Two Roads Hospitality’s COO talks about the company’s progress over the past year

Scottsdale Resort at McCormick Ranch

Just over a year ago, Destination Hotels & Resorts and Commune Hotels announced their merger, uniting independent lifestyle brands Joie de Vivre Hotels, Thompson Hotels, Tommie, Alila Hotels & Resorts and Destination Hotels under the Two Roads Hospitality umbrella. The merger initially resulted in more back-of-house efficiencies for owners as well as greater distribution platforms, but after 15 months the newly named hotel management company continues on its evolution, albeit with seemingly measured progress.

“In the first year of integration of the two companies, you would think there would be slowed growth, but in reality, we’ve continues to grow the brands, with three new Thompson hotels going into Texas, a new hotel in New Orleans, the newly renovated Cliff House now open in Maine and agreements signed into 2018 and 2019, including our first hotel in Puerto Rico,” said Tom Luersen, COO at Two Roads Hospitality. “While we were integrating the two companies’ cultures and the strategies that are bringing the brands together, we are also still successful in growing the brands themselves.”

Going forward, Two Roads, which has nearly 100 hotels in its portfolio, is looking to grow its presence in international markets like Los Cabos and Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and also to expand its reach domestically. Citing Nashville and New Orleans as examples, Luersen said that secondary markets are major considerations since lifestyle boutique hotels are inherent to such cityscapes. “We’re growing our brands based on demographics, guest experiences and what we can do from a design standing and we want to do that strategically,” he said.

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Putting it all Together

Most recently, Two Roads’ CEO of hotels and resorts, Niki Leondakis, announced her departure from the company, but the change in leadership has no impact on Two Roads’ business, according to Luersen. “Niki was instrumental in helping to bring the two companies together and we’re now set up for success,” he explained. But Luersen also noted that Leondakis reported to Jamie Sabatier, who remains CEO of Two Roads Hospitality: “We have continuity in the company’s executive leadership as I also remain COO and André Fournier is still our executive vice president, sales, marketing and revenue.”

But the unification of the two companies has not been the exclusive domain of Two Roads’ corner office occupants. (In fact, the company’s Denver headquarters has an open floor plan.) A team of nearly 60 employees representing each Two Roads brands as well as a vertical sampling of responsibilities was organized to assist in creating an integration plan along with several consultants and more than 1,000 additional employees who gather for annual Two Roads conferences, focused on sales and marketing, finance, operations and human resources. Meetings, which took place throughout most of 2016, were aimed at soliciting input on new company values and creating a strategic business plan in which to frame those tenets. “We were patient, strategic and inclusive with all of our team members because we wanted them to feel they made a contribution rather than feel these values were forced on them,” Luersen said.

The result was seven key values that serve as the foundation of Two Roads’ service culture and certain human resources policies.  So previous hospitality experience and technical skills are no longer the main criteria in hiring talent. Instead, the priority is placed on candidates’ attitudes, personal passions and individuality as well as their problem-solving skills. The end goal is a roster of employees like Trenton, a member of the housekeeping staff at a Destination Hotel in Washington where Seattle Seahawks Quarterback Russell Wilson was a guest when Trenton was mopping floors while singing to himself. After overhearing the impromptu a cappella performance, the NFL player invited Trenton to sing on stage with him at a fundraiser that Wilson was hosting at Suncadia Resort in Washington.

Empowering Employees

Although it was Trenton’s natural talent that earned him the recognition, Two Roads also trains staff through roleplay and learning labs to engage with guests based on the moment. Front-desk managers are, for instance, taught to be more conscientious of the extent to which a business traveler arriving late at night may want to make small talk. Staff are also learn to “earn [guest] trust” and are “free to go beyond,” as two of the new values state. In other words, hotel employees across the spectrum are empowered to resolve guest issues when they arise, without any specific parameters in place.

“They can consult with a supervisor, but it’s up to the individual to use the tools available to him or her to see that the guest is satisfied and it’s a coaching opportunity as well,” Luersen said. “We’ll never reprimand staff for having done too much, but we will talk about alternatives if the situation could have been handled differently, otherwise, we’ll celebrate their success.”

Some aspects of Two Roads’ approach to its corporate value structure have also been borrowed from tech giants like Amazon, Google and Microsoft. Both corporate and hotel employees have the flexibility to “live their whole life,” meaning reservations agents can work from home, management functions can be conducted from virtual offices and schedules can be adjusted to accommodate family obligations and achieving personal goals. Two Roads’ Denver headquarters is a casual environment, complete with beer stations, TVs and music. “We’re competing for the best talent and we feel that our work culture is a reflection of the diversity we want in our guests,” Luersen said. “We want our talent to come from all over the world, to speak different languages and to come from different ethnic backgrounds because we believe our guests are coming from the same places and we need to relate to them and to build strong relationships with them. And that’s strategic, not happenstance.”

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