How Dawn Smith Helped Create a Luxury Brand
From reinvigorating a dated brand to upgrading to a luxury concept, hospitality entrepreneurs overhaul their hotels and restaurants for many reasons. For Dawn Smith, converting a well-known boutique hotel into a luxury brand resort was a challenge she was thrilled to take on.
In 2008, after seven years of working in the reservations department at the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, Dawn leaped to become the Revenue Manager for a new brand of hotels called The Gallery Collection. Her first big project included being part of the opening team at the One Ocean Resort & Spa, Remington Hotels’ first luxury property. But first, she had to turn an independent hotel into a branded upscale resort.
The challenge: Transition a brand and cater to a new market
Although the Remington Hotel brand previously owned and managed extended stay hotels without full-service restaurants, the corporation decided to enter the luxury hotel segment. For its first luxury hotel, the company wanted to convert a well-known independent boutique hotel with a popular bar in a busy nightlife beach area. The result would be a luxury brand resort with a full spa, high-end restaurant, and upscale lobby bar to cater to higher-end guests and meetings.
Dawn says, “There was no brand recognition or loyalty customer database to launch from. Remington’s database of extended stay guests would not support our required daily rates. We had to invent and market ourselves from the ground up.”
The solution: Find guests, create an image, and build an effective team
It was all hands on deck, as Dawn worked with a team to develop a new brand and create a template for opening future hotels. Her solutions revolved around implementing new systems, finding the right people, and increasing occupancy rates. Explore Dawn’s approach to each challenge below.
Hire and train luxury service experts
Recognizing, acknowledging, and retaining talented industry professionals is key to a company’s growth. To bring high-performing leaders into the new brand, Dawn and her team looked within her own company while recruiting skilled individuals from other hotels. They hired:
- Director of the front office and a director of sales from Marriott
- Chef from Four Seasons
- Marketing director from the Ritz-Carlton
- Six One Touch agents from multiple different hotel brands
Implement technologies to support guests and staff
According to Dawn, “We identified the best systems and programs to allow us to deliver the service for our guests and to manage our reservations and groups.” For the Remington luxury brand, they installed:
- Soft brands Central Reservations System, Revenue Management System, and its Property Management System
- Guestware to help activate the operations teams via SMS rather than calling radios
- Positouch for the restaurant and in-room-dining system
- Delphi for the brand’s sales system
Train the hospitality team
With plenty of employee duties and various systems, Dawn knew it was essential to create business processes and train staff. Along with writing guidelines on systems and processes, Dawn:
- Assessed the knowledge of the team members and retrained as needed
- Hosted group orientations and training sessions by teams
- Completed a 90-day review and assessment of the team members
- Encouraged ongoing training via monthly department meetings
- Assigned departmental trainers to manage the SOP book and train all new hires
Furthermore, Dawn scheduled the staff based on talent and business demands. For some teams, like the One Touch Agents, Dawn had them shadow various departments to see firsthand how they operate and how an agent’s work affects the departments.
Build occupancy and increase rates
Marketing from the ground up meant reaching out to every possible third-party while engaging with guests to grow internal customer databases. Dawn pushed towards success by:
- Building the customer base off of third-party platforms, like Expedia
- Participating in every available marketing effort offered by third-party companies
- Dedicating sales and marketing teams to booking convention business and social events
- Submitting RFPs to every wholesale and travel agency
- Collecting guest data, like emails and mailing addresses, from all check-in points
- Creating guest profiles and marketing to new and current guests
- Increasing rates as occupancy grew to boost overall revenue
The results: A system for growing revenue
After two years, Remington’s first luxury hotel grew its occupancy rate from 20% to 70%, including booking every weekend at nearly 100%. Moreover, the average daily rate rose more than $100 just in the first year. As a result, today, the resort hosts an estimated 40,000 room nights in group business and practically fills every restaurant table during the weekends. Plus, the company manages a waiting list over the holidays. Since then, Remington opened two additional Gallery Collection hotels and plans to open more.
Get advice on how to manage your hotel’s revenue or rebranding
Achieving the right mix of customer satisfaction and growth requires sound systems and critical skills in revenue management. With more than 30 years in the hospitality industry, including 20 years in leadership roles, Dawn helps you tackle your big projects to see real results. Build your revenue by scheduling a call with Dawn.
There are several leaders that helped me make my dream of becoming a hospitality professional. “Melissa Kasinger and Robert Alsobrooks both Directors of Revenue Management for Ritz-Carlton” who both taught me everything that I know about revenue management and gave me courage to take the leap. “Sileshi Mengiste, opening General Manager of One Ocean Resort and Spa” who gave me the opportunity to be a part of the One Ocean brand creation Team.
Bio: Dawn has 26 years of Restaurant Management and 20 years of Hotel Management across several departments, including working with luxury brands like Ritz-Carlton and Omni Hotels. Her hotel leadership roles focused on reservations, revenue, and rental property. Currently, Dawn is a general manager for a small resort in Northern Maine.