What makes a good hotel stay great?

I’ve written frequently in these columns about what makes a good restaurant a great one.

As a restaurant consultant, I have been staying two to three nights a week at hotels for more than 25 years, so today I’ll share what I have learned when it comes to making sure that I have a good, or even great, stay at my next hotel.

Calling ahead

Even though I can see the photos online, they only tell the story the hotel marketing folks want you to see. When I call a hotel I’ve never used, and especially if my family is along, I ask:

• How old is the property?

• When was the last time the rooms were redone?

• Is there a restaurant on the property and what are the hours?

• Is there a pool and is it open?

• Where do I park?

• Is the area considered safe?

• Is there any construction going on?

• Do you offer early check-in or late checkout?

• Are there any resort fees?

Checking in

I love it when I am warmly greeted at the front desk by an employee who looks me in the eye and tells me about the hotel. Already I know that my stay is probably going to be above average.

As they check me in, the front desk person asks why I’m in town and might I be looking for somewhere to dine. Here is my favorite part: The employee tells me about great local restaurants, not chains.

Once I get to my room, the front desk calls to make sure it meets my expectations. If it does, great, but if it does not, I can tell them immediately and head off an issue before it becomes a problem.

The room

I have stayed everywhere from a Motel 6 to The Ritz and everywhere in between. I have the same room criteria for all of them

The room must be clean but not too clean. By that, I mean the room looks as good as it can, floors vacuumed, and bathrooms clean and stocked with towels and amenities like soap and shampoo.

To me a room can be too clean when the housekeeping staff uses too much or too many chemicals and the smell is overwhelming.

It is the simple things that make a room as good as it can be. The lights all turn on, the TV works, the temperature control is easy to set. If any of these items don’t work or the room smells too clean, I go to the front desk and ask either for a room change or if I might inspect a few other rooms to make sure I get one that works for me.

It’s not the property, it’s the staff.

The same thing that makes a good restaurant great makes a good hotel stay into a memorable one: the staff.

At one hotel I went to a few years ago, the front desk was running behind in getting guests checked in. The front desk person saw all our bags and knew we didn’t want to wait for an hour. He immediately put our bags into the holding room, recommended a great restaurant, and gave us a certificate for 20% off our dinner.

Upon our return, he welcomed us, gave us the key and told us our bags were already in the room. What makes this story great is that it was a cheap economy motel, but it provided Ritz-quality service.

When you find a hotel like that, you’re likely to recommend it to friends and return if you can. The staff makes all the difference.

• Izzy Kharasch is president of, a consulting company based in Deerfield. He offers free phone consultations to local restaurant owners. Contact him at

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