Some five years since its inception, Maverick Hotels & Restaurants has steadily grown its portfolio and firmly established its presence within the hospitality management landscape, but the company remains equally focused on building the right culture for its associates.
Robert Habeeb, founder and CEO of Chicago-based Maverick—which has some 16 hotels in its current portfolio—emphasized “we’re focusing like a laser right now on that piece of the puzzle,” in reference to the company’s culture. Habeeb further acknowledged the labor challenges the entire lodging industry faces and Maverick’s commitment to attracting the right personnel.
“We’re in the process right now of creating a company DNA as we try and compete for talent. You just can’t compete in an auction setting and that’s what’s going on…everybody’s out there screaming a number out and the bidders are bouncing from job to job, hotel to hotel, based on what the highest bid is. You can’t sustain that. So what we’re trying to do is create a culture at Maverick driven by what we think are the generational drivers right now; individuality, autonomy, and a person feeling a sense of personal belonging and growth. We think that’s going to be our stock and trade,” he said.
Habeeb further touted the advantages of being a smaller owner/operator when it comes to competing for talent in the current environment.
“In the auction setting if you think about the bigger companies they’re the most disadvantaged because it’s really hard to translate a person-to-person culture that makes sense,” he said.
Habeeb went on to add that as its name implies, Maverick as a company encourages people “to think differently and generationally.” As such, he noted the working environment is somewhat less structured than traditional companies.
“People that are hard drivers that don’t have a huge cultural bend will succeed and flourish with us. That’s what we’re focused on is finding those people and then having an offering that makes them inspired to be part of the team, and making it like no one else would,” he said.
Habeeb explained the company has taken on considerable growth throughout the first half of this year, assuming four management contracts, starting two ground-up construction projects and acquiring two hotels. The CEO added there are at least five properties in the company’s development pipeline as well.
Maverick just last week added the Hyatt Rosemont O’Hare hotel in Rosemont, IL, to its owned and managed portfolio. Chicago-based commercial real estate firm Bradford Allen is an equity partner in the property. Maverick plans to rebrand the hotel as a Hyatt Centric and continue to manage the property.
In June, the company announced the addition of two hotels for which it is providing third-party management services. The two hotels are the 100-room Nantucket Inn in Nantucket, MA, and the 130-room Days Inn by Wyndham Days Inn by Wyndham Mt Pleasant-Charleston-Patriots Point. The pair of properties help further broaden the company’s portfolio geographically, which has been located primarily in northern Illinois and the Chicagoland area.
Nevertheless, Habeeb underscored the need for geographic expansion and described its growth plan as “opportunistic” going forward. As an example, he noted the company has an ongoing project in development in Atlanta.
“We had originally intended to try and keep our portfolio in manageable geographic areas so it allowed us a great efficiency of management. We were able to have a milk route, if you will, of hotels,” he said. Habeeb, however, further added, “at the moment the Chicago market is really in a period of doldrums and so we’re going to have to feed our growth by looking elsewhere.”
When it comes to Maverick’s portfolio, Habeeb noted it consists of a balanced mix of owned versus third-party managed properties. He detailed the company’s financial model and why it makes economic sense.
“We’re trying to maintain that 50/50 balance, which allows us to expand our platform and with the most efficient use of capital possible. So all of our acquisitions have been ventures where we bring in an equity partner to stand there with us. That’s definitely a model we will continue with because it’s the most efficient way to deploy capital, but it also helps build a platform. All of our equity partners when they see kind of returns we can yield them on their investment they say ‘we want to do more somewhere,’” he said.