Anything But 'Impossible'
Read the article or listen to the podcast. This awesome interview focuses on the toughest issues facing mom and pop hoteliers; themselves.
Monday, July 16, 2012
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If you're a fan of the hotel business then chances are you're addicted to Hotel Impossible. Airing every Monday night at 10pm on the Travel Channel, Hotel Impossible focuses on a hotel that's in dire straits and needs help fast.
Lucky for the hotel's owners, hotel fix-it artist Anthony Melciorri is called in to save the day. The catch, he only has four days to figure out how to fix both the hotels systemic and design issues in order to bring the hotel back to life.
Mark Viola and I finally got a chance to speak with Anthony in the same city so we could do a podcast with him and the interview was great. Not only is it entertaining but we really get to the bottom of some of the main issues plaguing many mom and pop hoteliers out there.
For full effect you absolutely must listen to this whole interview but down below is a taste for you to read some of the conversation's highlights. Oh yeah, just last week the show was renewed for a second season so get ready for much more Hotel Impossible coming your way later in the year.
Listen to this Interview
||To see more episodes and podcasts, click here.|
You can also subscribe on iTunes.
Glenn Haussman: So you are a guy after my own heart, right? You get to go around to all these hotels, complain a lot but you get something done. I just get to complain and everybody kind of laughs at me. It's very sad.
Anthony Melciorri: Well, I'm doing it on the clock too. I'm doing it four days and I'm not really complaining, I'm really pointing things out. And what's great about it is it gives me an opportunity to help people that don't have a brand, that don't have a big name behind them to help them have organization and have checklists for what they need. So when I wrote the show it was really to help them come up with what do they want the hotel to be? And to be able to go in and really help people to really give them a system and when you leave to see it in their eyes that they really know that you helped them, there's nothing better.
Glenn Haussman: Yeah, that's absolutely true. And every single property that you seem to visit they all seem to have that lack of focus. It's amazing to me that if you have this incredible beachfront property for example you don't really realize that you're incredible beachfront property and treat everything through that particular prism.
Anthony Melciorri: That's a good point. If you have a restaurant what do you focus on? You focus on the dining room, you focus on the menu. When you have a hotel what do you focus on? If you never ran a hotel what do you focus on? There's 9 million things to focus on. Do you focus on cleanliness? Do you focus on service? Do you focus on uniform? What do you focus on? There's so many things to focus on. So when you've never run a hotel before you don't know what to focus on. If you own a pizza place you focus on the pizza. If you have a hotel what do you focus on?
Mark Viola: Very true, yep, you're right.
Anthony Melciorri: Everything from we're sitting, right now we're the table. We have glasses, we have china, we have mints, we have everything in the world. There's a million things to focus on and what happens is people start to choose the wrong things to focus on and then the hotel 101 things like cleanliness and service get thrown out the window.
Glenn Haussman: Yeah, and it's really odd to me because those seem to be the very fundamental basics of running a hotel. And a lot of the people you deal with they're good people but they're so highly uneducated about the business that they're in it really surprises me at times. That's gotta surprise you as well.
Anthony Melciorri: Well, it's not only surprising, it's concerning because people have spent a lot of money. Look, if you own a hotel you've done something right in your life because you've accumulated enough money or you've convinced a bank that you're a good enough person to own a very expensive hotel. Very few hotels are less than a million dollars.
Glenn Haussman: That's true. And you don't want the ones that are.
Anthony Melciorri: So I've worked on hotels, literally, one hotel is a $100 million hotel. I just did development $100 million. So there's a lot of money. And I just did a development for a guy in Times Square, never owned a hotel before and he had $100 million on the line. So it's amazing to me that people get those kind of loans and have never, ever worked in a hotel and they have good hearts and they're very smart people. I have a young lady we had on the show who is an asset manager but she got into the hotel business, she thought it was easy because she didn't know what to focus on. So people aren't clueless and people aren't dumb and people aren't dumb business people. They don't know how to run a hotel period. I don't know how to make lobster bisque so I'm not going to make you lobster bisque tonight.
Glenn Haussman: Oh, thank God.
Glenn Haussman: No, right. That makes a total lot of sense ‘cause it always strikes me that these people are just, they're really at the end of their rope and they really need you and I think you point out those things and some people in cocktail conversations say, “Oh, why is he so mean?” I'm like, you are not mean at all.
Anthony Melciorri: Thank you.
Glenn Haussman: You're just doing the unvarnished truth. You're telling people what they need to hear and sometimes that's difficult but then you can make those breakthroughs and get people to think differently.
