Posted March 25, 2013

Steve Pinetti: Kimpton’s Creative Spirit

Kimpton Buzz

Kimpton has a secret sauce for keeping guests happy — and Steve Pinetti, Senior VP of Inspiration & Creativity, is a main ingredient. He’s been with the company full-time for a whopping 30 of its 32 years, after first working as a consultant to founder Bill Kimpton in 1981 when the first hotel, The Bedford Hotel in San Francisco, opened. We wanted to walk you through Steve’s journey at Kimpton, and share a few of his keys to success. He was happy to dish.

Life is Suite: At Kimpton we pride ourselves on giving guests unforgettable experiences. What is the story behind how this started?

Steve: In 1981, when Bill Kimpton founded our company with the opening of The Bedford, nobody had heard of “boutique” hotels … some even thought we were a bed and breakfast. We were in startup mode, with no money for advertising, and knew that the best way to promote our hotel was through word of mouth. It was critical that our guests not only want to come back, but that they tell others about their great, unique experience.

Bill distinguished Kimpton hotels very early on as being a company that genuinely cares … a company built on unscripted service and from-the-heart interactions. He knew that it all starts with making our employees feel special; if our employees are truly cared for, it carries over to the guest experience. That’s how our company culture was built and was an integral part of our employee orientation, starting from Day One. It’s no different today, 32 years later.

Being fun and playful is also a big part of the picture — and goes hand-in-hand with providing unforgettable service. From our very beginning we have featured complimentary evening wine hour and have been pet- and eco-friendly. And we were the first with a fully stocked honor bar. These perks got people talking way back when and are still as buzzed-about today.

Life is Suite: How has your role evolved from your first day at Kimpton in 1981 to today?

Steve:  My first job at Kimpton was Director of Sales at The Bedford. At my tender beginning with this one hotel, my role involved thinking outside the box and cultivating our culture of care — all to elevate the guest experience. Our company now manages more than 50 hotels and more than 60 restaurants and, in my current role as Senior VP of Inspiration and Creativity, my job is to keep the culture alive.  I’m in the field as much as I possible, talking to old and new employees about what they can do to inspire one another and our guests. I still come to work as excited as I was that very first day.

Life is Suite: We talk a lot at Kimpton about “Kimpton Moments.” These are the moments when our employees and guests really feel our spirit and care come alive … the special times when one thinks, I’m so glad I’m here. What is your favorite Kimpton moment from these last 30 years?

Steve: There have been so many. But what I really love is when we get a young, energetic, excited employee that evolves from a front desk agent or restaurant server to a Director of Operations or a General Manager. I also love it when I get a letter from a guest who says, “I will change my travel plans in order to be able to stay in one of your hotels.” Or when we get a call from a city or developer that says, “We want a Kimpton hotel and restaurant here.”

Above all, it’s great when a guest writes on TripAdvisor and says, “I felt like the staff genuinely cared about my comfort and wellbeing.” These are the exact words we use in training our employees. To see it come full circle is truly amazing. Funny enough, I especially love when our guests are comfortable telling us when we made a mistake or tripped up. They do this not because they were put out, but because they know how much we care about the guest experience and they want to help us improve. They know we are so passionate about doing the right thing, and are on our side.

Life is Suite: If you could be any animal, what would you be?

Steve: The honey badger. It’s the most fearless animal in the animal kingdom. The hotel and restaurant business is not for the weak of heart. You have to be passionate, focused and creative. You have to have a fire blazing in your belly all day, every day.

Life is Suite: Anything you’d like to tell our guests?

Steve:  We strive every day to keep our founder Bill Kimpton’s dream of truly caring and giving you an unforgettable experience alive. We love our guests. We’ll even hug our guests (if they’ll let us!). And I think we’ve actually gone a long way in achieving Bill Kimpton’s dream of being the hotel and restaurant company that might not be the biggest or most well known but is the most loved by employees and guests.

Have a question for Steve? Leave it in the Comments section below!



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  1. Hello Steve,

    Great article. Your comments on the importance of word of mouth is so true. After my initial introduction to the Kimpton hotel group by friends many years ago I began looking for Kimptons whenever I travel. I recommend them to my friends and family. My daughter’s in-laws will now try to find one of your hotels whenever they can because the beds are so comfortable. She used two of your hotels in SF for her out of town wedding guests because she and her husband felt your eco friendly policy was so important.

    We just returned from Seattle’s Vintage Park Hotel visiting our son and once again the service was wonderful. Thanks for the last 12 years of comfort while traveling there. Thanks for the hospitality and comfort we experience in VA and Boston while visiting each of our daughters. And thanks for the Scottsdale Kimpton that we enjoy while visiting my mother. Your selection of cities has been perfect!

