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For Hotel Solamar, being 'green' a way of business

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Mark Dibella is general manager of Kimpton's Hotel Solamar in downtown San Diego.

Q: Hotel Solamar is among many hip hotels downtown. How do you differentiate yourself from other hotels in the area?

A: Hip is such an individually defined term and I believe that Hotel Solamar succeeds in being true to our goal of a fun, exciting lifestyle hotel without throwing it in our guest's face with excess. We are urban coastal cool with a trendy edge, but we leave the extremes to our neighbors.

Q: Hotel Solamar just received its Green Seal certification. What was the process like and what does it mean for the property?

A: Kimpton was socially eco-conscious long before it was politically correct, having introduced their Earth Care program over a decade ago. In 2009 the company made it their goal to have the entire portfolio green seal certified -- the application involved a daunting process of operational standard reviews and compliance requirements. Fortunately, our green practices already in place allowed us to advance in our review steadily and I am delighted that we are receiving our Silver Certification. Many hotels say they are green or built LEED but operating green daily is another factor altogether.

Q: In what other ways has the hotel always been green, even before the Green Seal recognition? How important do you think it is to be an eco-friendly hotel today?

A: The Kimpton motto is "Stay True to You". Among the definitions this entails is that many of our guests and our staff are environmentally conscious so everything from in-room and back of the house recycling, eco-friendly bath amenity dispensers to food and beverage product sustainability purchasing and composting are some of the mainstays of our culture. We believe this is (and has been) the vision of the future.

Q: What are some of the challenges you have faced as GM of Hotel Solamar and how have they made you and the hotel better?

A: Becoming general manager was exciting and daunting as the opportunity coincided with the most severe economic and hotel industry decline in 50 years couple with a dramatic increase in new hotel inventory -- over 2,000 new hotel rooms entered the market in the past 18 months. The many rewards can be attributed to a dedicated and loyal staff; truly our family. This family group remained confident in their future enough to ride out the tough times in spite of wage & hiring freezes, changes in customer needs and services and roller coaster industry trends.

Q: Based on the last few years, and looking forward, do you see a change for the better in the hospitality industry? If so, in what areas?

A: In many ways the recession was a right siding of many industries from real estate to finance and including the hospitality business. There are many hotels and management companies that learned little during this time but for myself and Hotel Solamar, we learned how important and relevant it is to stay loyal to our guests, to change quickly to meet their needs and finances and to genuinely understand their personal challenges. As an industry I do believe it has taught us to be more relevant to the customer and be more compassionate to their expectations. Flashy does not always last!

Q: You have Jsix restaurant on your property. Does the hotel and restaurant function like a traditional "hotel restaurant" and in what ways is it different?

A: One of the strengths of Kimpton is its diverse ability to present signature design and service oriented hotels and unique chef-driven restaurants. What makes us different is that the caliber and individuality of our award-winning Jsix restaurant spills into the food and beverage service of our hotel banquet and catering operation so you can be sure not to expect rubber chicken and a limp salad. Our chef and his team are dedicated to sustainability in their menu selections, preparation and operation and this blends wonderfully into our hotel story.

Q: What do you love most about your industry and your position as GM of Hotel Solamar?

A: The business changes every day -- heck every hour! The ever-changing tide of people from all over the world is fascinating and there are truly a million stories to hear. I am also grateful to have the opportunity to not just lead a diverse team but also to help them uncover the best in themselves so they can deliver their best traits of our guests and hopefully have fun doing it. When we're having fun it shows and our guests appreciate that!

The Shores Restaurant in La Jolla announced its Wine Director and Manager Lisa Redwine has successfully passed the Court of Master Sommeliers' Advanced Exam and is on her way to obtaining Master Sommelier status.

With 53 total exam takers from across North America, Redwine is one of only 10 individuals who passed and is now only the second woman in San Diego to hold Advanced Sommelier accreditation.

Having successfully conquered this hurdle, Redwine is now setting her sights on Master Sommelier.

The La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club's General Manager John Campbell will be Chairman of the Board for the American Hotel & Lodging Association for 2011.

Serving the hospitality industry for over a century, AH&LA is the sole national association representing all sectors and stakeholders in the lodging industry, including individual hotel property members, hotel companies, student and faculty members, and industry suppliers.

Campbell has been an active member of AH&LA, previously serving as vice chairman of the board in 2010.

The Hilton San Diego Resort & Spa on Mission Bay recently added a 9,600-square-foot event pavilion, which brings the total square footage of meeting space to 25,200 contiguous square feet.

The new addition seats 750 banquet, 1,000 reception and 1,100 theater style.

Addison's Chef William Bradley has been designated as one of the members of Grand Chefs of the Relais & Chateaux hotel and restaurant group.

Chef Bradley is now one of 160 chefs on five continents to have the Grand Chef designation. There are only 17 in the United States, including six Grand Chefs in California. Chef Bradley is the only member in San Diego.

In order to be recognized for this award, a rigorous inspection and evaluation of Addison, adjacent to The Grand Del Mar, was conducted. Judged are the welcome and service, the setting and comfort, and all details of the culinary experience included perfect mastery of the techniques of 'taste'; consistency in the quality of the produce chosen; recipes that are creative and innovative; pleasing presentation in harmony with the style of the property; a wine list offering a wide national and international selection and other qualities.


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