Q&A with Todd Brosius, SVP of Hospitality at Citizens Lanier Holdings

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Todd Brosius is the Senior Vice President of Hospitality at Citizens Lanier Holdings.

Today, he shares with us his thoughts on technology’s evolving role in parking & hospitality, why he views challenges as opportunities, plus a few memorable anecdotes from his 23+ years in the industry.

 

ParkingExec (PE): Thanks for taking some time to share your thoughts with us, Todd! Tell us about your background in the parking industry.

Todd Brosius (TB): Hard to believe, but in September, I started my 24th year in the parking business!  For the first 13 years, I was on the operating side of the business, primarily with Central Parking System.  I started my career as an Assistant Valet Parking Manager at the Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel in Atlanta. What a place to cut your teeth in the parking business!  I spent roughly two years in Atlanta before I was moved around by Central to several cities including Tampa, Miami, San Francisco and eventually in 2001, back to Atlanta.

I held various positions during that time including General Manager, Regional Manager, Regional Vice President and even led Central’s Stadium and Arena vertical for a while.  It was great experience and prepared me for the next phase of my career which included 10 years as the Executive Vice President of PortfolioFirst Parking Solutions (PFPS).

PFPS is a Parking Asset Management and Consulting firm and a large part of our business was providing our services to many of the top hotel ownership groups in the country.  I served as a liaison between the parking operator and the ownership group and/or hotel. Simply put, we figured out ways to make them more money.  It was essentially like sitting on the other side of the table for 10 years and negotiating deals with those I had previously been competing against.

This experience, coupled with my initial 13 years on the operating side of the business, was great preparation for my new role with Citizens Lanier Holdings.

 

PE: Can you tell us a little more about your new role?  

TB: Sure thing!  I lead our Hotel / Hospitality Division covering each of the brands.  We currently operate ~150 hotels across all brands, and I’m responsible for not only the oversight of the existing hotels but leveraging those hotels and clients to grow the vertical even more.  It’s been a blast so far.  I’ve been so impressed with the organization since joining – we have really great people across the entire company.

 

PE: What does an average day look like for you?  

TB: Average??  There’s really no such thing!  As you can imagine, my days vary greatly.  I’m often on the road meeting with existing clients or mining potential ones.  When I’m not on the road, I’m doing anything from business development activities, to networking at hotel lodging association functions, to assisting with and reviewing proposals that are getting ready to be sent out, etc.  It really varies from day to day….and I love it that way!

 

PE: Prior to joining Citizens Lanier Holdings, you were at PortfolioFirst Parking Solutions for over ten years. As the head of the lodging asset management team, what were some of the most common issues you addressed with your clients?

TB: By far the most common issue I dealt with is exactly what an asset manager is supposed to do: figure out a way to make more money!

With hundreds of hotels under asset management, I was responsible for determining ways to make each hotel’s parking operation more profitable each year.  That included the introduction of new technologies, the utilization of online parking reservation platforms such as SpotHero, renegotiating deals with the existing parking operator to ensure the deal was consistently “right-sized”, drafting RFPs and managing solicitation processes, etc.

It was a never ending process to determine ways to improve profits for our clients, and I am proud to say we were very successful at it.

 

PE: The hospitality industry is known for being customer-centric. How is hotel parking influenced by the hospitality industry specifically?

TB: Parking is all about service when it comes down to it.  Obviously there are many other factors that play into it (location, price, convenience, cleanliness, etc.). But at the end of the day, if the customer service is great, they are going to come back and oftentimes will overlook the other factors.

Specifically with hotel valet parking operations, our folks are the first and last impression the hotel guests have of that property.  If that impression isn’t a positive one, we have a problem. We are constantly looking for ways to improve the guest service. As we learn those best practices, we want to share those across our brands at our various hotel operations to create consistency.

When I was in Miami recently, I heard an awesome story at one of our high-profile hotels. We had a family that was staying at the hotel for about three weeks, because one of their children needed treatments at the nearby hospital.

