February 1st, 2012 | Stephanie Ricca

5 questions with Niki Leondakis

1 Feb, 2012 By: Stephanie Ricca Hotel and Motel Management

The president of The Kimpton Hotel & Restaurant Group gets social with us

“President and COO of Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants. Into travel, restaurants, design, running, gardening and constantly amused by my cats.”

If you follow Kimpton’s Niki Leondakis on Twitter, you know that’s her bio on the popular social media site, where she is an active poster. Leondakis is a true supporter of the site, using it to respond directly to her 3,460 followers, many of whom are Kimpton guests, and share anecdotes of her travels, reading and even her family Thanksgiving.

But Leondakis’ first priority is to steer the growing Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants brand ship. She joined the company from The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co. in 1993, overseeing restaurant operations. Today Kimpton has 56 hotels and 53 restaurants open around the country, with strong presences in California and the Washington, D.C., metro area, along with other gateway cities. The company is expanding in its current cities, and even looking to add locations in cities like Pittsburgh and Cleveland.

Hotel Management caught up with Leondakis to chat about Kimpton’s growing footprint around the country, its commitment to engaging employees and guests and, yes, social media.

HM: Last year was an active one for Kimpton. What will 2012 hold?

NL: 2011 was a really exciting year for us. We expanded in a couple key markets, began construction on our 12th adaptive re-use hotel, signed on new management contracts and we still have so much to look forward to in 2012. In the past few months we added a second hotel in San Diego [the Palomar San Diego and its restaurant, Saltbox Dining & Drinking]. On Dec. 1, after a major renovation, we announced our second property in Miami, the Surfcomber Hotel South Beach [with Lantao Kitchen & Cocktails]. Next spring we’ll open our third San Diego hotel and restaurant, in La Jolla. We’ll also introduce our second hotel in the Phoenix area, the Hotel Palomar Phoenix, and later in the year we’ll open our second adaptive re-use of a historic building in Philadelphia, which is being converted to the Hotel Monaco Philadelphia.

HM: Niki, you’re pretty popular on Twitter, and social media is a tool all your properties use. How does social media help Kimpton’s employees and managers do business better?

NL: Social media enables us to connect with our guests directly. For example, while tracking Twitter, we noticed that a guest staying at the Hotel Palomar San Francisco was pining away for coffee. One of the hotel employees surprised him by delivering coffee to his room minutes later. In another instance, the GM at the Hotel Madera saw a tweet from a guest who was feeling cooped up in the hotel because of a snowstorm. The GM could act quickly to help lift spirits by extending the wine hour, offering games in the lobby and giving guests complimentary in-room movies.

HM: Along with using social media for guest relations, Kimpton uses it to connect with employees too. How do you manage that?

NL: We’ve seen great success from the quarterly employee Twitter chats we recently kicked off, which give all our employees the opportunity to ask me any questions they have, from development plans to trends—whatever is on their mind. We also have several employee groups established on Facebook, like our Kimpton Women’s Group and Kimpton Pride, which give our employees the opportunity to interact with each other on topics and interests they feel passionately about.

HM: If you could have any job at any Kimpton property, what would it be?

NL: I would be a hotel GM. This is the one position that enables you to touch all aspects of the business, from the employees to the guests to the owners. I couldn’t possibly tell you which property though, any more than a mother could tell you which was her favorite child!

HM: What’s your advice for students considering the hospitality industry?

NL: It’s an incredibly rewarding industry and full of opportunities at every turn. Be sure to join a company whose culture you believe in so that you are inspired and able to leverage your unique talents to make a difference. Find a mentor or even multiple mentors. Choose an area within the industry that you are passionate about. If you do something you love, success will follow.

Topic : 5 Questions, Kimpton
External Source : Hotel Management

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