By Keith Loria
After 46 years of being known as Woodside Hotels, the Menlo Park, CA-based operator of independent luxury hotels, restaurants and spas has rebranded to the Woodside Hotel Group.
The name change comes to eliminate any misconceptions of Woodside being thought of as a brand and to make it clear that the company is a group or curated selection of independent hotels brought together by some commonalities.
“As we gained a critical mass of independent hotels under management, we didn’t want our name to be confused as us trying to start our own brand,” said Greg Alden, Woodside Hotel Group’s president and CEO. “Our core focus is to build independent brands and celebrate those unique hotels and not have a company name that might be perceived as competing with that or trying to do our own personal brand building.”
In the case of the Woodside Hotel Group, that focus revolves around service, place, location and its independent approach to operating each property. The company focuses on high-barrier-to-entry locations in Northern California and chooses places that are rooted in the community and enable it to help operate them with a strong sense of place.
“We believe that at its core, the hospitality business is still fundamentally an independent business. The communities that the hotels are located in and operated in require someone being local, understanding the history and culture and personality that makes a community,” Alden said. “We don’t think we would be successful knowing what a community in Atlanta would be like if we were based in California.”
There are certain service standards that underpin Woodside Hotel Group and Alden noted those are manipulated based on specific hotels. A common denominator for each is a strong attention to training, hiring and retention being at the core of the company’s objectives.
“Our corporate office is a two-hour drive from any of the 10 hotels we operate,” he said. “We can be at any hotel at a moment’s notice and interview key associates and be there to work with the team in a much more hands-on level than other groups could in the marketplace.”
Tying into the local community is a key to its philosophy,which is why the company stays relatively small and geo-focused. It also looks for employees who want to be a part of that strategy and want to remain loyal in a career, not just a job.
“When we bring on general managers, our goal is to have them have stability in their lives. We want them to be a part of the community, send their children to the schools, have them be on the Chamber of Commerce, and enjoy a long tenure,” Alden said. “We have managers who have worked for us for10 years, 25 years, and other long tenures. Some companies by design move someone through the system but we find that doesn’t enable us to really know the community and be part of it.”
As part of the rebranding strategy, the Woodside Hotel Group is looking to bring more attention to each individual asset and is not making a big deal out of the name change publically.
“We changed the logo and name, and did some work on our website, but it’s not in our personal interest to spend a lot of effort to let the world know we are rebranding,” Alden said. “We are using that energy to show how unique this hotel is or how special that one is. The stories we want to tell are the individual stories for all 10 hotels. We don’t want the limelight on us, we want people to know what’s happening at the properties.”
A privately-held, family-run company, the company’s collection of 10 hotels and 11 restaurants includes the Monterey Plaza Hotel& Spa; Stanford Park Hotel; Hotel Drisco; Lafayette Park Hotel & Spa;Bodega Bay Lodge; Napa Valley Lodge; Bernardus Lodge & Spa; Dream Inn;Indian Springs Calistoga; and the Harvest Inn.
The latter, located in St. Helena, is the newest addition to the Woodside Hotel Group portfolio, and boasts new guest rooms overlooking the Leonardini Vineyard of Whitehall Lane and views of the Mayacamas Mountains. The hotel’s executive chef, Spencer Wolff, leads the Harvest Table restaurant,which offers a menu from local growers, including the property’s own collection of five culinary gardens.
The Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa recently renovated all 290 of its guestrooms and introduced four enhanced luxury suites, a refreshed lobby and reinvigorated Vista Blue Spa experience. The Stanford Park Hotel will soon renovate all guestroom bathrooms; and improvements to the Lafayette Park Hotel & Spa’s pool, spa and guestroom corridors are underway.
Being a private family business, Alden said the Woodside Hotel Group doesn’t have the pressure from shareholders or investors, so it can grow organically. There’s no development director on staff.
“It’s really up to us to find what makes sense and what we are excited about,” Alden said. “We’re trying to find unique destinations with special hotels. Whether that means growing at one hotel a year, two hotels a year, or one every two years, it’s a matter of finding the best opportunity. We consider what the property could become and what the vision is for 5, 10, 15 years down the road.”