Robert Rauch and Cameron Lamming of RAR Hospitality take hotel management to the next level
Robert Rauch got his start in the hotel industry as a banquet dishwasher more than four decades ago. To say that the founder and CEO of RAR Hospitality has come a long way would be an understatement. After experience as the Director of Education and Training for Best Western in the Eighties, helping people at the property level, he realized that the best way to be successful in the industry is “not just to run one hotel, but to teach others how to run hotels and to also be involved in more facets than what occurs at the property level, meaning marketing and finance too.”
His partner and Chief Development Officer at RAR, Cameron Lamming, came to the company after working with them while employed as the head of acquisitions for a real estate mogul in San Diego, California. When the project with Rauch completed, the two teamed up to invest in hotels and the rest was history. The creativity Lamming honed while working in development at Disney combined with his experience acquiring hotels paired with Rauch’s operational expertise created a formidable duo.
These days, RAR Hospitality helps boutique and chain hotels innovate, renovate, and remain competitive in an ever-evolving industry. Rauch, Lamming, and their carefully assembled team—all of whom were personally recruited by owners of the company—put their expertise to work making hotels succeed.
“The art of hospitality has become the art and science of hospitality,” explains Rauch when discussing the changes he has seen over his 40-plus years in the business. Whereas marketing a hotel used to be reliant on things as simple as buying print ads and hanging a vacancy sign, the internet and digital marketing have changed the landscape.
Rauch continues, “It’s a big, bad digital world out there, and if you don’t know SEO, SEM, and PPC, you’re lost in the hotel world.” RAR Hospitality helps floundering hotels enter the digital age with its full suite of digital marketing strategies, market analysis, HR management, and more.
Similarly, a changing customer base is more concerned about sustainability and environmental issues. Being aware of this and knowing how to promote an eco-conscious attitude on social media is now a vital part of reaching out to potential customers.
Lamming believes that an increasingly important part of succeeding in hospitality is having a deep understanding of the guests, offering them a unique experience. Expounding on this belief, Lamming says, “Hotels cannot just be a means to an end, they have a duty to be part of the experience for the traveler. A good management company focuses on understanding their guests so deeply, they not only serve their specific needs, but they can connect with them on a lifestyle level.”
Of course, the popularity and accessibility of short-term rentals through Airbnb and VRBO has also necessitated changes from hotels stuck in their old ways. Rauch explains that a simple way for hotels to win against these new competitors is to provide extraordinary customer service, make memories, and provide guests with exactly what they want.
RAR Hospitality caters to a new generation of customers by providing hotels with technology such as keyless entry and convenient booking and checking in via mobile devices. Additionally, offering a distinct and welcoming lobby with an attractive bar and restaurant where guests can congregate and socialize is something RAR incorporates into properties as a way of offering something alternative lodging sites can’t.
Knowing the site and its history and playing to that is yet another way RAR sets its hotels apart. An example is the Lafayette Hotel in San Diego which Rauch and his team restored to its former glory by emphasizing the classic pool Johnny Weissmuller, the original Tarzan and former competitive swimmer designed, and promoting its past as the destination for other Hollywood luminaries like Bob Hope.
Here is another place where Lamming’s experience comes in handy, he explains, “While at Disney, I figured out that there are two main things that create an exceptional experience while on vacation: noticing things that others may not, that are not blatantly obvious but cool fun things (Disneyland does a phenomenal job of this with things like hidden Mickeys); and feeling like you’re being treated differently than the masses.”
Creating spaces that are unique destinations, can be a source of community pride, and points of discussion are just a few ways in which RAR Hospitality distinguishes its properties from the competition.
Incorporating technology is not only a way to compete with home rentals, it’s also a way to keep costs down and increase efficiency. RAR has used a robot named Hubert on one of its properties to much acclaim.
Hubert makes deliveries to guests by using Wi-Fi to call the elevator and select the floor, successfully navigating the halls and avoiding guests and other obstacles, and calling the room to complete the delivery. He even does a little shimmy when a satisfied guest gives him a five-star rating.
The robot is more than simply a novelty that attracts guests, he also frees up staff to do the jobs they’re paid for and avoids leaving the front desk unattended while a staff member makes a delivery. RAR Hospitality is also looking at ways to use robots to help housekeepers with their vacuuming, a step that Rauch claims will make their jobs easier and help them avoid back injuries which are one of the leading causes of workman’s comp in the hotel industry.
While some tech is incorporated for individual hotels and their personalities, other tech—like strong Wi-Fi and smart TVs—are more universal. While tech is vital, RAR is careful not to lose the human touch, which includes maintaining a horizontal management style. Rauch and Lamming are aware of the importance of the workers already employed at the hotels they come to manage. Lamming further illustrates, “We work extremely hard to empower every team member to not only make decisions on the spot but to have a sense of ownership of the hotel. We are constantly trying out new ideas at each hotel and most of those come from those at the hotel.”
RAR Hospitality continues to work its magic, developing and managing new hotels and finding innovative ways to lead them to success. The company currently has some exciting developments in California in the pipeline, including a Tru by Hilton in Inglewood near the future site of the LA Rams stadium, a Tapestry by Hilton in Point Loma that celebrates the community’s Portuguese history, and a Fairfield Inn & Suites in Oceanside.
This is not to mention five-star hotels in Beverly Hills and Chicago, one of the few ventures outside the West for RAR Hospitality. Further expansion into new territories is not out of the question, but Rauch explains that the fit has to be right for the company to explore options that require more travel than a two-hour flight from their home in San Diego, California.
Wherever the future may lead, RAR Hospitality will continue to take its hands-on approach to hotel management as they find innovative ways to deal with the changing landscape of the hospitality industry, including everything from new legislation to technological advancements. As Rauch explains, “we like to be ahead of the curve.”
RAR Hospitality understands the importance of finding a management company that is aligned with their clients’ own values, culture, and interests, and the challenges this can bring to an owner. They are owners, managers and experts that take pride in providing clients with the peace of mind that their assets are reaching their full potential.
RAR looks at each property’s unique needs to help uncover opportunities and custom build a solution and structure. RAR’s portfolio of services includes a full range of operations, sales, marketing, guest satisfaction and consulting services on boutique and branded properties.