What Makes 5-Star Hospitality Today?

Eau Palm Beach

A Conversation with Tim Nardi, General Manager of Eau Palm Beach Resort and Spa, Palm Beach, FL

By Ann Lally
Ann Bierbower Lally is a principal at Altima Palm Beach.

Exactly how does a 5-star resort and spa develop and earn kudos and recognition? It’s not in some secret sauce that an owner or operator cooks up.  “It starts with making every interaction with a guest a promise – one that you simply can’t break,” says Tim Nardi, general manager of the Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa. Oceanfront on A1A, Eau Palm Beach is recipient of Mobil and AAA 5-star and 5-diamond awards, respectively.  It is also on the USA Today 2020 top 10 best spas in the world. https://www.10best.com/awards/travel/best-hotel-spa/

We visited Nardi recently to talk about the resort and his role.

What an impressive background you have in the hotel business. Did you know from an early age that you wanted to be in hospitality? 

“I started very young, about 14 or 15. I was a farm boy from Montana and just needed a job, because I was pretty much on my own. I got lucky and got job as a bus boy at the Holiday Inn in Billings. Then someone asked, want to learn to be a van driver?  Then came desk agent, then night auditor and so on. For me it was about making sure I could always have a job. Then, a general manager noticed me and encouraged me to finish high school and college in Missoula, and to keep learning and growing. The general manager can make a huge difference in peoples’ lives. By that point, I became inspired to help and encourage people.

Is there an aspect of your own personality that contributes to your role and your success?

Well, I’m a people person. I really do love everyone. It is just who I am.  I care about all 650 hoteliers on this property.  (He refers to all staff as hoteliers.) If you don’t care about the people who work here… it starts with the people…  it will never be a good guest experience. I enjoy knowing who the housekeeper is and how her son is faring in college. I want to console a desk agent who might need encouragement.  As much as I can, I manage by walking around. I love getting to see and talk with fellow hoteliers and guests.

What is some good advice you’ve been given and have passed along?

My dad died 2 years ago. He would say, “work hard and be kind.” It’s what I try to do every day.

Consumers tend to know the role of a concierge, but not necessarily of a general manager. What would you define as the biggest difference?

For me, and I can only talk about me … I must lead by example. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do that I expect of them.  I try to be accepting and kind.  I get coffee and check in. it’s informal. I ask people on the pool desk how they are doing. And I ask guests what they are thinking.

Tim Nardi

Tim Nardi, general manager of Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa,
credits hard-working hoteliers-staff and
teamwork for the success of the resort.

Photo Credit @LILA PHOTO

What are some of your other responsibilities?

Business development. Weddings. I will meet brides for their tastings, or their meeting planner. They all have my cell phone. Sales, Finance, HR, Guest Experience, renovation. It all flows through me. A big key is hiring the right team and training. We have an amazing training program it’s two full days before anyone can set foot on our floor. Every interaction with a guest is a promise, and you can’t break it.

How do you create an engaged and friendly culture?

One always must be willing to chip in. Integrity is part of our culture. And our management leads by example. During the COVID crisis, we paid all our employees 80 percent of their salaries between March and July. We continue to pay all benefits, including health insurance.  That includes 650 hoteliers between the spa and hotel.

Wow, that’s a lot of people.

We have 310 rooms. Our core value is be memorable. We call memories goosebumps. If we have information about a guest, we’ll find a moment to stage a terrific memory

Talk about the new realities in COVID of running a resort like this.

We have an entire training book devoted to doing everything right, starting with valet parking, which we have greatly improved. We have portable UV lights. We can scan interiors; we apply plastic wrap around gears and steering column. We sanitize luggage handles. We give away masks and sanitize constantly. These precautions are mostly here for the duration. We are redoing elevators with touch screens and call elevator buttons. This will be permanent. It’s all about trust. We sanitize everywhere. Coasters, temp checks of hoteliers daily, you see a lot when you come in.

What makes the Spa so special?

It is full service with 42,000 square feet and 21 treatment rooms. We have a private garden, hanging chairs… it’s very quiet, and we recently expanded with an outdoor spa dining experience. Our mantra is Play, Pause, Perfect. The spa has men’s and women’s sides, and we have villas for couples with an outdoor seating area. The treatment rooms are tranquil. You can even choose the color, scent, treatment, and lighting.

Are you taking reservations for next year?

Absolutely!

For more information about Eau Palm Beach Resort and Spa:

Eau Palm Beach
561.533.6000
www.eaupalmbeach.com