ERDI offers a path for hospitality leaders of the future, says hotel group CEO

ERDI offers a path for hospitality leaders of the future, says hotel group CEO

Forty-year hospitality veteran Ricky Jeffs used Victoria’s harsh Covid lockdowns to create a future strategy for ERDI hotels, including the development of a registered hospitality school.

With hotels no stranger to brand loyalty but online pricing often prioritised over quality of service, how does a hotel group keep customers coming back for more, whilst also dealing with slimmer margins?

That’s the question ERDI CEO and Director Ricky Jeffs (Feature image) asked himself whilst considering the future of a stable of hotels that includes Pullman Melbourne, Mercure Melbourne, St Kilda Beach Hotel and the soon-to-be expanded Novotel Geelong.

“One of the one of the things that came to mind – and this was during COVID – was that the skillset and the educational ability of employees was getting less and less.

“We looked at our 400 employees that we have early group, and only less than 10 per cent had a qualification in hospitality!”

ERDI Academy Talent at the Mercure.

ERDI Academy Talent at the Mercure.

The immediate thought that came to mind was a Registered Training Organisation that could not only offer a qualification but training in the ERDI way that would continue the legacy of founders Eva and Les Erdi.

Hospitality, too, is now being given due credit as a career, rather than a fill-in job during uni, or a job between jobs.

“I think now it’s a serious industry. But I think everybody’s really struggling for skilled labour and a skilled workforce.”

Plus Jeffs found existing training at various institutions around the country was way behind the times.

“What they taught 10 years ago, is what they’re still teaching,” he says. “We believe that we can influence the current educational pool with what’s real in 2024, not what was happening 10 years ago, but what’s actually happening, and the trends moving forward.

“We think we can help them understand what’s happening today. And what’s happening tomorrow, not what happened yesterday.

Jeffs says the whole path of food and beverage, and the education of it is now different, as is the way a guest eventually arrives at a hotel in the first place, increasingly via an online booking system.

Jeffs drilled down into how guests came to find a hotel, how they book, how they checked in, what they ordered, how they order it, how they spend their money in a hotel, how they check out, and their overall expectations.

“How can we then own the guests when they leave, rather than them just going to bookings.com or Expedia or booking randomly the cheapest hotel, we really want to try and own the customer.

“I think it’s about creating recognition and loyalty.”

ERDI students outside the hotel that offers a Diploma of Hospitality Management.

In addition to offer day programs ERDI offers a Diploma of Hospitality Management.

That’s a lot of education. In addition to offering day programs, such as responsible service of alcohol and food safety, there is a Diploma of Hospitality Management, consisting of 28 modules. That includes communication, a skill for life that junior staff sometimes don’t come equipped with.

“The whole element of a hotel is … guest recognition, is being able to address and talk to the guest and provide a service that goes 24 hours a day, seven days a week, because hotels never close.”

The school currently has just six students who gain experience across both the Pullman and Mercure and their 534 rooms, but Jeffs expects that to rise rapidly as word gets out. Next target is school leavers, then international students. He’s aiming high, with a graduation success rate of 90 per cent.

“To be able to give them the ability to earn and learn in a hotel environment, I think is quite unique in the Australian market.”

Potential students will also include those from charities that are supported by the ERDI Foundation that is financed by profits from the hotels it manages.

“I guess our reasons for doing this is not financial,” Jeffs says. “Our reasons for doing this as to give back to our employees, to be able to give back to the community, through the ERDI Foundation and create, future hospitality leaders, because I think there’s a real void in that area.”

Premium hotel operator ERDI launches its own academy in heart of Melbourne – Travel Weekly

ERDI Academy Talent at Mercure.ERDI Academy Talent at the Mercure.

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