Four Seasons’ Hiring Spree in Minneapolis
The Four Seasons Minneapolis is on the hunt for 300 employees to staff the hotel’s 222 rooms and operations. Photo courtesy of Four Seasons

Four Seasons’ Hiring Spree in Minneapolis

One of the most renowned companies in tourism is planting its flag in Minneapolis this spring and looking to bring 300 Minnesotans along for the ride.

In a normal year, the opening of a Four Seasons Hotel in the Twin Cities would be news. The Twin Cities has never had a five-star, full-on luxury hotel. There’s no arguing that point. We just haven’t. Numerous properties have aspired to “four-plus,” as they say in the business: the Ivy in Downtown Minneapolis, the old Grand Hotel (now the Hyatt Centric), the JW Marriott at Mall of America, and the St. Paul Hotel, to name a few. But none offered the array of services, amenities, and most importantly, trained staff to hit that bar.

It may sound like a pretension, but the luxury sector is different. And it’s not just 24-hour room service and full-service spas. “Our customer, more than anything, values time and our staffing depth is the truest definition of luxury.” That’s Florian Riedel, the Four Seasons’ general manager, who arrived last year after running the chain’s Palo Alto property.

In the pandemic especially, full-service hotels bleeding cash cut staffing to the bone. Amenities like all-day restaurants, housekeeping, and bell staff were luxuries to be pared. Calls to the front desk would ring and ring without answer because the single staffer was pressed just to handle the guests in front of them.

Though parts of the industry are now booming (resorts and vacation destinations), urban destinations which rely on business travel from Fortune 500 companies, like Minneapolis, are coming back very gradually, says Ben Graves, president of Graves Hospitality, which operates several hotels in the metro area.

Not long after the Four Seasons broke ground a global pandemic hit, business travel stopped, and as it approaches its June 1 opening, a new normal hasn’t quite jelled. Delta Air Lines noted in March that business travel was finally returning to the skies, but Minneapolis’s hotel sector, which rises and falls in lockstep with business travel, remained one of the most depressed in the country.

Into these headwinds the Four Seasons is ramping up. One of its key tasks is finding 300 employees to staff the hotel’s 222 rooms and operations and provide the service its brand standards dictate. Riedel is supervising the process and talking to each prospective hire.

Four Seasons, says Riedel, is sailing a different tack. “There’s no changes in our offerings or services,” he says. “We’ve kind of doubled-down on maintaining our brand standards.” And that includes traditional staffing ratios of more than one employee per room.

The hotel is conducting regular Friday hiring events on site, recruiting through social media, and has conducted job fairs at Midtown Global Market and Houston White’s The Get Down Coffee Co. in north Minneapolis.

Among large North American hoteliers (50 properties or more), Toronto-based Four Seasons is a name on a resume that opens doors. It’s because privately held Four Seasons is different. Rather than offering frequent stay programs and rate promotions, it focuses on operations and consistency. Its employees are notoriously loyal. Riedel joined the company as a bus boy in London 27 years ago. Director of people and culture (HR) Ashley Poland started as a pool supervisor in Hawaii.

The hotel’s management came to the property from other Four Seasons hotels and resorts in the Middle East, Europe, England, and North America, but Riedel’s hiring team is less concerned with your industry chops than your outlook. “We hire for attitude; competence we can teach,” he says. “We are looking for people who want to be the best and go on a journey with us.”

Despite this, his inbox is not necessarily overflowing with overqualified candidates. That’s in part because there is no bench of luxury hotel workers in the market. And because the Four Seasons brand carries little weight in a region where it is unknown. Plus, luxury hotel work has a reputation: long hours, weekends, holidays, entitled customers.

Four Seasons has felt the era’s labor headwinds as well. “The business has changed, employee expectations have changed,” says Riedel. “Even part-time employees want schedule flexibility.” Four Seasons believes it offers a compelling package: market leading wages, meals during shifts, uniforms, retirement plans, even pet insurance.

“This is not a job, this is a career, as we see it. We have to do a better job of telling that story,” Riedel says. “Do you want to grow? How can I support you?” Successful Four Seasons employees have an opportunity to rise within the ranks as well as transfer to postings around the globe, with the company managing the red tape. For an untethered youthful go-getter that wants to see the world, Riedel believes it’s a compelling offering.

A generation or two ago, Riedel acknowledges the business was different. There was a certain obsequiousness in luxury hospitality. Employees checked their individualism and personality at the break room. In 1998, Four Seasons’ check-in protocol had 25 separate steps. Today, it’s more flexible. “It’s about empowering people to be themselves and read the customer for what they need.” In some ways, that requires more skill and intuition, he notes.

Riedel believes on a certain level the Twin Cities and Four Seasons are already aligned. The company is guided by a simple mission statement coined by its founder, Isadore Sharp: “To treat others as we’d wish to be treated ourselves.”

“I particularly like the synergy between it and Minnesota Nice,” Riedel says.