Hotel Impossible, Gadsden Hotel

Something old, something new and something terribly wrong is the best way describe the Gadsden Hotel episode of Hotel Impossible. This episode about a historic hotel just north of the Mexico border reinforces the concept of owner involvement and the value of hotel management experience. Unfortunately, in my opinion, the episode also had a terrible ending.

Setting the stage, the Gadsden Hotel, built in 1907 is a 130 room hotel with an absolutely stunning lobby and long history of famous visitors. One of the largest hotels in the city, it had sadly seen multiple years of red ink to the tune of about 200k per year.

The situation was compounded by the fact that the owner was ill and the hotel was now in the hands of a guardian tasked with saving the hotel. The GM, Robin, was the daughter-in-law of the owner and had been there for 25 years. The show mentioned that she was the person who called for Anthony’s help (remember this part).

Episode Recap: No Experience, No Hotel Systems, No Common Sense?

As with many of the previous episodes, the problems in this hotel started at the top with the owner and GM. The GM admitted that she had no experience when she took over operations decades ago. How involved the owner was before his illness was not disclosed but the results included:

“There are 4,000 hotel fires each year resulting in 20 deaths and over 1,500 injuries.”

Source: Anthony Melchiorri

Hotel Improvement Opportunities

  • An unused fire alarm system
  • Expired safety equipment.
  • Non-working emergency lights.
  • Manual elevator operations without safety door/barrier.
  • No¬†hotel systems¬†for maintenance or check-ins (no computer).
  • Little maintenance things not being done such polishing brass handles.
  • No system to track revenue and expenses and no budgeting process.
  • Cracked walls, stained carpets and other minor maintenance issues.
  • No marketing of the history of the hotel.
  • Outdated and/or unchanged room furnishings.
  • An under-performing restaurant.

Compared to the other hotels that Anthony has visited in prior shows, the Gadsden Hotel appeared to be in pretty good shape. The only exception was a fire system that was not working making the hotel a major safety and liability issue. The fire alarms had been turned off years ago, the extinguishers were past their expiration dates and there was no evacuation plan.

The GM’s real problem, in my opinion, is that she did not learn and did not seem to have enough common sense to open the fire system box and turn to flip the switch to “ON”. This placed the hotel and guests at great risk.

Throughout the show, the GM was presented as incompetent as well as emotionally fragile. Although the fire system fiasco was a major mistake she did however manage to keep the hotel in pretty good shape.

The Fixes and What Hoteliers can Learn

In keeping with the show’s format, Anthony made several changes and suggestions for the hotel to continue. Among these were:

Gadsden Hotel Fixes
  • Renovating the front desk area.
  • Providing a computer, website and a¬†hotel management system.
  • Renovating one room and a blueprint on how to duplicate.
  • Bringing in a hotel property management company.
  • Developing a fire safety plan( the fire systems were also fixed).
  • Adjusting the role of Robin from GM to marketing historian.
  • Challenging the Chef to reduce the number of menu items and track food costs.
  • Reducing the number of available rooms to save¬†hotel energy¬†expense dollars. (This is an emergency turnaround fix item and we hope that all the rooms open up again as business improves)

In this review I mentioned something old, something new and something terrible. The old was the impact of a lack of experience, the new was not knowing how to check and turn on the fire system. The terrible is what happened to the GM according to the final screenshot on the TV.

The final screenshot from the show indicated that Robin was let go soon after Anthony left. I think this was a terrible mistake as her lack of experience was critical but should not have been fatal. Her abilities were limited and I am in agreement that she needed to be removed from the role of GM.

On the other hand, she was the person that called for help. As a general rule of thumb, you do not shoot the people who ask for help, you find their talents and find a place for them in the hotel where they can contribute. As Anthony stated, Robin was the face of the hotel and her knowledge of its history could have been a valuable marketing asset.

What can we learn in a nutshell? Hotel owners and executives have to be actively involved to manage the properties and the people assigned to them. Finally, think before you dismiss an employee for being incompetent. Firing someone who asks for help sends a horrible and I mean truly horrific message to all other employees.

Tell us about the hotels you have stayed at. What were their opportunities to improve? Come back next week for another recap of Hotel Impossible.

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