Anthony Melciorri: Well, I've realized one thing. The only thing that irritates me is when somebody says I'm mean on the show because that means they only saw the commercial.
Glenn Haussman: That's right.
Anthony Melciorri: They didn't see the show. And if you've watched more than one show and if you watch the series I want you to pick out one part of the show where I'm mean. I'm not mean.
Anthony Melciorri: What I do is I get your attention. If you call me and most people that you've seen on the show have not seen the show. So they didn't know, this is our first season, so I came in sight unseen. How desperate do you have to be to call a guy that you don't know based on all the other reality shows, and we don't like to call it a reality show, but with all the other shows you don't know what I'm gonna do. You don't know if I'm gonna yell or scream. So how desperate do you have to be to call me in? So I take offence to when people say I'm mean because I have so much respect for those people, have so much respect to be able to call me in and have the courage to call me in. I'm very sensitive to that. However, I am not afraid to grab you by the throat and say, “Pay attention to me.”
Glenn Haussman: Right. And you do that and then you're able to grab their attention and tell them specifically what they need to do and give them that focus and direction. And I agree with you. I think that as the season has progressed all the producers of the show and the editors of the show have really kind of figured out what the tone should be and I see a vast difference from the first episode to the episodes I've seen in the last couple of weeks when we're eight, nine episodes in.
Anthony Melciorri: Okay. Now, I can tell you are a true fan because the only way you would know that is if you were on set. And that couldn't be more, that is so spot on.
Glenn Haussman: Thank you.
Anthony Melciorri: Well, we have a completely different team from the first episode but even the second and third episode we, it's not so much they figured out what the tone should be as it's probably more in the editing is they figured out what's important. And what's important is if I touch something you have to pay it off. So in other words, if I come in and do your hotel and I say your service is not functioning I have to fix your service. And in the first show or second show we fixed everything but you didn't see that we fixed everything because there was too much, we shot too much. We do 40 hours of shooting for 42 minutes.
Glenn Haussman: We just love this business so much. So I'm a real, you know, hardcore hotel nerd.
Anthony Melciorri: You know, actually somebody said to me, I hate to cut you off but somebody said to me in the last show that we did we did in Rhode Island and the one you saw two weeks ago they said, “All that gym equipment,” did you see the one with all the gym equipment?
So we're in Rhode Island and this gentleman, John, bought $125,000 worth of gym equipment but his roof and his pool was collapsing. And it was $45,000 and he thought it was a good idea to spend $125,000 on gym equipment. Someone said to me on Twitter last night, “I wanted you to pay that off.” Well, I did. I told you the only way to get rid of the gym equipment is to get 20 cents on the dollar. I wasn't willing just for the show to take the guy's equipment, throw it in the back of the truck and give him 20 cents on the dollar. So I could have paid that off and it would have been a better show maybe.
Glenn Haussman: Yeah.
Anthony Melciorri: I said to him and to the audience, “I don't know what to do with this gym equipment and so here it is, you have to figure it out. I'm gonna fix everything else, I'm gonna fix your pool.” But so if it was a fake show, if it was something where we set things up I would have gotten rid of the gym equipment and then he would have put it back the next day. I left it there because he's stuck with $125,000 of gym equipment. So if Arnold Schwarzenegger happens to come to his hotel he's in good shape.
Mark Viola: That's pretty cool.
Glenn Haussman: You know, we're big hotel nerds here. So one of the favorite parts of the show that I like is when you really give them practical advice. And that was one of the things I actually liked about the first episode that was at Gerny's where you said, “Oh, you gotta do a checklist,” or “This is the appropriate way to, you know, welcome a guest when you see them.” So that's fun. And it always surprises me that hotels, again, lose sight of those basic things and that you really have to underline them. I'm like how many hotels do I have to see that you go to that have mildew? It's killing me.
Anthony Melciorri: Well, but, again, because what's the first thing you do when you start losing money in a hotel? You start cutting maintenance and you start cutting housekeeping, the two areas you should never cut. You know, good hotels when things are slow what do they do? They take their maintenance people, they take their housekeeping department and they deep clean rooms. Okay? The first thing you do if you're not a hotelier is you cut your maintenance department. Oh, we're not that busy so a lot of toilets aren't gonna have to be unclogged tonight. What you need to know is you need to get that maintenance department in there and do, you know, really serious maintenance. And people it's the first thing they cut every single time.
Glenn Haussman: And I'll tell you, that's the real problem that I've seen over the last four years in the hospitality business. You know when the whole market tanked in 2008 everybody got pinched so they started to have to cut back. And, again, I'm talking about mom and pop businesses fundamentally. And I could see why they would do that because if they're forced to make these decisions they can't just go fix that pool. They can't just go and get some new furniture.
