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SPOTLIGHT on Robert Reitknecht, Founder & CEO, Hospitality Renu

6 May 2022
4 min read
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How did you get started? Can you tell us about your hospitality journey?

For as long as I can remember, I have been working in customer-facing roles that prioritize personal service and relationships. I studied Recreational Leadership in my home state of New York, during which time I worked for world-class hotels and resorts such as The Concord, Grossingers, and Brown’s Hotel. It was my job to not only take care of guests but meet and network with other great hoteliers. To me, the joy of working in hospitality was simply making each guest feel good about their experience and helping create memories that would last them a lifetime. 

I became an experienced hotelier as I continued working for world-leading brands cultivating expertise in many areas. I have held various management-level, guest-facing positions over the last 30 years including Director of Recreation and Hotel Manager on Duty at the Tarrytown House Estate and Conference Center; Front Office Lead, Housekeeping Supervisor, and Manager on Duty for Marriott’s Modern Essentials brands; Front Office Supervisor and Assistant Rooms Operations Manager at Full Service Marriott; and most recently Guest Reception Manager at Montage Hotels and Resorts, where we achieved Forbes Travel recognition. 

I gained valuable experience during this time with different property management systems and management of service operations, especially in high-pressure environments. My decades of experience have led me to where I am today: a Guest Experience Expert specializing in the luxury hotels and resorts industry. Leveraging 30+ years of primarily hotel industry experience, I help luxury service leaders build guest loyalty through personalized, authentic service and build teams that align with high-end customer service cultures. 

I have guided small, one-location teams as well as large, multi-site teams. My goals include driving cross-functional collaboration to improve customer satisfaction, maximizing business performance, and optimizing financial performance. By bringing my entrepreneurial enthusiasm and future focus to each challenge and opportunity, I have established a strong record of turning around marginal operations and creating consistent success.

What do you love about luxury hospitality? 

What I love most is being able to create a caring and authentic experience for each guest I meet, including being a mentor and creating success for the teams I work with. I think of this as being an “Experience Host” where I anticipate what a guest may be looking for before they even ask, then create a memory for them. This could be something as simple as sending hot tea to a tired traveler or locating a child’s lost stuffed animal and creating a magical memory for them to make them smile. I call these experiences anticipated delights, and they’re now more important than ever. The disruption of COVID has majorly shifted service expectations. Guests have higher expectations when traveling to a destination, as do associates that join to make those magical moments happen. It’s the simple gestures that have a huge impact on creating memories for both guests and associates. The single most important word in service should be “always.” 

Trends for the future

I see companies reevaluating how they recruit and onboard staff. There seems to be a shift as many experienced hoteliers have either left the industry due to COVID or subpar managerial treatment during this tumultuous time. As a result, luxury properties are recalibrating to cultivate the mindset of taking care of each other instead of checking off boxes and/or throwing staff out in front of guests with little training and development. I must say there are companies that do training and development well, and they should be recognized for their stellar leadership.

Having a complete wellness plan in place is also a growing trend that is needed. It’s no longer just about medical coverage; it’s about taking care of associates with their career aspirations, creating a roadmap on how to get them there, and taking care of their extended family so that the whole unit is embraced. This also goes for hiring the whole person and not just what you see on a resume, which sadly some hiring managers are still stuck doing.