When Amanda Marcello came to RLH Corp. in 2015, she had already attained executive status at hospitality consulting firm AF&Co. and the JPG Restaurant Group, serving both firms as vice president. So her segue to the hotel side was not a major shift in career ambition but very much in her wheelhouse.
“I’ve always been in the hospitality business. I’ve always had an attraction to travel and food and beverage. And I’ve always loved creating experiences for people,” said Marcello, who currently is SVP/brand strategy for the Denver-based franchisor of economy, midscale and upscale hotels.
She noted her family is involved in several small businesses and learned early on what it takes to be successful, something she has proven adept at within Red Lion and strategizing for its nine brands.
Notably, Marcello has implemented brandwide and locally focused programming for the upscale Hotel RL brand, keeping a finger on the pulse of what’s trending with consumers, and was integral in helping launch the corporation’s Signature Inn brand. She also is guiding the transition of Knights Inn with new branding and marketing.
Her position—she was promoted to SVP in June 2018—incorporates a variety of RLHC departments for which she has oversight, including social media, brand marketing, property-improvement plans, the “Hello Rewards” guest-recognition program and forging national charitable alliances. One such alliance is with the National Safe Place Network, which helps support youth in crisis through safe place locations (RLHC’s America’s Best Value Inn has more than 700 locations in the program). Additionally, she reviews and updates/enhances design guidelines and brand standards across the brand family.
And if that plate doesn’t seem full enough, Marcello also heads RLHC’s Women In Leadership and Learning organization, which promotes the professional development of women at the company across all levels and which, in August, was extended to include franchisees and associates at the property level.
A Rhode Island native, Marcello attended Johnson & Wales University, earning a degree in business with a minor in hospitality, and an MBA in operations and organizational development.
She cut her industry teeth as an event planner for JPG before moving up the ranks and while at AF&Co. [aka Andrew Freeman & Co.) steered concept development for national restaurant and hotel brands, including Hyatt, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants and Marriott International, and helped open several boutique hotels.
“In events and sales and marketing you’re interacting with people all the time. I think building my network was a huge part of launching my career, and it serves me still now,” said Marcello. “The ‘bridge’ of my career was my position at Andrew Freeman & Co. That took my career from being very small-business focused to an agency that services hotels and restaurants and high-profile chefs nationwide … it was the bridge that took all the great foundation that I had and said: ‘OK, now here’s a way to reach further; here’s how to go bigger.”
To get to RLHC, Marcello didn’t have to reach all that far because the hotel chain was a client of West Coast-based AF&Co. and toward that, she said, “They created the job for me.”
Red Lion was “reinventing” itself some five years ago and in October 2014 launched the full-service, upscale Hotel RL, a lifestyle brand targeting “consumers with a millennial mindset.” Marcello said the company sought out experts to help further develop the concept and she was among those selected and came on board as a vice president. “I helped them launch that brand and I developed these relationships that have served me in my role now and opened up a lot of doors … it was sort of: ‘The sky’s the limit’ because nobody had done that job before. There wasn’t a plan or a how-to in place. I sort of charted my own course and I had a clean slate.”
In executing on the new brand’s “aura,” Marcello said she focused on “what was going to bring the greatest return to our properties and, ultimately, to our company. Every creative idea and trend couldn’t be followed; we had to pick the ones we knew we could execute well, maintain quality, really hitting what our guests and the consumers are looking for.”
She worked with Harry Sladich, EVP/hotel operations and sales on the execution, terming him “a great partner, mentor. He really helped me navigate it; he was so well versed [in operations]. We had a lot of synergy in our approach to working together. We clicked.”
She added Sladich shared her successes. “He didn’t try to take credit for them. A lot of bosses actually do that … he celebrated the wins and made sure [former CEO] Greg Mount and key executives knew what I was doing and knew who I was. It opened doors for me. He helped me get a seat at the table.”
Which is really a bonus when your plate is as full as Marcello’s.