    Best Regards,

  2. Alan Silver says:

    Steve: Your goals for Kimpton come alive every time I’ve stayed at one of your hotels. My first experience with Kimpton was at Hotel Marlowe in Cambridge, MA. The reservations representative asked who will be missed while we’re staying at the Marlowe. I told her. She said send us a picture. When my wife and I arrived at our room, on the dresser were framed 8 X 10 pictures of our two dogs. We were blown away. From then on we’ve made it a habit of booking Kimpton if our destination city has one. Your company is terrific and I talk Kimpton up every chance I get. Keep doing what you’re doing. It’s working!

  3. Guillermo Antonini says:

    Mr. Pinneti:
    This is a great interview to read. I am glad my son just shared this with me. He recently started working for the Hotel Palomar in San Diego and I am sure this will be a very inspiring for him and any of your employees.

    Guillermo Antonini

    • Mark Hiss Mark Hiss says:

      Thanks, Guillermo … glad you enjoyed Steve’s post. We’ll pass the message along to him. And so cool that your son is working with us now!

  4. Touche. Great arguments. Keep up the amazing work.

  5. Kat says:

    Are you still with Kimpton hotels?

  6. Sean Rashti says:

    Mr Steve Pinetti,

    I had chance to interview your son Andrew. After learning more about him, I took an interest to learn about you, now an avid fan of your work ethics. Generational differences exists between all parents and children and while it has been one of my personal studies considering my own father with whom I would show a significant gap of ethics, I have taken a deep interest in the success training of the fathers generation and their ideology. Besides your personal time to interview you as a father and your differences with the generation X, I have something to contribute. I respect your time and would be grateful if you’d please take a moment to consider meeting me.

    Truly yours,
    Sean Rashti
    GhUBER Connect 818-448-6500

  7. Salvatore F. Induisi says:

    To the people that over charge credit cards:

    Seems I filled this survey to soon.

    I checked my credit card today and you decided to charge my card $348 instead of $274 ….

    I call and the lady did not want to speak about, ask me to call tomorrow….then..she changed her mind ….then I ask to speak to the manager….I wait on the phone …ohhh he has to call you back.

    Who gave you the right to over charge my card ?????

    Then I am told …I have to wait 5-7 days for the money to be returned?????

    Are you people sick up there in Vero??????

    Give me my money back now!!!!!

    You did this to the wrong person… will be all over the internet….

  8. says:

    It’s difficult to find educated people on this topic, however,
    you sound like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks

  9. Kelly Talcott says:

    The honey badger. It’s the most fearless animal in the animal kingdom. The hotel and restaurant business is not for the weak of heart. You have to be passionate, focused and creative. You have to have a fire blazing in your belly all day, every day.
    I was that person for two years at your newly acquired hotel/restaurant on St Pete Beach FL for two years. I dealt with a lot of difficulty, as a hostess.
    I want you to take a serious look at whats going on there. I sat thru your meeting when you came to St Pete, I love your “idea” but, it is not Castile Restaurant, no one cares like YOU DO. This place is a mess.
    I resigned today after two years BECAUSE I MADE THE MISTAKE OF HAVING A HALF A GLASS OF WINE AT WORK! WOW, way to really be there for each other Kimpton. There it is…I lost my job for having a half a glass of wine during work hours (the free wine for guests I may mention). So there it is, all this happy stuff you state is not really accurate with all of your hotels. I am old as you my friend, and have never been treated in such a way as I have been at Castile; by servers, managers and Chefs. So sad…

    • Kelly Talcott says:

      I would like to mention, further….that I have given up every holiday…Christmas Eve, Christmas day, New Years Eve, New Years day and EVERY HOLIDAY, that is important to be with family and create what life is meant to be….I chose to dedicate my self to Castile Restaurant. I have given up all of those “memories” that we all strive to create with our family and loved ones. I thought that it would have paid off some how…my friends, nothing will pay off more than being with FAMILY. Kimpton may be a great place, but its not great at St Pete Beach FL from what I have witnessed. We will see how Steve responds to these msgs, unlike his staff.

  10. Bob Watson says:


    Do you have any interest in going to the Riordan reunion? It’s been a long time and would be good to see you and catch up. I hope all is well with you and Marcie and family. Give me a call. Even if no reunion, maybe we could get together and have a sandwich. All the best.
    Bob Watson
    (925) 462-3079 home
    (925) 997-0616 cell

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