Aggies Serving Aggies at University’s New “Guest House” Opening in August
College Station, Texas, August 6, 2018 … The new Doug Pitcock ’49 Texas A&M Hotel & Conference Center, opening this month, will be more than a luxury hotel and state-of-the-art meetings venue. The 250-room structure, adjacent to legendary Kyle Field, will take its place as the university’s guest house, the embodiment of Aggie pride and spirit, staffed largely by students and graduates of one of the world’s most highly regarded research universities. The new property will offer students an insight into the many opportunities presented by the hospitality industry, plus interpersonal and leadership skills that will serve them in any endeavor.
The new hotel will be operated by BENCHMARK®, a global hospitality company, the Texas-based leader in conference center hotel management and will be part of the Benchmark Resorts & Hotels brand. The training program for the new staff combines Benchmark’s innovative and professional “Be The Difference” employee development programs with the university’s celebrated Howdy Hospitality, pride and commitment to the highest standards of conduct and personal responsibility.
“Aggies are by nature hospitable,” notes property General Manager Greg Stafford. “This is known as ‘the friendliest campus in the nation’ and a strong sense of learning, community and caring for others is deeply embedded within the Texas A&M culture. That culture combines perfectly with Benchmark’s Be The Difference guest service philosophy – a way of being present and providing service that's personalized, meaningful, and memory-making.”
Staff members will be drawn from the student body and will include many from the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences. One of the largest such programs in the US and consistently ranked among the nation’s Top Five, the Texas A&M curriculum prepares graduates for a wide range of recreation and tourism careers, emphasizing sustainability, conservation, innovation and superb, anticipatory customer experience. “The program will offer students in-depth experience in hotel operations and guest relations,” Greg Stafford notes. “This is a tremendous opportunity for Texas A&M current and former students. In addition to job and career opportunities, we are already hosting interns and we anticipate the hotel, conference center and restaurants will enable research and, hopefully, in time, new Hospitality educational tracks for Texas A&M students.”
Benchmark has developed a comprehensive training program that covers both the hands-on aspects of hotel operations and customer care, as well as leadership, corporate responsibility and communications skills. The program begins with a cornerstone workshop on service strategies required for all team members at the property. This sets the stage for self-discovery, promoting change abilities as they relate to service, creativity and team cohesiveness. Part of Benchmark’s basic training module, the program has been customized to incorporate Aggie Pride and Benchmark’s “Be The Difference” cultural driver.
That philosophy relies on producing a consistent level of excellent service. “Meeting planners demand a very high level of quality service,” says Jonathan Chaplowe, director of human resources for the hotel and conference center. “We are constantly developing new training methods in response to the changing needs of the meetings industry,” he continues. Mr. Chaplowe also notes that the Texas A&M project will serve as an incubator for new services and training while showing students the many options and advantages of a career in hospitality. “Even if they choose a different career, students will learn social and management skills that will serve them well personally and professionally throughout their careers and beyond,” Chaplowe says.
Benchmark is known for its innovative food services and recently engaged noted chef and Father of Southwestern Cuisine Stephan Pyles as its chief culinary advisor. Under the direction of Executive Chef Scott Baker, the Texas A&M Hotel and Conference Center will offer a range of dining options developed by Chef Pyles, with an emphasis on-farm-to-table innovations using ingredients from Texas suppliers and inspired by the various culinary influences on Texas cuisine. Chef Baker is well-prepared to introduce this original Texas fare – he recently trained under Chef Pyles in his noted Dallas restaurant Stampede 66.
These varied food and beverage outlets will provide students with experience in fine and casual dining, bar operations and banquet services. Former students regularly return to the university for sports events, reunions, meetings and very often, weddings. “The concept of Aggies serving Aggies will add a new dimension to the Aggie Experience,” says Greg Stafford. However, unlike many other college-affiliated conference centers, the Texas A&M facility will be open to all markets, regardless of affiliation or event theme. The property offers visitors and area residents alike the opportunity to fully immerse themselves in an authentic Aggieland experience. Meeting attendees from around the globe can take advantage of the renowned research university’s exceptional academic, technical, cultural and athletic resources.
While the Aggie Spirit of hospitality infuses the entire hotel and conference center, the venue takes many of its cues from the leadership and innovation of today’s most progressive organizations in the global meetings marketplace. The property was designed and built to meet the stringent standards of IACC, formerly the International Association of Conference Centres. With 35,000 square feet of flexible meeting and event space, including an 8,300 square foot ballroom, the new facility can accommodate up to 1,000 guests. With spacious rooms and modern, ergonomic furnishings in all spaces from ballroom to boardroom, built-in audiovisual technology, and an on-site A/V support team, the new conference center can host any kind of conference or special event. Twenty-two meeting rooms set the scene for board meetings, receptions, private dinners, and seminars.
Many members of the opening team have strong ties to the university. To note a few, Jonathan Chaplowe’s daughter attends Texas A&M and Director of Sales & Marketing Tory Enriquez is a graduate of the Texas A&M University Mays Business School. Benchmark CEO Alex Cabañas is another proud Aggie, graduating in the class of 1998 with two degrees.
The Texas A&M Hotel and Conference Center is located in College Station in the heart of Central Texas, 90 miles northwest of Houston and three-hour drive from Austin, San Antonio and Dallas. Located just eight minutes from campus, Easterwood Airport provides multiple flights from Houston and Dallas and connections to most US cities. The campus is reached via State Highway 6 and several smaller state highways connect the area to larger highways such as Interstate 45.