MGM Resorts International is a global entertainment company with national and international locations featuring best-in-class hotels and casinos, state-of-the-art meetings and conference spaces, incredible live and theatrical entertainment experiences, and an extensive array of restaurant, nightlife and retail offerings. The MGM Resorts portfolio encompasses 29 unique hotel and destination gaming offerings in the US and Macau, including some of the most recognisable resort brands in the industry, such as Bellagio, MGM Grand, ARIA and Park MGM.
What was your background prior to working for MGM Resorts International?
Prior to joining MGM Resorts, I had the privilege of working with a number of premier hospitality brands. My experiences with these teams enabled me to cultivate both operational skills and a growth and development mindset. Travelling extensively, I was exposed to diverse perspectives and projects, experiences which have greatly influenced my career. To have found a role with MGM Resorts that allows me to remain involved with operations while collaborating on all of our development projects, domestic and international, is a dream come true for me.
What does your current position involve?
As chief hospitality officer, I oversee an incredible team responsible for driving non-gaming strategic operations, with a keen focus on our guests and curating innovative experiences that deliver long-term value for the company. Our diverse team represents divisions such as resort/hotel, F&B, nightlife, retail, and guest experience. This also includes the company’s art and culture division, and internal real estate efforts focused on leasing and development. Additionally, I am actively involved in supporting MGM Resorts’ gaming projects around the world, focused on the master planning/design of projects such as the MGM Japan Integrated Resort (IR), and partner closely with our global development team, government entities and community officials on the future introduction of integrated resorts.
What are the most challenging issues you face in your current role?
I believe that no matter what field you work in, around the world, today you are facing challenges you never anticipated. All operators are being forced to evaluate and re-evaluate how they work within the ever-changing landscape of today’s business. Yesterday’s solutions aren’t relevant to today’s problems, so we can never rest on our laurels. Certainly, we are facing the same issues as others as it relates to labour shortages, supply chain issues and rising construction costs. For the sake of this interview, I’ll focus elsewhere, but I don’t want to overlook these obvious concerns.
What I will spend time on today is the growing understanding that now, more than ever, it’s not enough to simply meet guest expectations. At MGM Resorts, our focus is on exceeding existing expectations, of course, but also on creating moments that guests hadn’t even yet begun to dream about. That’s a challenging mandate, and while we don’t have a crystal ball, we do spend time researching, consulting with experts, travelling the world to identify new experiences and, most importantly, talking to our guests. Our guests are more discerning than ever, and with so many options for incredible destinations and extraordinary experiences across the globe, the pressure to deliver at ever-increasing levels of creativity and excellence is relentless.
By remaining focused on our guests, hearing their feedback and understanding their journey, we can better meet their needs and deepen our relationship with them. The result is proactive guest service, personalised interactions and connected experiences – all designed to wow.
Right now, I would point to two of the most significant shifts. Firstly, technology has become table stakes for anyone doing business. Technology is expected to make the consumer experience seamless and be additive to the overall journey. Like many companies, the pandemic caused MGM Resorts to move quickly to adapt technologies that would allow for touchless, contactless interactions that eased the guest experience, but is not a part of every conversation we have about guest service and experience.
The second shift I would emphasise is that of consumers’ appetites for lifestyle experiences. No longer are consumers satisfied by just a lovely restaurant, or just a show. That feels a bit too static for today’s traveller. An evening out must hit on a myriad of touchpoints – style, music, design, food and service, all in balance. Within MGM Resorts’ portfolio, our guests are telling us that destinations like The Mayfair Supper Club, Carbone and Catch have exactly the right formula.
How do you see the company changing in the next two years, and how do you see yourself creating that change?
We’ve seen early success with venues like Carbone, Catch and Mayfair Supper Club that really speak to the consumer’s appetite for high-end experiential venues. We will remain laser focused on creating more content, and more experiences that can only be found at an MGM Resorts property.
Las Vegas has always been recognised as a destination that reinvents itself, creating new reasons for visitors to return time and again. I see it as our responsibility to push the boundaries of what Las Vegas can deliver.
We spend a considerable amount of time in identifying partners who are creating innovative experiences.
For me, personally, I have a thirst for seeing what is new and exciting around the world, and identifying how it might work for our customers. I’m constantly pushing myself to have an open mind, to explore further and to push us beyond our comfort zone. This requires a ‘hungry’ mindset that refuses to get ‘stuck’ in what is, and a willingness to explore, travel and experience.
