People First, Guest Centered
Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants’ SVP of operations Nick Gregory gets down to the philosophy of hospitality
BT: How would you characterize Kimpton’s essential qualities?
Gregory: In 1981 Bill Kimpton opened his first hotel and restaurant in San Francisco, the Bedford Hotel and Café Bedford. Bill was a pioneer who believed that the boutique experience was all about creating stays that felt like visiting someone’s livable and stylish home. Another key differentiator was his passion for the restaurant business. From the start, he knew he wasn’t out to create a typical“hotel restaurant.”
As guest preferences, technology and the way we travel change, it’s that genuine, guestdriven experience that will continue to define Kimpton’s hospitality philosophy.
BT: How did you come to your role at Kimpton?
Gregory: Kimpton is committed to a“growth from within”approach that truly values people, not just core competencies. Over 25 years ago, they were recruiting employees for the Kimpton Hotel Vintage in Portland. I started as a doorman at that hotel and never looked back.
What I always share is the importance of being willing to take risks. There are open doors that might not be as clearly laid out at first glance. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t raised my hand for positions that required cross-country
moves or joined a team that was just being built from the ground up. I encourage our teams to step outside of their “regular jobs”to do things they’re passionate about.
BT: How has hospitality changed over your years in the business?
Gregory: There’s a broader spectrum of travelers out there and there’s more choice than ever before. Travelers are more self-reliant in this digital age. Booking apps, travel review sites, and new companies coming onto the scene mean they’re facing countless options. What we need to do as hoteliers is to maintain a level of trust with our guests and provide value through memorable stays.
BT: What is Kimpton doing to set itself apart in a hospitality industry that’s getting more crowded all the time?
Gregory: Kimpton distinguishes itself by remaining true to its roots. Yes, we’re seeing a lot of companies and lifestyle brands that are jumping into the boutique hotel business. Our competitors can recreate a signature style and hip hotel, but they’re still often formulaic. Boutique means taking an anthropological approach and a close look at each market with a fresh lens. There’s no Kimpton“in a box” and never will be.
The key to our success is in how we empower our employees. Everyone – from the bellhop to the GM – is free to be themselves and act from their hearts to make our guests’ stays memorable and meaningful. There’s no rulebook that outlines heart-centered care; it’s innate in the people we hire.
BT: Technology and the sharing economy are really revolutionizing hospitality. How does Kimpton’s philosophy fit in?
Gregory: The sharing economy has been around for as long as people have shared and opened the doors to their homes. It’s not a zero-sum game. The reason why boutique hospitality is gaining traction is because we allow our guests to embark on uniquely local experiences. That localfirst approach isn’t a new concept for Kimpton. Since 1981, every Kimpton hotel has been designed to fit seamlessly into its surroundings and community.
Social media has helped us extend the guest experience with realtime, engaging content and conversations. And we’re thoughtful about the technology that we introduce on property. Technology should amplify our personal, heartfelt approach – not detract from it. That said, we believe technology and automation can’t replace those authentic one-onone interactions we have with our guests. It’s that guest experience that truly defines hospitality.You can’t remove people from the equation.