There’s a family story behind the The Del Monte Lodge in the Village of Pittsford.
That story is now partly being written by Alex DelMonte, the president of DelMonte Hotel Group.
DelMonte talked with Adam about the company’s growth plan and its history, which began when DelMonte’s grandfather, Ernest DelMonte, began an innovative construction model.
DelMonte: What he did is he created a patent for a concrete modular building system. It’s called the Delcrete Building Systems. And in the warehouse that’s behind us he bought a manufacturing plant to build hotel room boxes and with those boxes they were furnished and sent out to site, essentially a plug and play. That was the first hotel he built, we didn’t own the hotel, we leased it back to the group, that really gave him the itch to build his own. Marriott allowed him to franchise the brand and we built the Thruway Marriott in 1973. Then by 1980 he had built the Greece Marriott so we were solidly in the hotel business. What he did is he franchised that system to an international investor who built a big plant in Mobile, Alabama and from Mobile we shipped out the boxes, which is what we called them, all around the country and all around the world.
(The family began to focus on the hotel business in the 1990s. Alex DelMonte’s father, John, came on board around that time.)
You take it for granted that every exit has a Hampton or a Courtyard, but back then that really wasn’t the case, it was the Wild West days of hotel development so from 1995 to 2014 we built and opened 16 hotels all of which we managed ourselves.
Adam: How rare is it to have a family have a chain of this size in this day and age?
DelMonte: If you’re between one and five that’s a big segment of the hotel population and then there’s those that own 50 to 100, so it’s a niche to be where we are right now in this 15 to 20 range, but we’re hoping to grow our portfolio as well. We’ve got a lot of exciting projects going on. Since 2015, we opened four hotels and all of them have been more high profile and we have three in the pipeline that are going to open this year.
Adam: What’s the secret? How do you compete in this very competitive business?
DelMonte: Bill Marriott said if you treat your associates well, they’ll treat their guests well and the guests will come back again and again. And our business relies on our guests coming back again and again. We’ve taken that to heart given our history with Marriott. And I think the longevity we have with our associates speaks volumes about how we treat our associates. We have to keep our product fresh. We have to keep up with the brand initiatives and make sure the market knows that.
Adam: I’ve noticed with family business by the time you get to the 3rd generation, sometimes it’s hard to find someone to take over. What made you decide to take on that role?
DelMonte: There was no clear expectation that I would. I started to enjoy the real estate aspect of the business, I started talking with my father and he asked me if I wanted to come back and work with him and really enjoy working with him so I don’t regret anything.
Adam: Has the Airbnb trend influenced the hotel business?
DelMonte: In markets that we’re in it hasn’t had that much of an influence. I think it’s more for the leisure travel like New York or San Francisco and you lose that potential customer, but all in all Airbnb fills a place in the market that wasn’t met and I don’t see it as that big of a competition or hindrance to our business.