SPOTLIGHT ON Robert Reitknecht, Founder & CEO, Hospitality Renu

Meet the visionary behind HospitalityRenu, a driving force in the realm of independent luxury hotels and property improvement. With years of experience and a deep understanding of the industry, Robert Reitknecht’s passion for effecting lasting change shines through. HospitalityRenu was born out of a desire to provide a comprehensive solution for managing and enhancing the core of hospitality: guest experiences. In a dynamic landscape marked by increasing expectations, economic uncertainties, and changing organizational structures, HospitalityRenu stands as a guiding light. By delivering tailored strategies, fostering team excellence, and addressing common industry challenges such as employee retention and engagement, they bring a fresh perspective to the table. With a commitment to measurable success and a genuine desire to make a positive impact, HospitalityRenu is poised to shape the future of the hospitality industry, one ripple at a time.

What inspired you to establish HospitalityRenu and pursue a career in helping independent luxury hotels and property owners improve their guest experience?

I’ve seen a lot over the decades working nearly every job in this industry. I’ve seen how it has changed. More importantly, I’ve seen how it hasn’t. There is a saying that one person alone cannot change the world, but they can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples. HospitalityRenu is my stone. It’s my way of affecting lasting change in this industry that I love from the inside out. 

HospitalityRenu was born from the desire to create a single source of solutions and expertise for managing and improving the lifeblood of hospitality: experiences. I’m passionate about elevating experiences, be it that of guests or the associates working to serve them, and helping today’s leaders do so with confidence. Those in charge of overseeing these experiences are navigating a very complex landscape. 

COVID has dissipated but a possible recession now looms. Expectations of both guests and associates are continually increasing, not just from an experience standpoint but also from a safety and compliance perspective. Organizational structuring is also radically changing. More and more, we see need and demand for fractional leadership that can step in with a custom consultative approach to things like service training and team building. One size fits all is no longer practical nor economically feasible in many cases. HospitalityRenu was designed to address these many inflection points.

Robert Reitknecht, Founder & CEO, Hospitality Renu

Can you describe your experience in guiding both small and large teams to achieve service excellence? 

No two teams I work with are alike; each is different and requires a hand-crafted solution. I do, however, notice consistencies. No matter how big or small a team, dynamics ebb and flow and impact guest service accordingly. HospitalityRenu was designed with a unique approach specifically for high-end luxury brands that are tired of this reality and want to create consistent, excellent service. 

At a high-level, I help establish a clear vision, set specific goals, provide continuous training and development, empower and delegate, recognize and reward achievements, and encourage collaboration. I also help management adapt their leadership style to their team size. 

Retention is also a major focus. After all, you can’t guide teams that don’t exist. Unlike many other consultants who still focus on the more traditional aspects of employee retention (i.e., interviewing process, incentive programs), I show luxury brands how to authentically retain the best, most qualified team members they have and elevate their experience – which goes hand-in-hand with the guest experience.

No matter how small or large the team, it’s my goal to deliver on the promise of value. I have a vested interest in their success, not just in the now but in the future. I always let my clients know they can reach out to me for strategic advisory support as they continue along the trajectory we’ve mapped out. 

Can you share an example of a particularly challenging project you worked on and how you overcame obstacles to achieve success?

An oft-leveraged service at HospitalityRenu is Task Force Management. There was one assignment in which I was hired to implement standards and service initiatives as Front Office Manager for a 550-room luxury lifestyle brand. Staffing, unfortunately, was an issue, and plans were in place to hire more qualified support and the hotel. 

My immediate move was to quickly build relationships to gain the team’s trust and openness to change. Empathy and understanding were key to executing quick wins for the property – and, more importantly, having team members understand their power and purpose at one of the best travel destinations in the world. Motivating and inspiring teams is a huge part of why I do what I do.

After a few weeks, the team appreciated and understood the new standards of guest interaction. The hotel perception I wanted to help elevate more closely mirrored what the resort’s values and mission were for each guest interaction. By showing you genuinely care not just about the hotel’s success but each person on a personal level, the team sees you as not just a leader but someone who can guide their success in and outside of the hotel. Mutual trust and respect grow, and outcomes are optimized. 

What are some common issues you’ve noticed in the hospitality industry, and how do you suggest addressing them?

One of the greatest issues, in my opinion, is associates and leaders burning out and eventually leaving their company. This is a huge loss, especially for high-end luxury brands where employees stay long-term. We must stop and ask – really ask – why these people are leaving, especially if there are other properties in a brand’s portfolio. Did the organization do everything it could to make the associate or leader successful or satisfied enough to stay? 

Associate turnover costs are such an issue, not just for the hotel but for the guests that may remember that smiling face and being familiar with the associate when they return. They will naturally wonder what happened. We should also be asking this question. There’s no single approach to addressing this issue (which is why a custom consultative approach is key), but a great place to start is by listening to your front team with an employee voice and putting initiatives in place to recognize and advance associates throughout their careers. No one will ever stay somewhere they feel stuck. 

How do you approach team building and improving employee engagement in your client’s organizations?

Hospitality organizations with higher employee engagement are 22% more profitable and 21% more productive than their competitors. When employees are engaged – truly poured into, not just kept busy – they act with greater fulfillment. Consider the scenario of a manager requesting front desk associates to increase rewards program sign-ups. To unengaged employees, the incentive is nonexistent and the request feels like a demand. To engage employees, the motivation is already there to meet the challenge with a positive disposition. It’s clear which team will increase sign-ups faster. We take care of things when we feel taken care of.  

Here are just a few dynamics of my team building/employee engagement approach:

  1. Assess the current state: Begin by assessing existing team dynamics and employee engagement levels within the organization using a mixture of tools and methods.  
  2. Foster a positive work culture: Encourage a positive work culture that promotes collaboration, respect, and recognition. 
  3. Empower employees: Provide employees with autonomy and decision-making authority within their roles. 
  4. Provide professional development opportunities: Offer training and development programs to enhance employees’ skills and knowledge. 
  5. Encourage feedback and communication: Establish channels for open and transparent communication. 
  6. Promote work-life balance: Support work-life balance initiatives that prioritize employees’ well-being, be it encouraging vacation time or flexible work arrangements.
  7. Continuously monitor and improve: Regularly measure employee engagement through surveys and feedback mechanisms. Analyze the results and adapt your strategy as needed. 

How do you measure the success of your work with clients, and what metrics do you focus on?

Success starts and ends with the outcome that we’re looking for and measuring the value or outcome of deliverables before, during, and after. It’s vital that we understand the benchmarks we’re looking to achieve if we’re hitting them, and if not, why. Metrics can be measured using surveys, interviews, or guest satisfaction tools with personalized and specific questions around the assignment. 

I always put myself in the company’s or client’s position and ask, “Did I solve their pain points, and did they receive the value they were promised?” When a client asks me to reengage or help further, that is the clearest indicator that I have successfully helped them realize their goals.  

What are your future plans for HospitalityRenu, and how do you plan to continue making a positive impact in the hospitality industry?

I mentioned earlier that HospitalityRenu is my stone being cast across the water (hospitality industry) to create many ripples (positive impacts). The stone has been cast far but has farther to go. I’m excited to continue building value-driven services that will impact each client I work with. Of course, staying open-minded to learning and sharing the value and services I can offer is crucial for continually making a positive impact in this industry. As they say, the day you stop learning is the day you stop growing. In the meantime, I’ll continue sharing my passion and expertise through articles published across various industry magazines as well as targeted speaking engagements.