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!