by Zohreen Ismail
Ree Drummond, popularly known as the Pioneer Woman, recently stepped into the hospitality industry with the opening of her eight-room hotel located in Pawhuksa, OK. She is known for her delicious recipes, strong family values, and creative twist on just about anything! The Boarding House reflects just that, and Ree is proud to be stepping into an industry centered around providing a memorable guest experience. Today’s Hotelier caught up with Ree Drummond and asked her to share all about her new hotel. Find out what sets the Boarding House apart from other hotels, and how Ree has become an innovator, leader, and trendsetter across multiple industries.
What inspired you when designing the Boarding House?
My husband Ladd and I split the hotel in half and each designed four rooms. The four Ladd designed are decidedly masculine, with wood finishes, leather furniture, and clean lines. In my four rooms, I exercised my femininity in noticeable ways: crystal chandeliers, soft fabrics, vivid colors, and curved lines. In the end, each of the rooms is unique, which was how we wanted it. We want guests to want to come back, if for no other reason but to be able to stay in a different suite than the one they had before.
How would you describe the style of the Boarding House?
We describe it as a ‘Cowboy Luxury’ hotel, but luxury can sometimes connote a level of ‘niceness’ that is intimidating. I might instead describe it as ‘Refined Country.’ All the surfaces are durable and easy – nothing delicate or breakable. Guests should feel free to unpack and really live in the room without worrying about breaking or scratching anything. That’s how our house on the ranch is – it has to be able to stand up to cowboy boots, dirt, and spurs.
Being in the hospitality industry, what challenges can you foresee?
Our primary goal when planning the Boarding House was to provide a guest experience like no other. Since we only have eight rooms, this admittedly is much easier to do, but service and hospitality has come to be our defining quality, even more so than the decor and comforts of our room. We want each guest to feel nurtured and cared for, so we begin by calling them a few days before their stay in order to ask if they have any special requests, and if there’s anything we can do for them during their stay that will make them feel more at home. We truly want them to enter a haven when they stay with us, and whether that means coffee brought to them at 7:49 a.m. (or whatever time they specify), or if they want a certain kind of flower in their room, we will do our best to make sure they feel valued and appreciated.
The only challenge I foresee with this approach is scalability – i.e. if we decide to take our hotel concept to another city on a larger level. But now that I’ve seen the powerful impact this level of service has on our guests, I wouldn’t want to run a hotel any other way.
What is the main takeaway you hope your guests leave with when they stay at the Boarding House?
What I want most is for our guests to feel that we have loved having them with us – and I truly believe that our staff feels honored to host each and every guest. I want our guests to drive (or fly) home after their stay and feel like they have had an unforgettable experience.
What advice do you have for hotel owners and how to make their properties stand out?
My advice would be to look at each guest as a brand new, blank canvas. It’s easy to get mired in the cumulative effect of hundreds or thousands of guests and to start looking at guests as a number. But at The Boarding House, we try to remain cognizant that each guest who comes to stay with us is coming for the first time – and their experience is 100 percent fresh and unique to them. Nothing that happened before they arrived (and nothing that will happen after their visit) matters to them; the only thing that matters to them is the experience they have, and they deserve for that to be special. Keeping that in mind prevents us from getting into rote routines or habits.
So far, what has been your favorite part about being involved in the hospitality industry?
What I love about the hospitality industry is making people feel welcomed. Whether it is a local resident of our small town of Pawhuska, or a couple visiting from 250 miles away, it is so gratifying to watch them arrive at our hotel, restaurant and/or store with a smile…but leave with an even bigger smile. If we can send our guests away feeling like they’ve had a special day (or weekend), I know we’ve done our job.
How would you define the word ‘trendsetter’?
Hmmm. I suppose a trendsetter would be a person who decides to take a risk on something new, despite precedent or convention. There probably would have been more logical, practical, and financially beneficial ways for us to approach our service model at The Boarding House…but where would be the fun in that?