Richard C. Kessler, Chairman and CEO of The Kessler Collection -- a portfolio of 12 artistically inspired boutique hotels and restaurants -- has become a nationally recognized industry leader through his entrepreneurial business sense and experience guiding The Kessler Collection, Marriott Autograph Collection and Days Inn, mixed with a creative energy and dedication to purpose.
How and why did you get into the hospitality industry?
I majored in engineering at Georgia Tech to become a real estate developer. In interviewing small entrepreneurial development companies, I met Mr. Cecil Day, who developed apartments in Atlanta. I passed up numerous job offerings with large companies in banking, stock brokerage, and engineering to pursue my dream. Cecil’s offer was to join him and become his partner, and President of the company in a few years at the salary of $9,000 / year in 1970. The other large companies offered more but not the opportunity to learn development by immediate and active involvement.
After his family summer vacation, I found three yellow pages in handwritten pencil. The top of the page read “Days Inn of America”. The three pages described a budget hotel chain starting with three. After reading he asked me to tell him my thoughts. I said it is exciting, and yes, I think it would work. That week on Friday afternoon, I designed the logo standing beside Mr. Day.
He soon asked me to gather the corporate apartment management folks to discuss. After a few hours of discussion, the team voted to support this idea. Days Inn was off to a quick start after Mr. Day completed a sale of his apartments. Serving as his right hand, I headed up construction doing all contracts including FF&E. During the day, I negotiated contracts and at night and after dinner, I approved invoices. WOW! We were off to a fast start. Two years later, I moved to Florida and started several development companies across the East coast all building Days Inns and occasionally apartments.
In spring 1975, Cecil asked me to come back to Atlanta to take over all Day companies including the operating / franchise company, Days Inn of America. Days Inn had gone through troubled times and was in weak financial condition. My new job was to build the company’s organization, profits, and consistent quality operations. My team accomplished this over the next 24 months. What a project – What stress – What satisfaction!
(Bohemian Hotel Savannah Riverfront)
What do you believe are your most successful decisions and biggest mistakes and what did you learn from your mistakes?
My most successful decision was to be an entrepreneurial real estate developer. To later pursue my passion of art and music in my hotel designs and concepts. To underestimate the difficulty of driving business to a remote location compared to an active urban location. Therefore, no more remote hotel locations.
How do you differentiate your hotel brand from other luxury brands?
The Kessler Collection brand is about creating “Inspiring Places”. Therefore, we see our business as the entertainment business. This is a different perspective than simply renting rooms and selling food. The high level of detail in architecture and design also creates as inspiring stage for the entertainment.
What are the most important traits in becoming a successful hotelier?
One must enjoy entertaining and serving people – happy people, sad people, and often tired and grouchy people. Friendly relations with your team and your guests are essential for long-term success. Many types of skills are needed to experience the ways one can be successful in this industry.
What products do you cross-market with and how do you think they contribute to your hotel brand?
Cross marketing has not been a significant factor in developing our brand.
(Grand Bohemian Asheville)
What is your mantra / life quote?
“Always leave things better than you found them.”
Favorite travel destination?
Kessler Ranch – Colorado.
Describe a great night out for you.
A seven course wine dinner with artists, musicians, and beautiful people.
What’s next for The Kessler Collection?
A secret. Come and experience new ones!