With a portfolio of primarily branded full-service hotels, Greenwood Hospitality chooses to make its mark through food-and-beverage concepts.
PHOENIX—For Greenwood Hospitality Principal Aik Hong Tan, it’s all about the food and beverage.
“Management growth is good for us,” he said, of the company’s current growth trajectory. “We want to differentiate ourselves through F&B. I know a lot of companies avoid it, but F&B can be a big differentiator.”
Tan and his company are making that happen by applying their expertise in ownership and third-party management to the creation of F&B concepts that speak to modern tastes but have staying power.
Greenwood Hospitality has 22 hotels in its portfolio—including two set to open in 2018—four of which it has ownership interests in, and the rest it serves as third-party manager for. Growing at the rate of two to three hotels per year—like it will do in 2017—is the right pace, Tan said.
The company’s portfolio is comprised almost entirely of full-service hotels. It has four DoubleTrees, three Renaissance hotels and several independent properties, among other brands from Wyndham Hotel Group, InterContinental Hotels Group, Hyatt Hotels Corporation and Carlson.
Independents and soft brands are a growing focus for Greenwood. So far this year, the company added the management of Reikart House in Amherst, New York, part of Marriott International’s Tribute soft brand; Hotel Paso Del Norte in El Paso, Texas, which will open next year as part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection; and Glidden House, a historic boutique hotel in Cleveland.
“We would love to be buying more existing hotels and doing repositionings, but we’ve ended up doing a lot of new builds as an operator,” Tan said. “The brands like what we do.”
Focus on F&B
Tan said his company has carved out a niche differentiating F&B operations at its hotels. The fact that most of Greenwood’s properties “are not in big, sexy cities is OK,” he said.
“I don’t care what culture you come from, we all gather around food,” he said. “Food and connecting. F&B allows us to do that. People want that connection, and we want to give them the opportunity to do it.
“For us, it’s experiential. The beautiful thing is that here in America, the diversity in food is so great,” he added.
Greenwood handles all of its F&B operations in-house, and Tan said the company goes through an intense process of conceptualizing what will be the best fit for each hotel based on its location and clientele.
“We first ask, who are our customers—locals and visitors?” he said. “We have to make sure the concept matches who we are as a hotel first. Then we ask whether the team on the ground can execute it.”
This approach has led the company to reach more than 30% revenue contribution from F&B.
“We don’t run away from F&B; we embrace it,” he said. “It also gives us the opportunity to do banquet really well, too.”
He cited one particular concept, 1700 Degrees steakhouse at the Hilton Harrisburg in Pennsylvania, as an example of how Greenwood matches the location with the F&B.
“We did a steakhouse in Harrisburg because it’s the state capital and a lot of people gather there,” he said. “We started a craft cocktail program there. It’s Instagrammable, and now our customers are selling the experience for us.”
Tan said programs like craft cocktails and craft beers will continue their staying power, and the company always is looking for what’s next.
“I want relevant and not faddish,” he said. “A lot of times people chase fads, but I want to be relevant, so it starts with who my customer is. What’s relevant in Louisiana might not be relevant everywhere.”
But when it comes to identifying his biggest challenge, Tan said it has nothing to do with food.
“No one’s talking enough about this, but the biggest challenge for us is talent,” he said. “We’re going to hit a wall as an industry when it comes to labor. We have to keep pushing the fact that we are an attractive industry. This is not a bad place to have an entry-level job and work up.
“We must sell more success stories as an industry. There’s talent everywhere, but we haven’t recognized this.”