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Today’s Top Hospitality Trends From a Dishwasher Turned CEO


Jun 14, 2014 12:00 pm

Skift Take

Hotel executives across the world are facing a similar set of challenges, whether it be integrating new technology or expanding in high-growth markets. Pillsbury’s insights on both are telling.

— Samantha Shankman

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Bloomberg News

Thayer Lodging CEO Lee Pillsbury talks to Bloomberg about his background. Bloomberg News

“This is not a hard business to understand,” opines Lee Pillsbury, talking about his rise in the hospitality business from Howard Johnson dish washer to strategist and investor.

Pillsbury, co-founder and CEO of Thayer Lodging Group and advisor at Thayer Ventures, spoke with Bloomberg News this week about the health of the hospitality industry. The conversation touched on the expected topics of acquisitions, technology, and China.

Skift talked with Lee Pillsbury earlier this year about what he looks for in a startup, why he’s not worried about Airbnb, and how hotels could likely be the next industry that Apple disrupts. See the interview here.

On Technology

Although Thayer Lodging has completed 43 hotel investments with a total cost of $2.5 billion, Pillsbury is spending a significant amount of his time today looking at the technology that surrounds these hotels.

“Technology has been changing at an extraordinary pace in what is essentially a business that hasn’t changed since Mary and Joseph were turned away at the inn,” describes Pillsbury.

“Today the geniuses in the garage are inventing new ideas and new ways to do things.”

Thayer Ventures investments include Hipmunk, TripBam, Duetto, and Liftopia.

On China

Outside of technology another huge opportunity for hotel companies exists in China. Pillsbury, who works with China’s Jin Jiang Group, describes himself almost as a prophet in the high-growth market.

“You can see what’s going to happen in China exactly as it’s happened here in the U.S.”

He describes the evolution that led from highway growth to hotel innovation to an air travel explosion.

On the Wage Debate

Pillsbury also pulls on his technology insights when discussing the current debate around wages for hotel workers.

In Pillsbury’s opinion, efforts to increase the minimum wage could hurt entry-level employees.

“I thinks some increases in the minimum wage makes sense. But places like Seattle where they’re talking about a $15 minimum wage, that’s going to have a very big impact on people who are starting out like me,” says Pillsbury.

“If you think for one minute McDonald’s isn’t going to automate the take-out order at the window, you’re wrong, because they are.”

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