This is something I both preach and practice. During the peak of COVID, I traveled to hard-hit hotels nearby (at the time I was in Park City, UT for work) and offered pastries from my favorite local café.

The Power of Community-building in Hospitality

Robert Reitknecht

One of the first things I recommend my clients do to start immediately improving service and operations is engage with their local community. Deepening roots in the place your property calls “home” is an easy, no-cost way to establish new connections that can help you deliver more valuable guest service, increase awareness of your organization where it matters most, and find fulfillment in doing good outside yourself. No matter how you slice it, it’s a win.

This is something I both preach and practice. During the peak of COVID, I traveled to hard-hit hotels nearby (at the time I was in Park City, UT for work) and offered pastries from my favorite local café. On each box I included a handwritten note simply saying, “Thinking of you.” I also supported the city's fire department by purchasing lunches for the crew. As a former Fire Department Captain, it's deeply important to me that these frontline workers always feel supported. These are just two ways I have connected with a local community (I even have my picture in Park City's best pizza place in town, that’s a story for another day!).

This community immersion never fails to elevate the guest experience. I was able to personally call the manager of a snowmobile tour to make personalized requests versus standard guest bookings. I could recommend charming boutiques and restaurants based on individual guest preferences and dietary restrictions. And wouldn’t you know, branching out made me happier and more engaged in my job. Those of us who work in hospitality do so because we love people and exploring new things. What’s there not to enjoy?

3 Ways Your Organization Can Locally Connect

1.      “Dish”with local eateries

Every community has beloved eateries that keep both hearts and stomachs full. Connecting with these establishments gives you a special “in” for the work you do (providing fantastic guest experiences). Who knows, there could even be an opportunity to partner with them to boost both your brands and give travelers the kind of local and authentic experience they want.

My recommendations:

  • Offer a complimentary breakfast that incorporates local flavors or a rotating “featured dish” from this eatery. Only 35% of U.S. hotels offer a complimentary breakfast, according to industry expert Randy Greencorn, yet a 2019 study conducted by Culinary Visions found that this is a key differentiator for 65% of American guests. Culinary Visions also found that 58% of hotel guests want dishes prepared with local ingredients.
  • Invite a local food truck to serve late night eats (57% of guests want late or 24x7 food options, per Culinary Visions). Offer special snacks that infuse     the flavors of your community (ex: a New England property offering locally sourced maple syrup).


2. Give back to the community

Be it on your own or with your team, volunteer to give back, champion your organization’s philanthropic efforts, and be part of something bigger than yourself. This could be a park or beach cleanup, a fundraising event, or a more permanent change to your organization’s business model.

The Godfrey Hotel Boston, for example, is fighting inequality and injustice with special packages for guests to book in which money is donated to various social responsibility causes. Guests get a 10%discount, and $15 is donated for each night of their stay to either Stop AAPIHate, the Women’s Foundation of Boston, or BAGLY.

Another great way to giveback is to leverage your platform. Offer certain times and days each month for local charities of your choice to set up a display on property and educate guests on their mission and values. There are so many ways to give back to your local community, and there’s no wrong path to take.

3. Think outside the box

How many hotels or resorts can say they host a farmer’s market every Saturday in their parking lot? How many do a monthly “local business in residence” where different local brands do a temporary pop-up shop? How about offering your conference rooms as coworking spaces for micro business owners who can work from anywhere?

There are many fantastic ways to advocate for local businesses by challenging the status quo and doing what others have not or are hesitant to. Innovation is a prized quality inorganizations today. Even what feel like small steps can create big impact.

Community-building is a powerful way to grow your business and deliver exceptional guest experiences. I hope you find these insights and recommendations helpful!  

About Robert Reitknecht

Robert is committed to helping independent luxury hotels and individual property owners achieve world-class guest experience, culture, and authentic service excellence. As Founder and CEO of HospitalityRenu, he leverages decades of operational, technical, and customer service experience to help clients improve satisfaction and retention, enhance team building, improve ROI, and innovate through disruptive change. He has guided small, one-location teams as well as large, multi-site teams, assisting with everything from service touchpoints to quality standards to guest survey programs. By bringing his entrepreneurial enthusiasm and future focus to each challenge and opportunity, Robert has established a strong record of turning around marginal operations and creating consistent success.