Bill Fontes took on the role of general manager of The Peabody Little Rock on Feb. 28, when BG Excelsior Ltd., an affiliate of Peabody Hotel Group of Memphis, sold the hotel to Fairwood Capital LLC of Memphis. The Peabody was reflagged as a Marriott last week.
Fontes, 57, is from Lancaster, Pa. He has worked for 35 years in the hotel industry, including stints as a corporate executive chef, corporate director of food and beverage, hotel manager and general manager with Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott, Renaissance and Sheraton. He graduated in 1977 with a culinary arts degree from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y.
Q: What does your job look like as the hotel rebrands?
A: While the conversion can be time-consuming, my priority will always be our guests and the hotel associates. The day-to-day process is fluid and challenging as we are still open 24/7.
How long do you expect the full changeover to take? What does that process look like?
The changeover became effective May 1 and work will continue throughout the balance of the year and into 2014. We have already added coffee makers, 42-inch LCD high-definition TVs, the Marriott bedding package and new Life Fitness cardio equipment in the fitness center. The building exterior will also be addressed and then we will focus on the public space, food and beverage operations, function space and the guest room renovation.
What do you consider to be the greatest difference between the two hotels?
The Marriott branding and what it will provide to Little Rock and Arkansas as a whole. Equally important is the level of commitment we have to provide world-class service through innovative amenities and the technology.
What are hotel guests likely to consider the biggest changes?
What the guest will not notice is a difference in the level of service that the Peabody has been known to provide. What our guests will notice are all of the features that are centered on their experience, whether they are staying with us for business or leisure travel.
How will your role change once the Peabody has fully converted to a Marriott?
The role I will play daily is to assure that our team has the tools, training and information necessary to make sure they have the autonomy to wow our guests. I am also very committed to taking an active role within the community and working with all the Little Rock and other regional stakeholders.
Have the final staff changes been made?
We are still evaluating all of the hotel needs and will continue to operate at the staffing levels necessary to maintain the highest level of personalized service.
What are Marriott’s plans for the hotel restaurant that was Capriccio Grill?
The food and beverage operations are still in the developmental stages. The majority of the menu will remain the same initially, although the name was changed on May 1 to Pancetta Regional Kitchen & Wine Bar. We will slowly introduce the new items before a complete changeover to an Italian concept.