Our manager got to know the family and would speak with them regularly as they came and went. During one conversation, the father mentioned they hoped that they would be able to take in a Marlins game at some point during their stay. His son, who was receiving treatments, loved baseball but had never been to a major league game. Our manager reached out to a contact he had and was able to secure tickets to a game for the entire family.

The manager did this on his own without letting any of us know and the only way we found out was when the guest wrote a letter to the hotel. They indicated they would never stay anywhere else when traveling to Miami…they are a customer for life.

In the end, it’s all about having great people out in the field and providing memorable customer service experiences.

 

PE: What would you say is the greatest challenge facing the parking industry today? What are the best ways to confront that challenge?

TB: You mean opportunities, right?! I like to look at “challenges” as opportunities.  Often times when challenges are presented, it forces change creates opportunities for improvement.  As business leaders in our industry, we need to continue to be creative with how we can enhance the customer/guest experience while improving profits at the same time. In line with our earlier discussion, this will include expanding the use of new technologies.

We are also all dealing with what everyone calls the “Uber affect”.  While we are seeing some of the effects of it, I’m convinced it’s not as much of a problem long-term as many do.  It goes back to being creative. 

If drive ratios are declining due to Uber or similar ride-sharing services, we need to see it as an opportunity and find new ways to fill available spaces with similar or higher-rate parkers.

 

PE: Tech often plays a role in creating those opportunities for parking. Are the hospitality industry and parking industry experiencing similar changes when it comes to technology?

I believe so.  We are in an interesting time particularly when you look at new technologies being introduced in the hospitality industry. This new technology improves the guest experience but also has an effect on parking operations.

For example, RFID guest key locks/cards are becoming very popular in hotels across the country.  These are typically converted from magnetic stripe guest key cards. The magnetic strip cards are used not only for the room locks but also in the hotel’s parking facility.  So switching out the locks and cards to RFID in the parking facility requires implementing different readers, firmware, etc.

Taking it one step further is the implementation of digital keys (keys that are loaded to smartphones) and how those interact with the hotel’s parking system.  It’s forced the parking industry to continue to evolve along with the hospitality industry and it’s certainly been interesting to be involved with that.

 

PE: Over the next three to five years, how do you see the parking industry changing, as a result of emerging technology?

TB: While there is a tremendous amount of automation out there already, I believe this will only expand further.  I also believe we will see a significant increase in the usage of online apps to make finding and purchasing parking more convenient.

For example, Citizens has been working with a group which has developed an application that is essentially a one-stop shop for your parking needs.  It can be customized for a specific hotel, resort, sports venue, etc. When you purchase your ticket or room, you can also purchase parking.

It doesn’t end there, though.  You can also receive app alerts to notify you when to leave your house in order to arrive by your requested time and determine the best route to and from the parking facility based on traffic.  I believe over time we will see more and more of these types of technologies being used by the consumer.

 

PE: What advice would you give to someone looking to build a career in parking?

Be willing to work hard and do anything necessary to get the job done.  I was reminiscing with someone recently about my days at the Westin ~23 years ago and how at one point, I worked over 30 straight days due to being short on our management staff. Was it fun – heck no!  But it was necessary to get the job done and certainly got me noticed by the market leaders at that time. I’m convinced that my time in that role set the stage for my success in the industry.

My other advice would be to network as often as possible and be sure to maintain the relationships you make along the way.  I believe this holds true even with your competitors. Some take the approach that you can’t have a relationship with those that you compete against. I believe the opposite. There are enough slices of the pie out there for everyone and in the end, I believe we can help each other be successful.  I have several very close friends that I compete against each and every day…and I think it’s great.

Parking is a very tight-knit industry and the more people you know and more relationships you have, the better chance you will have of being successful long-term.

 

PE: What excites you most about the parking industry right now?

TB: While we have seen a remarkable amount of change in our industry over the years, I believe we will see much more in the years to come. It’s exciting to be part of it, and I look forward to seeing how the industry continues to evolve!

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