News for the Hospitality Executive
TALLAHASSEE, Fla.- October, 2011 - In a time when many in the hospitality industry have forgotten the “service” aspect of the trade in favor of expedience and profit, Marc Bauer, general manager of Hotel Duval, a style icon and the first and only boutique hotel in Tallahassee creating a chic retreat, has remained true to this root of the industry while elevating service to a whole new level. Utilizing a unique management style and a deep-seeded passion for both service and quality, Bauer has taken pride in providing an exceptional guest experience while also directing impressive growth at each of the properties in his portfolio. (To learn more about Marc Bauer a Q & A is below)
“Throughout my years in the hospitality industry, I have learned that above everything, guests deserve impeccable service and personal attention to detail during their stay,” Bauer said. “My team at Hotel Duval truly understands the importance of the guest experience and does a fantastic job of sharing our beautiful property and the welcoming spirit of Tallahassee with each of our guests.”
Bauer’s 22 years in the hospitality industry have included extensive experience in upscale boutique hotels and resorts throughout the country. As vice president of operations/sales and marketing for Coral Hospitality, Bauer was responsible for the entire Coral Hospitality portfolio, consisting of 10 hotels and resorts. In the role of managing director at Brasstown Valley Resort in Blue Ridge Mountains, Georgia, he acted as corporate liaison to orchestrate the 503-acre mountain golf resort’s successful transition to a Coral Hospitality property. As general manager at the Casa Monica Hotel in St. Augustine, Florida, he coordinated day-to-day operations while improving revenues, growth and inspection scores. Having also overseen several property developments, including the Grand Bohemian Hotel in Asheville, North Carolina, as well as renovations and conversions including the Vero Beach Hotel and Club/Palm Court Resort in Vero Beach, Florida, an extraordinary customer experience has remained a key focus along with property success in terms of profitability.
Though his positions and responsibilities have varied throughout his years in the service industry, Bauer remains committed to an outstanding guest experience from arrival to departure to return visit—the cornerstone on which his management philosophy and overall persona exist.
“One could say that I backed into this industry by accident. In my first position as a bellman, I discovered a passion to serve that I never knew existed,” he said. “I still see every opportunity to serve our guests as a privilege.”
In addition to his attention to detail within his hotels and resorts, Bauer has shown commitment to the communities in which his properties have been located, and currently serves as president of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association’s Tallahassee Chapter, chairman of the Leon County Tourist Development Council, state and local board member of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, chairperson of the Visit Tallahassee Advertising Committee, fundraising captain for the Florida State Seminole Boosters, board of trustees member for the Biletnekoff Award, member of the Visit Tallahassee Grant Committee and grant panelist for the Council on Culture and Arts.
Bauer also volunteers for the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities, Florida State University Dedman School of Hospitality and the Tallahassee Museum. Bauer has been honored as a nominee for the Bill Duggar “Ethics in Business” award, as well received the Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce’s “2011 Small Business of the Year Award” for Hotel Duval’s business accomplishments and community involvement.
At Hotel Duval, Bauer guided the landmark property through a $16 million renovation, repositioning, rebranding and reopening. The property now offers an experience unparalleled in the Tallahassee market, and Bauer played a key role in all stages of property redevelopment, authoring the operating model from the ground up to serve as a template for future brand growth. Shortly after Hotel Duval’s grand opening, he successfully led the property through the process for inclusion in the Marriott brand’s prestigious Autograph Collection. Bauer’s attention to detail and service in relation to the customer experience is evident at Hotel Duval, which offers guests an unequaled concierge service, extensive meeting facilities, on-property dining options, and the only rooftop lounge of its kind from Atlanta to South Beach. The property has been deemed an instant success as the market leader in average daily rate, revenue per available room and occupancy, generating in excess of $9 million in revenue in its first year.
With 117 rooms and suites, all offering experiences that heighten each one of the five senses, Hotel Duval is adorned in European boutique décor with an artistic ambiance. The hotel ornament is contemporary, yet comfortable providing down-to-earth atmosphere with a contrasting backdrop of the historic landmark. Each floor at Hotel Duval has a unique personality designed to affect mood and purpose of stay by the color and scent options. With distinctive design, amenities and approachable luxury, Hotel Duval brings spirited energy to Florida’s capital.
Home to Shula’s 347 Grill, a sports-style steakhouse that flows seamlessly with the vibe and décor of the property, Hotel Duval’s signature restaurant presents options of gourmet salads, fresh fish and exclusive Premium Black Angus Beef Burgers and Shula Cut Steaks. Hosting a street-level café, LeRoc, which features Starbucks coffee and locally grown and sourced food is open for breakfast and lunch. As the only rooftop bar of its kind from Atlanta to South Beach, Level 8 combines chic and desirable with upscale sophistication creating a vibrant social scene. Level 8’s “see and be seen” environment creates the perfect place in Tallahassee for sunset watching with lush private seating vignettes.
