guide. The five-star designation will be known as the Forbes Five Star Award, but the rigorous property rating system won't change, the companies recently announced.
Forbes publishes several business magazines, and runs the Forbes.com Web site. Steve Forbes, president and CEO of Forbes Inc., is scheduled to speak this morning at The Greenbrier. The resort is hosting the state Chamber of Commerce's annual Business Summit this week.
Forbes Travel Guide plans to announce its new four- and five-star ratings in November. In the past, Mobil released its ratings in January. Property inspections conclude in late October.
Justice's pursuit to restore The Greenbrier's coveted five-star rating started the day he purchased the Greenbrier from CSX Corp. for $20.1 million on May 7.
The historic White Sulphur Springs resort lost its fifth star in 2000.
Justice has promised to give Greenbrier employees a 10 percent bonus, if the resort recovers its five-star rating.
"It's very motivating, and very generous on Mr. Justice's part," Jenkins said.
Jenkins, who has worked in the hospitality industry for 20 years, said she doesn't feel any pressure to deliver the fifth star.
Mobil's inspectors evaluate hotels based on more than 550 standards. The inspectors pretend to be regular guests and never reveal they work for Mobil.
"Mobil standards are not easy to achieve, but they have so many things in place here already," Jenkins said. "It's about training, and it's about consistency. We have to make sure we're getting high scores and maintaining that."
Jenkins worked the past five years at Sea Island Resorts. Before that, she was quality and training director at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, Fla., which shares the same four-star Mobil rating as The Greenbrier.
The Ritz-Carlton received a prestigious Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award under Jenkins' watch. Jenkins started her career with Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, where she worked 11 years.
In June, Justice contracted with Mobil's consulting division to help the resort figure out what it needs to do to recapture the fifth star.
The Greenbrier has used Mobil's service evaluation program to help management identify the resort's strengths and weaknesses. The resort also has signed up for the consultant's executive training program, which teaches employees about the standards that Mobil uses to rate hotels.
Mobil officials have said that hiring its consultants does not guarantee a five-star rating.
Only 42 hotels across the U.S. and Canada received Mobil's five-star rating this year. Meanwhile, 137 resorts and hotels were awarded four stars.
Hotels with Mobil's top rating often can charge more for rooms and services.
CSX spent $50 million on renovations in 2007, but was unable to bring back the fifth star. CSX also previously used Mobil's consulting division.
"I would have never have come to work for The Greenbrier, if this team wasn't absolutely ready," Jenkins said. "It's the greatest opportunity in the world to work with these employees and try to get this star back. There will be so much pride, so much celebration from the employees."
Last week, The Greenbrier started construction on an underground theater and "Monte Carlo-style" casino. Greenbrier voters approved gambling in the hotel in November.
Mobil Travel Guide officials said the casino construction wouldn't hinder the resort's chances of recapturing the fifth star, provided the project doesn't disturb guests.
Guests must now enter the hotel through the North Entrance. The casino is expected to open in April.
The resort expects to receive its gambling license from the
state Lottery Commission today
Also this week, Justice announced the hiring another executive with a five-star pedigree. Casey Lavin started last month as the resort's vice president of food and beverage.
Lavin previously worked as food and beverage director for The Sanctuary on Kiawah Island in South Carolina. The Sanctuary hotel has a five-star rating, while the resort's Ocean Room restaurant received four stars from Mobil last year.
Lavin will join The Greenbrier's new executive chef, Rich Rosendale, who starts next week. Rosendale, an award-winning chef from Columbus, Ohio, worked as The Greenbrier's chef de cuisine from 2002 to 2006.
Reach Eric Eyre at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4869.
To see more of The Charleston Gazette, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.wvgazette.com.
Copyright (c) 2009, The Charleston Gazette, W.Va.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. For reprints, email email@example.com, call 800-374-7985 or 847-635-6550, send a fax to 847-635-6968, or write to The Permissions Group Inc., 1247 Milwaukee Ave., Suite 303, Glenview, IL 60025, USA. NYSE:CSX,