Connection Conversations: Hospitality with Andrew Leonard

Connection Conversations: Hospitality with Andrew Leonard

Overview: Host Anna Fuhrmeister interviews Andrew “Andy” Leonard over the affects and changes in the hospitality industry due to COVID-19 the past year and for upcoming travel seasons.

Running time: 7:02 minutes


Editor’s Note: The following transcript has been edited for clarity.

Transcript from Interview:

Anna Fuhrmeister: Welcome to the TCC Connection. I’m your host, Anna Fuhrmeister. On this episode, I have a special guest, Andy Leonard, who recently graduated from Lynn University with a bachelor’s degree in hospitality. On this episode, we will discuss how hospitality has [been] affected by COVID-19 as well as [the] individuals who work in the industry. So, Andy, welcome. Thank you for having me. So, Andy, how did you get involved in hospitality?

Andy Leonard: So, it started when I was a lot younger, I used to watch all the cooking shows House Kitchen, Kitchen Nightmares, and I watched hotel impossible all those shows, it started getting on the track of hospitality, as well as going to hotels experiencing what they offer to the guests and making them feel comfortable. It’s how I got started in the field.

Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott is shown. Andy Leonard serves on the staff at the establishment. Photo provided by Andrew Leonard.

Nice. Okay, it’s pretty cool. And could you just like describe what the industry like was like prior to 2020?

So, the industry prior to 2020, we have to look back after 9/11, we have to take back how the travel industry and hospitality industry has changed as focus more on security and tightening up personnel and making sure all the guests feel comfortable while traveling. And having them feel like they have a sense of security, or more hotels or heightened security and security guards, putting more protection in line with them, so that they feel comfortable while arriving. And as much as technology has changed as well, we’ve been able to use Apple Pay chips and credit cards now so people can pay easier and quicker. So, it’s been a more effective system over the coming years.

That’s pretty interesting. Are you still able to work in the hospitality industry during the pandemic?

Yes, I’m still working in the hospitality industry as a guest service agent right now at a hotel in Delaware. Now to the people who are looking to get into the hospitality industry at the moment during this whole pandemic: I say keep reaching out to the hotels, and they’re always looking for people to hire, no matter what they’re looking for people to work during Christmas break, even though [in] the slow season, they’re always looking for people to hire. I think it’s a great industry. It’s growing. It’s one of the brilliant industries in America, it could be used basically anywhere in the world. So, I think it’s a great way to build up connections and a great way to build up people meet new people explore how they see the world and how they see the culture of the hotel and get to know the coworkers, get to know your house keepers, get to know your general manager, because those are going to help the foundation of networks to build [and] to get you into a longer career in the field.

What are some of the changes made at your workplace in order to adjust?

So, I’m at a fairly small hotel, it’s about 72 rooms. So, what we have to adjust is how we do our housekeeping pretty much we don’t do stay-over cleaning anymore, where they go in and change your bedding and all that we decided to do a refresher which is basically make your bed, redo your bathroom and take out the trash. That’s pretty much it. We have cut out our breakfast, but we have done it to be breakfast to go bags. And all employees are required to wear masks throughout the entire time and washing your hands. And we have provided – we’re making the coffee behind the front desk as just for cross contamination issues, just to be safe with gloves as always to be protective. We have hand sanitizers throughout the whole property to make sure that everyone keeps their hands nice and clean and sanitized throughout the workspace.

Have working hours been affected at your job?

It has been up and down at the moment we are in a bit of a slow season we’re going to “heads and beds.” Our rates are so low that we’re again, we’re trying to get more people into the hotel so we can sell more rooms at the moment we’ve had peak. So, we have three times been reached 100% occupancy rate, which is great. And we’ve been getting a lot of sports teams, it’s been helping us throughout our work, which is good and gorgeous and we’re a hotel in the middle and on a highway near a highway, which is incredible. We stick out like a sore thumb which is great. When people come in, we greet them, and they feel comfortable coming in and staying at our property.

Are there any major changes in place staff wide? 

Staff wide. Speaking of that, we just got bought by a new management company called New Port Hospitality Group. So, we just got to do a whole rehire process. And that means that some of our housekeepers have been cut out due to the fact that they didn’t have the right paperwork and all that. So that’s why we were short on housekeepers, and we’re looking for housekeepers at the moment. Which is good for us because that means we’re getting more people and we’re getting more interested. And same thing with our sister property. That’s about 20 minutes south from us, they had to get rid of their entire housekeeping staff as well. So, it’s been it’s been a massive change throughout our entire works for us. But it gives us time for us to grow and build a stronger community of housekeepers as well.

That’s pretty cool. It’s interesting. Yeah. From a hospitality standpoint, is there anything you want a client, the consumer or the general public to know?

It’s okay to travel. But be very cautious of the travel advisories from each state, it varies from each state, make sure that you’re fully aware of what travel advisories are, make sure that you’re following the regulations and restrictions that are placed in each state. So that you’re following the proper guidelines from [the] CDC. And making sure that you’re following everything that’s being presented to you. Make sure you have all the facts and make sure you go to the government website and make sure you follow all this information for that it will give you the best benefit when to travel and how safely to travel.

Andy Leonard (pictured) recently graduated from Lynn University with a bachelor’s degree in hospitality. Photo provided by Andy Leonard.

[Is] there anything else you would like to add?

I’d like to add that no matter how grim it seems right now, in the hospitality industry, there are places that are still hiring, and we are looking for more people. It’s a great industry. I know there’s a lot of young people who want to get into the industry and ready to work. But that’s good, because we are looking for new people, all these to get into this industry, and make sure that they’re fully ready to be prepared to be in a post COVID world and see how it differs from being in a post 9/11 world. It’s going to be a major difference between those two. We’re going to get a lot of comparisons between those two, which is going to be an incredible thing to see and see how the difference is going to be.

Well, Andy, thank you for joining me today. Again, our guest Andy Leonard and I’m your host, Anna Fuhrmeister at the TCC Connection. To discover us more on our website at TCC Connection.com. and visit us on our social media on Instagram and Facebook. Thanks again for listening and stay safe. Thank you.