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July 9, 2018
On the record

Manager of new boutique hotel says Portland is a 'complete hospitality town'

Photo / Jim Neuger
Photo / Jim Neuger
Jeff Lidinsky, general manager of the new AC Hotel Portland Downtown/Waterfront, in one of the guest rooms.

Jeff Lidinsky is general manager of the brand-new AC Hotel Portland Downtown/Waterfront on the city's eastern waterfront. He moved to Portland last October after three years as hotel manager for Hilton Downtown Indianapolis. He has also worked for the Hyatt Hotels Corp. in Chicago, Santa Barbara, Calif., Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.

The Chicago native — and Cubs fan — sat down with Mainebiz before giving a quick behind-the-scenes tour of Portland's new lifestyle boutique hotel. An edited transcript follows.

Mainebiz: What attracted you to the hospitality sector?

Jeff Lidinsky: In conversations with my guidance counselor at Western Illinois University [in Macomb], she told me there was an opportunity to do an internship in Key West, with a recreation, park, tourism and hotel management emphasis, so I raised my hand for that right away and got into it. That was pretty much it.

MB: How do you like Portland so far?

JL: I love it. It is a complete hospitality town, from the food and beverage aspect to how friendly people are. It's thriving from a hotel standpoint — and from a development standpoint, obviously — everywhere you look. And it's such a neat and attractive destination. You have all the weekend warriors coming from New York, from areas of Canada and then you have folks coming from all over the country for summer vacation, not to mention the cruise ships, a whole other dynamic. It is a perfect place to extend your hospitality career whether it be food and beverage, hospitality, resorts.

MB: Finding talent can be a problem in Maine. How is hiring going for you?

JL: It's bittersweet, because the unemployment rate in Portland is pretty low. But we're also finding that there's hidden talent in Portland, you just have to peel back the layers. We try to hire on attitude. We can always teach and coach the systems, so we're really looking for someone who lives and breathes hospitality. We can teach the rest. We're up to 30 employees [as of June 25], and our goal is 40.

MB: Tell us about your hiring 'casting call.' What was that about?

JL: The casting call is required by the AC Hotel brand. It's a very neat opportunity to think outside the box in how you recruit talent and shape the mold of a job interview. We held it at Aura. It was a nice production, with sound and music and lights, and we did ice-breaking games. We got a chance to see the potential employees in a different arena versus just sitting across a desk at an interview.

MB: Who's your target customer?

JL: Millennials ages 25 to 40 with entrepreneurial spirit.

MB: Will you also be targeting the meetings business?

JL: Yes, we have just over 2,700 square feet of meeting space, two main meeting rooms and then the two smaller parlor rooms. That meeting space and that flexibility gives us the opportunity to go after group business with a lot of food and beverage contribution, which is great for us.

MB: How will you position this hotel vis-r-vis your competitors?

JL: We're positioning ourselves ahead of the select-service hotels and just under the full-service properties. We're what Marriott classifies as a lifestyle boutique brand.

MB: Given all the development in this area, isn't that a lot of competition?

JL: At this point, it's probably too early to tell. But given the fact that tourism is so prevalent and popular and thriving in Portland, I just look at this as an opportunity to bring in more business to the city. We're positioned to do well.

MB: What's the biggest change you've seen in the industry?

JL: I've been in the business for just under 20 years. Since then we've seen the ability to check in on your phone, open the garage doors with your phone, check in via tablets, kiosk machines, so that's the full technology piece. There's also no printed compendiums anymore for you to go through and look for in-room dining. It's all done through television, so I think the technology piece has been the biggest influence and driver of change.

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