Posted July 22, 2013

Kimpton COO Goes PUBLIC: Q&A With Mike DeFrino

Kimpton Buzz

Drumroll please …

Introducing our new Chief Operating Officer, Mike DeFrino. He’s only been COOing since June but has been with the company for 16 years. And he’s just the third person in Kimpton’s 30-year history to hold the title of COO, overseeing a collection of what now totals 60 hotels and 70 restaurants. From that sly grin you might guess Mike’s a lot of fun … and you’d be right. He’s also a dedicated biker, and that particular passion has led him to spearhead a partnership with PUBLIC bikes to provide a fleet of customized bicycles for the complimentary use of guests at every hotel. We asked Mike about his new pet project as well as about his vision for the future of Kimpton.


A: PUBLIC is a perfect partner for us because we both share the belief that design matters in everyday life and that the urban biking experience is one of the best ways to explore a city. They’re a boutique San Francisco–based company, like us. They liked our brand, they saw the affiliation, and we designed a bike together and every hotel purchased at least two of them.

Q: So you’re a biker?

A: Yeah, I’m a biker. I’ve been a relatively serious biker, or at least a conscientious biker, since I broke my ankle in college and had to rehab it. It went from “biking” to “cycling,” and I started to become really interested in it and hanging out with people who did it and learned more and started buying faster bikes and entering some races and doing that sort of thing as a younger guy.

Q: How about nowadays?

A: So fast forward to today, I live in Marin County and probably bike maybe four days a week, whether it’s a mountain-bike loop outside my door or whether it’s a road-bike commute across the Golden Gate Bridge. I don’t compete or do anything like that but it is my go-to form of exercise and it’s one of those things that when I don’t do it my body and my mind and my being misses it.

Q: What advice do you have for guests who might not be too steady on wheels?

A: One of the reasons we chose PUBLIC bikes is because they’re really easy to ride and they’re safe, they’re durable, they have the right number of gears and it’s just a really fun bike to ride. Almost like being a kid again, I gotta tell you. And I think my advice would be, in any of our cities, find the most direct route to get on a bike path or a bike lane and just give it a shot. … Some locations it’s going to be super easy. Like our Surfcomber hotel is right on the bike path, the South Beach bike path. And our hotel Ink 48 is right on the West Side bike path in Manhattan, and our hotel in Cambridge is on the bike path that goes right into Harvard Square.

Q: Breaking Away or Bicycle Thieves?

A: I can’t say that I’ve seen Bicycle Thieves but I’ve seen Breaking Away a ton of times and that’s a great movie. That’s a great one. I think I saw it recently, within the past year. Man, I forgot how good of a movie that was; it was so much fun to watch. The guy speaking Italian the whole time and the cutters; oh, it’s great.

Q: That’s from the ’80s, right?

A: So am I, man. So am I.

Q: So you’re in a new position with the company … what’s your vision for the future?

A: We’re sort of gearing up to become the company that’s not only best loved, but best known for being best loved. We are making decisions and we are organizing our resources and thoughts to be much more directed about how we’re going to appear to our guests and how we’re going to get the name Kimpton out there.

Q: What does that mean for guests?

A: We’re no longer content with the idea that our customers will only know hotels by the hotel’s first name: Monaco or Palomar or Argonaut. We now are convinced that there’s a huge benefit for them and the organization if they know that we are part of Kimpton as well. So that people start using us all over the country, not just in their favorite city.

Q: Do you think that will change the nature of the company?

A: We’re very conscious about maintaining a level of individuality in every hotel and every restaurant, making sure that each one of those experiences remains unique and special and local and germane. But we also think that it’s up to us to make sure that we weave through each one of our properties the Kimpton thread, so we’re being very conscious about what those threads are and how people can feel that the Kimpton experience is not just unique but also extraordinary.


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