The Pelican Grand Beach Resort recently named a new executive chef, Todd Lough, who has more than 30 years of kitchen experience.
Instead of taking to the usual channels to divulge the personnel change-up, the resort made the official announcement on May 2 via Facebook. A few weeks earlier, Pelican Grand General Manager Bob Keesler had made mention of a new culinary team in response to a tripadvisor.com review that gave the resort's food a middling grade. "I am happy to announce that we have a new executive chef and sous chef that will transform this experience," Keesler wrote on April 6 in response to tripadvisor.com user "crabjunkie."
"We live in an instant and transparent world in so many ways," Keesler said this week of the role that social media now plays in the hospitality and service industries. The manager, who personally responds to tripadvisor.com reviews, said that while top-rated luxury hotels previously "would sit back on their laurels," consumers now trust third-party reviews by strangers as much as -- if not more so -- than glossy full-page ads and even rankings from established publications and entities.
"[As a hotelier] you can constantly improve -- the more dialogue, the better," Keesler said.
The resort employs a full-time social media point-person to oversee Facebook and other media, where she interacts with guests and fans on a daily basis. But perhaps most telling is the role that tripadvisor.com, a crowd-sourced feedback mechanism, now plays in the hotel's operation. Keesler keeps a close watch on the reviews posted to the site about the property (at the time of reporting, there were 784 reviews resulting in a four-and-a-half-star ranking out of five possible stars). The reviews are analyzed and discussed at weekly staff meetings, giving a very real-world weight to the online musings.
Traditional means of feedback remain critical to Keesler and his team, but he emphasizes the importance of acknowledging that "we've entered a world when we're all on stage... [Social media] is the wave of the future."
As for Lough, Keesler said the chef already has had a "good impact" on the resort's output with a focus on a "fresher, simpler profile." A menu overhaul/relaunch likely will be postponed until the fall to give Lough an opportunity to become intimately acquainted with the area and the resort. Stay tuned to Clean Plate Charlie for more info on the new chef.
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