|By Carolyn DiPaolo, The Palm Beach Post,
Fla.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
July 30, 2011--Roger Everingham's first break in the hotel business came in the Big Apple when he went to work at one of the most storied hotels in the world.
Today he manages another landmark, The Colony hotel on Palm Beach.
The hotel is marking the 10th year of its Royal Room cabaret series, which is Everingham's brainchild.
He said The Colony's business has gone more upscale with the live entertainment (and about $20 million in renovations). And its food-and-beverage business keeps pace with revenue from its 90 rooms, which is unusual for a hotel.
Name: Roger J. Everingham.
Hometown: Buffalo, N.Y.
About your business: The Colony has been a family-owned, independent hotel for more than 30 years. Although it's small compared to other upscale hotels, there is a great depth of professional experience, with many managers and staff here over 10 years. It is truly a family atmosphere with a lot of laughter and hugs to the staff as our regular guests depart.
How your business has changed: Our business has changed dramatically since the fall of 2008. Occupancy fell. It's climbing back, but not to 2007 levels. Our emphasis went from "tweaking" rates upward to controlling costs aggressively. We are leaner, but totally well-positioned to start strong growth as the general economy recovers.
What was your first paying job and what did you learn? My first job was pumping gas at Kenny Dadswell's Texaco station back in the day when gas was pumped by someone who also washed the windshield and checked the oil.
I learned to be polite, be honest and hustle; do the job even if your hands are cold and your feet wet.
What was your first break in the hotel business? I applied at just the right moment and was hired as the first management trainee at the landmark New York Plaza Hotel by Mike Leven, who was a great coach and a tough boss.
I got to spend a week in every department of that wonderful hotel trailing the department head, from the purchasing department in the second basement to the grand office of the general manager. Then, as a junior salesman, I would sell the hotel to group buyers and banquet clients in Manhattan.
How did you get the idea for the Royal Room Supper Club? Actually, the idea has been evolving for decades, since I was a beginning salesman at The Plaza and once in a while got to entertain a client in the Persian Room.
Many of the major New York hotels had wonderful show rooms: The Waldorf, St. Regis, Sheraton, Carlyle.
I remember being so impressed seeing Jack Jones. And now he's been with us several times. Still has the "pipes."
Shortly after I came to The Colony, I walked through what was then the Renaissance Room, a mostly empty banquet room, and the thought struck me: This would make a great supper club!
It has beautiful architectural detail in the ceiling and a curved entrance area -- perfect for a small stage. Now it's got theatrical lighting and sound and the quintessential impresario, Rob Russell. It's the only such venue, I like to say, south of West 44th Street (the Algonquin Hotel).
Guests come from all over, really, to see the show and spend time in Palm Beach. This time of year they come from Naples, the Keys, Vero Beach, Winter Park.
It's become nicely profitable and, of course, is a huge publicity generator. Hard to even imagine the old Colony without it!
Best business book you've ever read: Marketing Myopia by Theodore Levitt.
Best advice you ever received: From Frank Mackle, boss at Deltona Corp., the developer of Marco Island: "Never fight with a newspaper unless you own it." (He did.)
What you tell young people about your business: The hospitality field, especially character hotels, is a rewarding, fun place to work. And work you will, but not necessarily 9 to 5 and almost certainly not 40 hours.
Learn to see the big picture, but always in this business pay attention to the details. Write well and clearly. Read a good newspaper every day and be active in the industry outside your hotel.
What do you see ahead for Palm Beach County? I see continuing growth in the upscale hotel segment, once we are out of the recession. We have class, which so many resort areas do not.
Power lunch spot: Palm Beach Yacht Club.
Favorite smartphone app: Jamie's Recipes by Jamie Oliver.
What is the most important trait you look for when hiring? First, a concise, well-composed, one-page resume. Forget the email resume. Then, straightforward, non-affected verbalization that agrees with the resume.
I look for work experience in another "good house," restaurant or ship. And military experience counts for a lot.
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Copyright (c) 2011, The Palm Beach Post, Fla.
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