Like the restaurant industry, the hotel business is one of the most difficult industries to survive in. With competition at every corner, the pressure to meet and exceed guest expectations, and the daily stresses of running a business, even the slightest errors can have a great effect on a hotel’s bottom line. So when CEO and General Manager of , Krista Heron Baroudi, heard about an unconventional opportunity to make improvements to her 54-year old family business, she jumped at the chance.
The concept of Hotel Impossible is not a new one in the reality TV world. Similar to the Food Network’s Restaurant Impossible or Bravo’s Tabitha’s Salon Takeover, the show brings in leading hospitality industry expert Anthony Melchiorri to deliver his tough love thoughts on all aspects of the business, from the décor, to the staff’s demeanor, to marketing and advertising efforts. Known as the “hotel fixer,” Melchiorri uses his more than 20 years of experience, including positions at the prestigious Plaza Hotel in New York City and the world-famous Algonquin Hotel, to help get business booming again. His passion for the hotel industry, coupled with his no-nonsense approach to business, make for riveting, yet not over-the-top, television.
“If a hotel owner is calling a person they’ve never met before for advice, they want to hear the truth,” Melchiorri said. “I don’t yell at people, I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but you’re already a risk taker by calling me. My job is to look you in the eye and tell you want you need to hear, if you choose not to listen, that’s up to you.”
While Melchiorri has a track record of success, Baroudi admits that the decision to join the show was not an easy one. Because the reality show didn’t hit airwaves until April 2012, Baroudi had nothing to base her decision off of except a few recommendations from other hotels and Melchiorri’s resume when she approached by the production company in October 2011. Nevertheless, she took a chance.
“I did as much homework as I could initially, and I looked at his impressive credentials and his history, as well as the media company I was talking to,” Baroudi said. “I weighed all things considered and felt that it was worth the exposure to take a chance. It was a leap of faith, but I went and signed on the dotted line.”
After signing on with the show, Baroudi met Melchiorri for the first time during the first day of taping, which lasted five days. Both got to work immediately on making changes to improve the day-to-day workings of La Jolla Cove Suites on Coast Bouelvard.
“My biggest fear was the fact that we are an old property, the main building was built in 1959, so there are always some things that are out of my control, though we try to work around them,” Baroudi said. “It worked out that what he picked up on during his time was truly where I wanted his help. Had I been completely blindsided or had he tried to use a completely different philosophy it would have been more of a gamble, but luckily it turned out extremely well.”
While neither Baroudi nor Melchiorri could reveal too many details about specific changes ahead of the May 21 airdate, both said that subtle changes to the hotel have made a dramatic impact on percentages, as well as how Baroudi and her staff perceive their business. In fact, Baroudi has made the reality show mandatory viewing for her management staff, in the hopes of picking up even more tips and tricks from other episodes of the show.
“I can tell you that everything he suggested has been or is being implemented, 100 percent,” Baroudi said. “He helped us with something I have struggled with for 10 years now, and he came in with some new processes to follow. I’ve already seen a significant change in my bottom line.”
And according to Melchiorri, it was Baroudi’s open-minded attitude and willingness to accept his critiques that made her experience such a success.
“What was great about Krista was when I gave her a solution, she implemented it,” Melchiorri said. "It’s nice to get someone who listens to you, takes your criticisms, and hits the ground running.”
Melchiorri also commented on the receptiveness and supportiveness of La Jolla Cove Suites’ staff, noting that while many hotel managers focus on keeping their guests the happiest, the truth is that a happy staff is in fact the key to a successful business.
Of the overall experience, Baroudi says that she couldn’t be happier that she took the leap of faith. Although getting used to being in front of the camera took some time, the initial nervousness was worth the final outcome.
“After doing this for more than 10 years I’m not one that feels I know everything,” she said. “I was excited to have a fresh set of eyes renew my operation, and see if I was missing something. I was hoping that I was clear headed enough to be seeing my property for what it truly was, and was extremely hopeful that he (Melchiorri) would help me on my weak points. And that’s exactly what he did.”
With her receptive nature and openness to change, Baroudi earned what some may consider the highest honor from Melchiorri, a 20-year veteran of the hotel industry.
“La Jolla Cove Suites is literally the first place I’m going on vacation with my family as soon as I get a break,” he said. “I love hearing the wildlife on my balcony, I love the views, I love the location. It’s in a beautiful location and I really know that hotel is going to exceed even my expectations.”
So with an uptick in her bottom line, a new outlook on her business, and rave reviews from an industry leader, would Baroudi go through all of it again?
“Most likely,” she said. “It was fun, but ask me again after it airs.”
The La Jolla Cove Suites episode of Hotel Impossible, airs on the Travel Channel on Monday, May 21 and 10 p.m.