Staying Open During a Renovation
Hyatt Regency Atlanta has managed to keep guests happy while undergoing a $60 million facelift.
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
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What does it take to complete a $60 million hotel renovation without angering your guests, losing your convention business or alienating your staff?
The Hyatt Regency Atlanta has started a project to refresh the 750 guest rooms in its Atrium Tower, the 22-story atrium lobby, restaurant, front desk and front entrance. The hotel was the first Hyatt Regency and atrium designed by renowned Atlanta architect John Portman.
Hotel Interactive® asked Joe Hindsley, general manager of Hyatt Regency Atlanta, to talk about the planning and work to run one of the city’s largest hotels and convention centers while undergoing a 17-month-long renovation project.
Hotel Interactive®: How did you approach a massive renovation project in a busy downtown hotel?
Joe Hindsley: What was most initially important for us was to develop some objectives. Our number one objective was to protect our employees. Another was to retain the business and the final one was to deliver high quality of service while we were going through this process.
HI: What were some of the strategies you used to meet those objectives?
JH: We actually reached out to a behavioral doctor who teachers MBA classes at Georgia State, Deborah Butler, and asked her to come in help us to work with our team to get them mentally prepared and also help us come up with ways to communicate effectively with our customers and with each other. We spent a lot of time up front really developing communication methods internally, communications methods externally, dealing with customers to alert them to what was happening, scripting things for our employees.
HI: How were you able to keep your business?
JH: We obviously had a lot of business on the books and we wanted to keep that business. We listed every business on the books, who the key contacts were and we decided what was the most effective way to communicate and let them know what was going to happen during their program. We had a checklist we went through with every single group and communicated up front what we knew was going to happy when they were here. That created a bit of apprehension, but I think the customer felt good because we were transparent. Another thing we created was a renovation roundtable with key people, senior managers, mid-level managers. We meet every week and we talk about the impact of the renovation. How it is affecting our employees. How it is affecting our ability to communicate with each other and how it is affecting our customers. We felt like we had the managerial side of it worked through. For the most part, we were successful in retaining all of the business.
HI: You started your renovation in August with a goal to finish in December 2011. How is it going?
JH: Our goal is to minimize disruption and we did a couple of things that benefited us greatly. We replaced 36,000 square feet of fan tile flooring and removed a 13.5-ton iron canopy that floated over the ceiling. We made a decision that we would close the main building of the hotel for three days. So we jack hammered the floor and removed a bunch of planters and took out the canopy. That was a significant amount of disruption that we avoided. The initial start of the renovation was the front desk operation. We literally dry walled off the front desk and built a temporary front desk. Believe it or not, most of the people who came in, if they had never been here before, did not even know we were under renovation. You walk in, there is no dust. There are no ladders or people with hard hats on. We’ve really kept the renovation behind dry walls.
HI: What about noise?
JH: We obviously had some work that was going to be noisy. So we established non-noisy hours. No noise could start before 9 o’clock in the morning and no noise could continue until after 5 o’clock in the afternoon. We also established hours during the day when we thought noise might disrupt our meeting facilities.
HI: Was there any concern about such a major renovation with the current economic situation?
JH: The hotel is 43 years old. It was tired. Several major competitors in the market place have recently renovated. It was clear that we needed to do something and we needed to do it quickly. It is exciting to take an old building and modernize it.