A year ago, the Yotel Boston got a new general manager—one with decades of experience in the luxury sector. But while Patricia “Trish” Berry spent years in the Ritz-Carlton brand, she was eager to make a transition into the fast-growing niche of upscale hotels with small rooms and lots of technology—and the Yotel was a perfect fit.
Traveling with her family as a child, Berry learned to appreciate hotels and hospitality at an early age. When it came time to choose a career, she went into education, but found few viable opportunities. A friend recommended hospitality, and Berry interviewed for a position at an Atlanta hotel. She got the job—just as she was finally offered the teaching position she had always wanted. “After two years teaching, it wasn't paying the reward that I was looking for, and really didn't feel like I was able to make the impact that I wanted to,” she recalled. She had watched a Ritz-Carlton hotel develop in the city’s Buckhead neighborhood, and she remembered her interest in hospitality. In 1985, she switched career tracks, joining the luxury hotel as a concierge for the property’s club level, then moving to the front desk and rising through the ranks at a range of properties within the network.
Working within the luxury space provided Berry with unique opportunities. “I literally have lived in places I would never would have had the opportunity to do without the Ritz-Carlton,” she said. “I've opened hotels in foreign countries that I probably wouldn't have seen on my own.” The most important skill she learned in those early years, she said, was adapting to different cultures. She worked at hotels in Hawaii, Korea and Germany and came to appreciate the different expectations guests would have in different destinations—and different expectations hotel teams would have, as well.
Ultimately, Berry was part of the opening teams for 15 different Ritz-Carlton hotels. “Opening a hotel from scratch, you are able to start with perfect policies and everything, running it the way you want it,” she said. “When you're coming in new, you have to take time to learn what the culture is, to see how that hotel operates and observe and understand and ask questions and seek to understand and learn the team and get that relationship built with the existing team.” The relationships, she added, are for life. “I think that's unique in hospitality as well because you're working so, so many hours and so intensely with people,” she said. “That's what I value out of working in this industry—I've gotten some really phenomenal friends.”
In the early aughts, Berry became hotel manager for the Ritz-Carlton Boston Common, where she oversaw the rooms division and the food and beverage department. “I learned to look at the business from a different standpoint altogether and how you can run a hotel efficiently and add profits to the bottom line,” she said of her three years in the role. She found new “creative” ways to structure the operations team, shifting from “management-heavy” to empowering line-level staff to take on more tasks. “We were pretty successful at that,” she said.
The chance to be a general manager brought her to the capital area, and she became the GM of the Monaco Washington, D.C., a Kimpton Hotel in early 2005. During her 16 months there, she exceeded the hotel’s 2005 budget by $1.4 million in revenue and grew RevPAR by 22 percent year-over-year. The accomplishment, she said, was simply a matter of growing group business and attracting business travelers to the boutique brand. As a GM, she said, she was part of the sales process to grow the revenue.
After nearly a decade in the Washington, D.C., area—including a six-year hiatus from hospitality, during which she managed a sports club—Berry learned about an opportunity to come back to Boston and take over the Ames Boston Hotel. “There are a handful of places I would repeat in my career, and Boston was certainly one of them,” she said. She oversaw the Ames’ transition to a Curio Collection by Hilton property, which presented its own set of unique challenges. “You need to do a lot of pre-training before they'll let you convert,” she explained. “And in an existing hotel that's running at 85 percent occupancy, it's hard to do many hours of training while you're running the hotel.” Berry rallied the hotel’s team together to complete the training and update the property to meet the Curio standards, and the hotel officially joined the collection in September 2016. “The first few weeks were a little rocky, but then we got into the groove and didn't look back,” she said.
After the better part of two years at the Ames, Berry moved to the Yotel Boston, which had opened the year before. The appeal, she said, was in the segment’s growth, as the “micro-guestroom” concept will likely continue to develop in the coming years. “Boston has just gotten [its] first Citizen M and a Moxy is opening in the next few weeks,” she noted, “but we were definitely the leader in this hotel product, so I really wanted to experience that.” In her year at the hotel, she has helped build a team and promote Yotel to customers who might not otherwise consider such a trendy brand. In a sense, her education in this growing niche circles back to her early days as a teacher. “The best part of my job is really watching my team mature and watching my team perform and helping them learn along the way,” she said.
...Biggest Challenge: “It was hard to break in [to the industry and] it took a long time to get to certain levels … There weren't a lot of women in the industry back then, so we were really breaking ground. AndI'm proud of the fact that there aren't a lot of women in the industry and that I was able to make that happen.”
...Best Success: “It's working hard, setting a vision and some goals for yourself, surrounding yourself with good people and then just continuing to deliver on people's expectations.”
...Advice for GMs: “Learn as much as you can before you get into this position, experiencing the different roles that are needed throughout the hotel. Absorb as much information as you can and learn from mentors. Getting a mentor, I think, is helpful.”
Three Tips for Success:
Surround yourself with a good team: “You're only as strong as your team and together you all are successful.”
Empower your team: “That's what will deliver the financial and service results, and that's what keeps your guests coming back.”
Have fun: “We work very long hours, some days, and long months. And if you're not having fun, it isn't worthwhile.”
Owner: Wheelock Street Capital | Operator: Yotel | Opening: June 2017 | Guestrooms: 326