Anthony Melciorri: No, but you can keep that pool clean. You can look the customer in the eye and you, what does it take to pull out a filter and bang it and clean it and put it back in, it costs nothing.
Glenn Haussman: So what are some of the things that you learned at the Algonquin that you think really got you to understand the business and make you feel like you're an expert?
Anthony Melciorri: What I've learned is treat people with respect whether they're in the union or nonunion. One of the things when I went in it's like it's us and them, union, nonunion. I don't believe in that. I believe if you treat me with respect I'll treat you with respect. I don't care if you're union or not union. You treat me disrespectfully I'm gonna treat you accordingly. I'm gonna hold you accountable. So I think that the employees who I think are some of the best employees in the New York City at the Algonquin Hotel they appreciated my directness, my candor, and when they asked me something I got back to them. And if I was wrong I said, “We are wrong, I am sorry.”
Glenn Haussman: Cool.
Anthony Melciorri: Those are words that very few people say today. I am wrong, I am sorry.
Anthony Melciorri: And once you say that to union members or any employee or any manager they start to respect you and start to know this guy is the real deal. So I started doing that and really started paying attention to their needs and they start paying attention to my needs. And my needs were I needed to make sure that the hotel made money so the owners wouldn't fire all of us. Okay? And we did that and we worked together. And that's what really, listening. I speak a lot but I really, you can't, I have big ears for a reason. You can't have a lot of knowledge in this business without listening to your housekeepers, without listening to PBX operator. Those are the people you should be listening to. The assistant manager that's telling me something in the meeting they're just trying to make me happy because they want me to promote him. Okay, you go into a room, and you've seen it on my show-
Glenn Haussman: Oh yeah.
Anthony Melciorri: -you talk to a housekeeper they're telling you the real deal. I mean, they're telling you the way it is because there's nothing to lose. You know, when somebody's having a bad day in the hotel business as a manager or anyone else I say, “Go clean 18 rooms a day and tell me how that feels.” So I listen. So if you ask me what's the one thing I learned at the Algonquin when I went in and I was there two weeks and the second week on Saturday night I literally was in tears on the steps.
Glenn Haussman: Oh my goodness.
Anthony Melciorri: ‘Cuz it was that crazy. And somebody said to me at the, excuse me, well, I won't say it but had the audacity to say, “It's a small hotel, why are you always so busy?” And I'm like I'm busy because I'm paying attention.
Mark Viola: It's true, that's a good point.
Anthony Melciorri: And I really, really, really got to the end of my rope in two weeks. And then I just started saying, you know what, I'm gonna be me and I'm gonna be direct but I'm also gonna listen. And I'm not afraid to tell a manager that their employee is right and you're wrong. And on the other side I'm not afraid to tell an employee, you know, bring anybody you want down here to protest, we're right, you're wrong. Prove it to me.
Glenn Haussman: Great.
Anthony Melciorri: So when you speak from honesty and you speak directly you tend to start winning.
Mark Viola: Anthony. do you have a specific timeline that you spend on each property as you do it?
Anthony Melciorri: Well, for the show or for my business?
Mark Viola: For the show, yeah, I should say for the show.
Anthony Melciorri: It's four days.
Mark Viola: Four days, okay.
Anthony Melciorri: We come in, typically I come in Sunday night, I'll shoot the driving scene. Monday I'm in the lobby. First time I see the hotel is when I shake the person's hand. And from Monday we work from 7:00 in the morning ‘til about 8:00, 9:00 at night. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. Thursday when you see all the reveals I'm spending a lot of time in my room because at the end of the day the director's trying to get on that day trying to get everything down because of the time constraint. Blanch is running around like a lunatic.
Glenn Haussman: I'm sure.
Anthony Melciorri: So they're so stressed out that when I get in the middle there's just explosions.
Mark Viola: So you're not prepped at all? You literally show up and you just get right into it?
Anthony Melciorri: When people say to me, “Anthony, you know, you must be prepped for this, you know, all these quotes that come out of your mouth you must be prepared.” I can't remember my name so if I had to remember lines-
Glenn Haussman: You know what? You've been doing this for so long you are prepped for it. You are ready for it.
Anthony Melciorri: Of course. And, you know, and I gotta say though, the Travel Channel, the management at Travel Channel have been great because they say, “Put a camera on the guy and just say go.”
Listen to this Interview
||To see more episodes and podcasts, click here.|
You can also subscribe on iTunes.