What role do Asia and the Middle East play in MGM Resorts International’s growth?
The MGM Resorts leadership team has a keen interest in both of these markets. We have been deeply ingrained in Japan for years now, as we move through the process toward ultimate approval to develop an Integrated Resort. We see Japan as one of the world’s most compelling travel destinations and are incredibly excited by the opportunity there. Our plan is for significant investment and to create something everyone in Japan will be deeply proud of.
In the Middle East, we are working closely with the team at Wasl Hospitality and Leisure as they look to develop a world-class resort destination. MGM Resorts would serve in a management role, and hopes to introduce our renowned brands to new audiences. It’s an important market, and we believe we are well positioned for the future.
How does design play a role in driving customer loyalty?
Design is central to every decision we make and sets the stage for every experience. Design influences a venue’s brand, its service, its menu – design cements the guests’ first impression. Ultimately, design plays a role in every element of the guest experience, which is why we spend such dedicated time up front to get it right.
We undertake a thoughtful and methodical approach to matching the right design team to the right project to the right concept. These decisions are never made lightly, as we recognise the decisions made at a project’s onset are central to the venue’s ultimate success.
Design is the connective tissue between a brand’s personality and how a guest will experience a space.
How important is interior design in your hotels?
More than ever, we must be intentional about every aspect of our business. No detail is too small, no idea too big. We must work with purpose, be deliberate, focused, and relentless, while staying true to our values and our commitment to creating cohesive experiences that are harmonious in the way they connect design, operations and people.
Part of that intentionality is ensuring we bring a diverse approach to our selection of design teams. Sameness will result in sameness. I believe we can all do a better job of ensuring representation of diverse perspectives in design, which will result in a rich diversity of offerings that will appeal to our very diverse audiences.
Have you noticed any particular trends in interior design?
We think about design as timeless. Trends come and go. We are focused on experiences that will stand the test of time.
That said, there is a movement I’m very excited about, in which micro design firms are doing exceptional work. We don’t always have to look to the big firms to deliver the best work, although we work with the most celebrated design firms and will continue to do so. We love giving opportunities to up-and-coming designers, in seeing new ideas and learning from some of these smaller firms about how they think about the elements of design.
How important is choosing the right designer for each hotel?
As I mentioned, central to a project’s success is starting with the right design team. Our approach is equivalent to ensuring that your foundation is properly set on a construction site. Everything else flows from the early decisions made around a project’s design partners.
Another element that is very important to me in design is ensuring the lighting designer is hired early in the process. Too often, that role is hired at the last minute or is overlooked. My belief is that the theatricality of the lighting is central to bringing any good design to life. It may sound dramatic, but for me, not hiring a lighting designer is like a Scorsese film without a score (If you love good film, you understand what I mean). We are committed to hiring the lighting designer as a key team member at the front end of every project, setting the tone for all that follows.
Which is your favourite MGM Resorts International property, and why?
As the dad of two wonderful children, I learned a long time ago that it’s impossible to choose favourites. More importantly, I wouldn’t want to. Every property, every venue has a unique personality, a unique experience. It’s for the individual to define what they are looking for in any given moment, and then, I’m happy to say, our portfolio is so deep, we can surely find the right experience for that moment.
What plans and aspirations do you have for MGM Resorts International?
My years in the industry have taught me many things, but one lesson stands above all others – people are the foundation of our success. It is the extraordinary team at MGM Resorts that delivers on the promise of all we create. They own all of the accolades and recognitions we achieve. This was true, before and during these difficult years, and will continue to be fact as long as we are in the hospitality business. I am, and will always be, passionate about people, both our employees and our guests.
I am dedicated to being a steward of MGM Resorts’ commitments to its people and to the environment. Those two commitments represent the most important work we can do to ensure the company’s future success, and to ensure we provide future generations a future in which they can thrive.
What would be your dream hotel project?
I’m so fortunate that working in development and hospitality with MGM Resorts allows me to live out my dreams. The company is situated for incredible growth over the next decade, with a major development in Japan as one of our signature projects. I’ve been involved on the ground in Japan since the inception of our planning there, and it is an honour for me to play a role in a project I believe will be incredibly meaningful to MGM Resorts, the hospitality industry and tourism in Japan. While I have had the privilege of working on a number of major hospitality projects in the US, this project in Japan will be the largest of my career, and I truly see it as a dream come true for me.
What one thing have you not yet done that you really want to do?
I’d really like to run a five-minute mile.
What one word best describes you?