Q&A with Bob Habeeb, Maverick Hotels & Restaurants

Having been in the hospitality space for nearly 40 years, Bob Habeeb, president and CEO of Maverick Hotels & Restaurants, knows a thing or two about managing properties.

Today, his company—which he established in December 2017 after leaving his post at First Hospitality Group (FHG)—is gaining momentum through a healthy pipeline, new partnerships and an atypical approach to managing properties, which, in his perspective, sets Maverick apart from its peers.

Hotel Business caught up with Habeeb to learn more about his newly formed company, find out about new partnerships and discuss the evolution of the management space.

It’s been a little over a year now since you started your new venture. How’s everything going? We are off to a great start. Our Chicago Navy Pier project is well under construction. We will break ground on two more projects shortly. We announced last month our partnership with Scout Hotels. [The management company is] now operating under the Maverick banner, and our combined company currently operates six existing hotels in New England and the Midwest.

Describe your current portfolio. Our portfolio is a unique mix of destination resorts in premier leisure markets, suburban-branded hotels and development projects in high-profile urban locations.

What’s in the pipeline? Where are you looking to expand? We have a healthy pipeline beyond the projects mentioned that will keep us growing for the next few years. While we see great growth potential in our various market segments, we are fixed on logical growth in markets and product types that make sense for us in the long term.

How is Maverick leveraging partnerships to prosper? Any new company has the challenge of building a strong management team. We found that with Scout. Even more important is the cultural fit and a strong set of shared values. Plain and simple, we like working together. The same is true of our partnership with Two Renegades Restaurants, a company I formed with legendary restaurateur Bob Amick. Looking at the whole of it, we have amazing prowess and bandwidth in every critical aspect of hospitality management.

What’s the update on the Navy Pier hotel? Our rooftop bar at Navy Pier, nominated to Guinness World Records as the largest rooftop in North America, will open in a matter of weeks. The hotel, which will be part of Hilton’s Curio Collection, will open a year later. There are some more exciting elements to this remarkable project that we hope to announce later this year.

How do you maintain a healthy work/life balance? At the moment, that is a tricky question. We have a lot on our plates. In the long view, we are all big believers in the fact that work can be fun and balance is critical. We want freedom, creativity and a sense of entrepreneurship to be core values at Maverick. We also want to make certain our family and their families all share the same footing on our journey. We embrace work from home and encourage the team to be certain not to miss that little league game or birthday party.

What are your key leadership principles? I have been blessed to have remarkable mentors in my life, from my recently deceased father to Stephen Schwartz, whom I worked with for 22 years. Focusing on my dad, he taught me the value of leading by example, integrity, hard work and civic responsibility.

Anyone who knows me knows that I believe that a day without laughter is a day wasted. These are the same values I found in Robin Kirk, who now serves as our president.

How have things changed for you since beginning this new venture? Moving from a mature company to a start-up was a big shift. I remember on Maverick’s first day, I struggled to figure out the copier. On the other hand, being part of creating something from scratch has been the true joy of my career. Asking “why” and, equally important, “why not” every day has been an invigorating experience. Teaming up with Scout brings with it a wider footprint and an impressive skill set that sets the table very nicely for the future. All in all, it’s been a heck of a year.

How do you foresee the management space evolving over the next couple of years? We see an era today where big management companies are getting bigger. I firmly believe that the future belongs to smaller companies that can stay more connected to owners, customers and teammates, and react more nimbly to changing market conditions. Just like the growth of boutique hotel experiences, boutique management will scratch a market itch that is very much coming of age.

What should the hospitality industry know about Maverick? Maverick is not your parents’ management company. We are all about results—make no mistake about it—but we don’t believe cookie-cutter fixes are the way of the future. The world is changing. We think our platform of inspired leadership and creative approaches to a changing marketplace gives us a leg up. We want to grow, but never to the point where Robin and I can’t take the time to share a beer with an owner or manager and collaborate on ideas to maximize all the potential that lays before us. HB

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