PHOTO: Annmarie Fairweather works in a guestroom at the Wingate by Wyndham in Brentwood, N.Y., under the supervision of General Manager David Lew. You can also find photos of Fairweather’s experience at Facebook.com/LodgingMagazine. Photos by Susan Farley.
Annmarie Fairweather, vice president of brand services for Wyndham Hotel Group, admits that it’s been approximately 18 years since she worked behind the front desk of a hotel. “A lot of things are similar, but there are different systems. It’s about seeing these systems rather than hearing about them,” she says from behind the front desk of the Wingate by Wyndham in Brentwood, N.Y. “[Working behind the front desk] is much more than knowing and understanding how to run a check-in.”
What’s a corporate vice president doing in the middle of Long Island checking in guests, handing out directions to restaurants, and tracking available rooms for the day? Fairweather was at the hotel as part of a new initiative started by Wyndham Hotel Group President and CEO Eric Danziger to place more than 100 corporate executives in franchise locations for three days to work under the general managers. The concept is designed as a chance for corporate executives to experience the hotel operations and realize the impact their plans have on employees and guests at its franchise hotels.
“How we perceive information at corporate is often different than it is perceived at the property level,” Fairweather says. It’s a situation experienced at all hotel companies, and Danziger points out that it’s not a case of there being a problem, but simply the opportunity to become the best Wyndham can be.
Lodging got the chance to experience the program firsthand in January by following Fairweather as she worked in various aspects of the hotel under the direction of General Manager David Lew.
“I had some time to spend with David, looking to get closer to the front lines to see how some of the things we are doing at corporate are translating to the property level,” Fairweather sais on her second day “on the job.” “Interestingly, we found a few things already.”
Fairweather spent her three days in Brentwood working with staff behind the front desk, helping to organize and run the property’s manager’s receptions, setting up breakfast, working in housekeeping, and in the laundry department. She admits it’s been 18 years since she’s been behind the front desk of a hotel.
We first caught up with her as she was working with Front Desk Associate Laura Simmons. The timing was good as Fairweather found herself in the middle of a sellout at the hotel. A mild winter in Long Island has construction crews still working and occupancy has been up for the hotel.
Behind the desk, Simmons and Fairweather are examining the hotel’s computers. “It’s great to see the systems actually in action,” Fairweather says. “It’s much different seeing them live rather than hearing about them.”
From there, Fairweather moved to the laundry facilities, where she got a firsthand experience of the operation. “It’s interesting to see how all aspects of it work,” she says. Earlier in the morning, Fairweather helped Marta Fuentes prepare for the hotel’s breakfast offering. “I shadowed Marta on breakfast, learning how she sets up. She explained the process as we went,” Fairweather says. “We also talked about her role and how she learned her role at the hotel. She gets up six days a week at 4 a.m. and she’s still happy.”
Fuentes says that Fairweather performed her duties at breakfast admirably.
For Fairweather, one of the more interesting aspects of her breakfast experience was getting an up close look at the new equipment Wyndham placed in the hotels. “Some of the equipment is newer and we discussed how she liked it; how it impacted her job,” Fairweather says. “She actually likes them better.”
Fairweather, and other executives like her, are hoping to build the communication between corporate and the franchise properties through the program. She says, that’s exactly what has happened. “An integral dialogue has started,” she says.
Lew agrees that the program has significant benefits. “I think it’s great. It gives us a connection between the hotel and parent company,” he says. “It’s great that they’re here.”
As for her three-day stint in Brentwood, Fairweather is happy that she hasn’t had to deal with any complaints from either guests or the staff she’s shadowed.
More on Wyndham Hotel Group’s initiative, including the concept and the planning from President and CEO Eric Danziger, will be available in the March issue of Lodging.