Hotel Duval is a part of the Autograph Collection, which is an ensemble of high-personality and boldly independent hotels, each carefully selected for its distinctiveness, style and synchronicity with unique travel interests. For more details, visit www.AutographCollectionHotels.com or visit www.hotelduval.com or call (850) 224-6000. Find Hotel Duval on Twitter and Facebook for additional promotions.
MARRIOTT INTERNATIONAL, INC. (NYSE:MAR) is a leading lodging company with more than 3,400 lodging properties in 70 countries and territories. Marriott International operates and franchises hotels under the Marriott, JW Marriott, The Ritz-Carlton, The Autograph Collection, Renaissance, Residence Inn, Courtyard, TownePlace Suites, Fairfield Inn, SpringHill Suites and Bulgari brand names; develops and operates vacation ownership resorts under the Marriott Vacation Club, The Ritz-Carlton Destination Club, and Grand Residences by Marriott brands; licenses and manages whole-ownership residential brands, including The Ritz-Carlton Residences, JW Marriott Residences and Marriott Residences; operates Marriott Executive Apartments; provides furnished corporate housing through its Marriott ExecuStay division; and operates conference centers. The company is headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, USA, and had approximately 137,000 employees at 2009 year-end. It is recognized by FORTUNE® as one of the best companies to work for, and by Newsweek as one of the greenest big companies in America. In fiscal year 2009, Marriott International reported sales from continuing operations of nearly $11 billion. For more information or reservations, please visit our web site at www.marriott.com, and for the latest company news, visit www.marriottnewscenter.com.
Give me a brief history of the property. When was its most recent incarnation as an Autograph property? How would you describe this "Miami in Tallahassee approach?
The hotel opened as Hotel Duval in October of 2009 and subsequently became a member of the prestigious Autograph Collection in July of 2010.
The approach was not necessarily a “Miami in Tallahassee” approach, but rather an amalgamation of design and service elements from a number of excellent and very different boutique hotels.
Inspiration was drawn from such notable hotels as the Gansevoort in Manhattan, the El San Juan Hotel, the W and many others. The goal was to incorporate some of the great aspects of these fine properties and refine them in the context of our own business model.
At the same time, we had to be sensitive to the community and make sure that the model was one the community could and would embrace. Without the support of the Tallahassee community, Hotel Duval would clearly not have experienced the unprecedented success we have enjoyed.
Tell me about the senior management team, your brief bio…when did you start with the property, and your prior experiences.
I arrived at Hotel Duval in September of 2008 to help guide them through one last weekend prior to closing for renovation. The General Contractor was technically staged to start the renovation and we had to open for one final weekend to accommodate a full house of reservation commitments for Parent’s Weekend. Needless to say, it was an interesting experience.
Fast forward to current. The real beauty of our management team is that many of them are experiencing their respective role(s) for the first time. I wasn’t all that caught up on titles, experience and prior positions when I assembled the leadership team. I was more interested in people who had energy, passion and natural leadership skills. That’s 75 percent of the battle. I knew I could instill the hospitality piece.
What that philosophy has brought to the table is a fresh perspective and experience(s) outside the hotel realm. It has been like looking at a hotel through a different lens; exciting to say the least.
For me personally, it has been a bit of a renaissance as I am surrounded by a team of free- thinkers who use their creative energy to create memorable moments and constantly position the hotel for success. I think you can feel the energy of youth throughout the hotel; it is palpable.
When you arrived at HD, what were the challenges that you saw? How did you address them?
I hate to sound trite and cliché but I didn’t accept the position because I saw challenges, only opportunity. True, this project in this market had some inherent risk as it was the first of its kind. However, if done right the reward far outweighed the risk. I think for all of us who were stakeholders in some way in Tallahassee, it was our opportunity to put a signature on something that the entire community would buy into and could be proud of. When you have that kind of personal and professional commitment, it makes the job of being successful that much easier.
From ownership on down to line level, I truly felt confident that we had put all the right pieces in the right places. From there, we just had to execute on all levels and execute we did.
Your staff training methods…why is the staff so darn good? What are the motivators? What are your core principles that drive your recruitment and training practices? Who manages the training program?
This is where I give a lot of credit to my wife Pam Bauer. Rarely do you find a husband and wife team working in the same building. However, early on she took on a corporate role that we created called Brand Affinity Director. Her role was to help develop key training and affinity programs for both our valued associates and clients alike. She was also directly involved in the selection process for our initial team, many of whom are still on board after two years in an employment climate that was generally regarded as transient based on the influence of the universities. And finally, she brought a “cheerleading” quality that I think helped solidify this group as team.
