Executives at Maverick Hotels and Restaurants found their sweet spot in the ever-changing hotel industry by developing the right solutions—with technology and people—to effectively operate at any stage of the economic cycle.
CHICAGO—Just like a new-build hotel, Bob Habeeb and Robin Kirk gathered resources to build Maverick Hotels and Restaurants from the ground up.
With the official launch of Maverick in January 2018, industry veterans Habeeb and Kirk wanted to “reset the clock and start with the fundamentals” when forming the management and development company.
One advantage is it allows a company to hit the ground running with more up-to-date, appropriate solutions to effectively manage hotels via technology and people for today and tomorrow—not yesterday, said Kirk, Maverick’s president and COO.
Founder and CEO Habeeb said technology is driving the pace of changes.
Kirk said he’s noticed that not only is technology changing but so are the people who are entering the workforce. He said Maverick likes to attract “refugees” from larger organizations.
“They’ve gained a boatload of experience over the years (with brand companies and management companies), and yet they’re now seeking a lot (of) what’s more participation, more involvement,” he said. “To be involved in a ground-up creation of a new management company … is an enormous appeal to those refugees.”
Habeeb, former founder, president and CEO of First Hospitality Group, said starting a new management company allowed him to step back with no preconceived notions, no paradigms and no legacy systems, and instead allowed Maverick to create a plan that is best for its properties through cutting-edge technology.
How Maverick formed
Kirk, who was previously principal and CEO at Scout Hotels, said he was looking for a growth partner for a while and after searching for a perfect fit, he met Habeeb at the 2018 Lodging Conference and decided to join forces.
“I had a wonderful run at my former (company), 22 years, but I think it was good for me and the company to have some change,” Habeeb said. “It’s a catalyst for a better thing.”
He said the Maverick notion came about because he felt it was time “to start fresh from scratch” and take a different approach.
“We do business in a different world today and (thought) it would be incredibly fun to start from scratch knowing everything we know today and (form a management company) that was ready to meet the challenges of the industry,” Habeeb said.
Kirk agreed the partnership was a clear choice.
“What Bob and Maverick provide to Scout is a wonderful growth platform, a leader who is articulate, smart, experienced and honestly very funny,” Kirk said. “One of our golden rules is if it isn’t fun—don’t do it.”
Although it may sound counterintuitive, Habeeb said he, Kirk and other Maverick team members will often disagree on solutions. But it isn’t a negative thing. In order to get to the right solution, he said, a team needs to maneuver lots of different viewpoints.
Kirk said many organizations don’t take that approach.
Favored markets, segments
Habeeb said he would describe Maverick as a boutique management company, centered on being creative and entrepreneurial.
Through this partnership, Scout’s hotels have been rolled into the Maverick stable but each property will continue to operate under the same names, Kirk said. Scout is no longer its own entity.
Maverick’s portfolio includes a handful of independents in Massachusetts and a Best Western Plus in LaPorte, Indiana. In total, Habeeb said there are six hotels in operation, three under development and one more that will be added to the development pipeline soon. The management company maintains offices in Chicago and Boston, giving it presence in the Midwest and on the East Coast, Habeeb said.
In spring 2020, Maverick will open the new-build Sable at Navy Pier in Chicago, which will operate under Hilton’s Curio Collection soft brand.
Kirk said he and his team are brand-agnostic and won’t shut the door to any solution but will prioritize a solution that works best for each individual property and market.
“It might be no brand, it might be a soft brand or it might be a traditional brand,” he said.
Kirk said Maverick will vet each opportunity, adding that’s the only way to exist in an up or down market.
One of the things that makes Maverick unique is the company’s ability to adapt and pick deals where value can be added and avoid deals that can’t or don’t fit Maverick’s core values, Habeeb said.
Maverick is keen on working with owners and developers who have an open mind about what’s needed to improve and are hungry for better results, Kirk said.
Goals for the company
Habeeb feels he and Kirk have built a “rock-solid company” where his team adheres to a strict set of values that they are proud to stand behind.
He said he doesn’t want to slip into the type of company that doesn’t have a one-to-one relationship with its team members, owners and guests.
Within the changing workforce, he’s aware that in all levels of an organization people want to be involved, included and have fun.
The U.S. hotel industry is now in its 12th year of a growing economy, Habeeb said. Hotel development is continuing, major brands are announcing new products daily “and that’s something I think we will be able to exploit,” he said.
“Our versatility allows us to move between varying types of products and various segments (to) produce a superior result,” he said.
At some point there will be some correction in the market, but Habeeb said Maverick will be well-positioned for that because of what he and Kirk have done to put the right systems and people in place to “operate hotels at a premium and maximize the return for the owners.”
“We think we built a business model that will be improving with the ups and downs of the cycle,” Habeeb said. “Right now we’re developing new hotels and adding to the portfolio. If the market softens up, there’s opportunity in the soft market for a company like ours.”