Spire Hospitality CEO Bill DeForrest is in good spirits, and it’s easy to see why. In addition to wrapping up $150 million worth of renovation projects across its portfolio, the Deerfield, Ill.-based management company recently opened the first dual-branded Crowne Plaza/Staybridge Suites in the IHG system, in midtown Atlanta. DeForrest shares his take on what makes a good management company and how to deliver returns for owners.
What does it take to stay competitive in today’s market? In order to compete, you have to go out and do the right things. You have to run a really good hotel, leverage your brand partnerships, and make sure you’re fully utilizing what the brand gives you, and then you have to deserve share. When people talk about stealing market share, I think that is a one-time event. If you do all the right things, then you earn more market share. That’s why I’m excited about the work we did in 2015, because we’ve put ourselves in a really good position to earn more business than the market growth alone will allow us to get.
What is a good way for a hotel to earn more business? The industry is poised right now to do really well in the food and beverage part of our business. Other than the Staybridge Suites we opened up within the dual-branded concept in Atlanta, our portfolio consists of all full-service assets with good meeting space. We work on very contemporary, relevant food and beverage operations that complement the hotel and help drive the hotel’s performance but also create a really good guest experience and therefore really good financial performance for us.
How do you drive value for owners? We’ve done a really nice job of looking at the physical plant and seeing where can we create more usable space. For example, the Embassy Suites brand is really committed to reinventing its legacy hotels with big atriums. So across our Embassy Suites portfolio, which we have eight of now, we’ve not only made the space more contemporary but we were able to create really usable catering space and meeting space. We also worked with the IHG brand leadership team to put together a new grab-and-go market in Atlanta with diverse offerings. It’s an efficient operation; you don’t have a lot of labor built into that. So if you can find ways to use your team effectively and then create opportunities where you may not have to be as labor intensive, that’s a good proposition for the customer, but also a good outcome for the owners as well.
What’s the secret to a good management partnership? The key for a management company and ownership is to be aligned on what the strategy is. You really have to sit down with the owner and find out what they hope to accomplish with the asset and why they are making this investment. There is a lot of basic blocking and tackling you do in a hotel at any time. You have to take great care of associates, you have to deliver a great guest experience, and you have to be big supporters of the communities you live and work in—all of those things matter. But then that last 15 or 20 percent of what you can create value with in a hotel is really all about understanding the owner’s goals.