Since that time Pam has transitioned to the role of Director of Sales which is more aligned with her previous hotel background. In the process, she imparted that enthusiasm to one of our great interns who has grown into a management role and is an important asset to the process. Succession management is alive and well at Hotel Duval.
I also would be remiss if I didn’t give a great deal of credit to our management team.Not only were they hungry to make this property a success, they embraced the ongoing training element as a way of life. To this day, each department still meets monthly to review training initiatives and every day we learn.
There are inherent benefits to being a stand-alone boutique property; we can write and rewrite the book as many times as we want without having to fly the ideas up the beaurocratic flagpole to vet them out for approval. If what we do is not in the best interest of the guest and the business, we go back to the drawing board and refine it.
And finally, I give a lot of credit to the Shula’s corporate team. They provided incredible resources and support both in pre and post opening. I have a great deal of respect for their business model, many of the ideas which we have adopted as a part of our own operating philosophy.
As for the recruitment piece, I have always preached that retention breeds recruitment. Never was that philosophy so true as Hotel Duval. Our turnover is some of the lowest I have ever encountered in my career.
The plan was simple, create an atmosphere that was fun to work in, empower them implicitly to make decisions, reward them for performance, show them you care, do things as a group/family that may be a little “outside the normal box” of other companies and make sure they truly feel like they are stakeholders.
From there, we bred 175 advocates of working at Hotel Duval. We can hardly keep up with applicant flow. On the rare times that we have an open position, we have carte blanche of qualified candidates.
It also helps to have one of the best boutique hospitality schools in the Dedman School at Florida State and Florida A&M University feeding you talent. They have become pipelines of talent to the hotel. I think both institutions and their student bodies respect what we do and how we do it and in turn, they are an important part of our community outreach program.
How has the hotel performed? I do not want trade secrets…but how does ADR, OCC or REVPAR compare to your comp set? (In other words, is this plan paying off?)
The hotel has performed beyond my wildest expectations and the pro forma expectations of the five year plan. Tallahassee is a 55 to 60% occupancy town. I am not shy to share the numbers and say that the hotel is on pace to finish somewhere just south of 85% occupancy in its second full year of operating.
Hotel Duval consistently leads the market comp set in all matrices and even gives some of our sister properties in the Autograph Collection in destinations with greater potential a run for their money.
In short, I would definitely say the plan is paying off. As a small company, we have created a name for ourselves which is paying off with other opportunities. Again, I give every bit of that credit to the great team we have assembled.
Again, give me the sats on the hotel…# of rooms, # of suites, the feature set. And the number of FTE's.
Depending on what time of year it is, we hover around 65 FTE’s with the remainder of our associate base as PT in some form or fashion.
What are your future goals? How do you plan to maintain your excellence in a period of continued pressure on government spending? How has rate been impacted…how will you grow rate in the face of this pressure?
While we never want to take our eye off the golden goose that is Hotel Duval, the future goal would include plans to take the operating model to other locations for future growth. In the meantime, instead of writing a business plan each year we write a “reinvention plan.” How are we going to reinvent ourselves to keep the product and experience fresh and the hotel front and center?
I would be lying if I said the downsizing of government doesn’t have an adverse effect on spending everywhere in the Capital City. However, we have diversified our markets in such a manner that we don’t have all our eggs in one basket. As one segment shrinks we attack other segments that much more aggressively.
Our biggest opportunity in the coming years is to continue to grow rate as our occupancies have been strong. It’s a revenue shell game that we have been refining since opening. Year one, we simply had to build base at any cost. Year two, we had a better understanding of who we are and who our customer is. Year three, we strive to strike a better balance between the market segments to maximize rate and revenue opportunities. Each year we get a little bit better at what we do. Looking into the crystal ball I see growth in Tallahassee in the coming years and along with it improvement in the economy. Those two factors will also help our rate opportunity.
I think a great deal of our success is due to the fact we have truly mastered the art of earned media, in some cases by default. As a stand-alone hotel of 117 rooms, we simply don’t have a war chest of advertising dollars. Therefore, we have had to constantly invent creative ways to point the spotlight on ourselves via earned media opportunities and through strategic partnerships. This helped leverage the dollars that we do have to spend to allow us to “go the distance.”In closing, I still believe that if you build and then rebuild a better mousetrap they will continue to come. After 25 years in the hotel industry, one thing I have come to learn is that the basic core principals still work. Those core principals to me all revolve around relationship-building. If you galvanize relationships with associates they will deliver great customer service. If you galvanize relationships with your guest constituency, they will come back; again and again.
This success of this hotel and our delivery is all about relationships.
Autumn Barnes Mayfield
The Mayfield Group Public Relations