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Q&A with Jeffrey Soffer, Fontainebleau Development

Now out on his own, Jeffrey Soffer, who formerly led Turnberry Associates with his sister, Jackie Soffer, is focusing his efforts on large-scale lifestyle developments within the hospitality, retail, residential and commercial sectors with his new company—Fontainebleau Development.

Having been in the industry for more than 25 years, he’s helped transform a range of properties throughout the country, especially many in the Florida area, including the $1-billion expansion and renovation of the company’s landmark Fontainebleau Miami Beach.

Hotel Business caught up with Soffer to learn more about his new venture and to find out how he’s seen the hospitality industry evolve over the years.

What should the industry know about Fontainebleau Development? One of the country’s premier real estate development and hospitality groups, Fontainebleau Development has a diverse portfolio. We design, build, own, market and operate, providing expertise in each stage of a project’s life cycle with a relentless focus on delivering the best quality in everything we do.

Fontainebleau Development’s portfolio includes properties in the hospitality, residential, retail, commercial and luxury services sectors, including premier assets, such as Fontainebleau Miami Beach, JW Marriott Turnberry Resort & Spa, JW Marriott Nashville, Hilton Nashville Downtown, SoLeMia Miami, and numerous residential landmarks, such as Turnberry Ocean Club, Turnberry Ocean Colony, Porto Vita, the Tresor and Sorrento towers at Fontainebleau Miami Beach. Our luxury services division includes Fontainebleau Aviation, Turnberry Marina, Turnberry Isle Country Club and some of the highest-grossing and well-known food, beverage and wellness destinations in the world.

How has the hospitality industry evolved over the years? I have been looking for the right time to expand my Fontainebleau luxury brand, a brand whose success has been built on creating unique, memorable guest experiences. With the evolution of experiential hospitality and travel, the increasing impact of social media, and the continued growth of luxury in the travel and hospitality markets—there could not be better time.

A great example of this is the JW Marriott Turnberry Resort & Spa, which has always looked to serve our guests with the most cutting-edge amenities. For many years, we have offered a members-only club, which was a great place for the community to gather for golf, dining and social events. While that members club has continued to evolve, we are also introducing our new world-class waterpark, Tidal Cove; this features the next iteration of anticipating guest needs. The park offers the world’s largest FlowRider Triple, kids’ splash park, 60-ft. water slide tower with seven slides, lazy river and 25 luxury cabanas as well as two distinct dining options.

Where do you plan to expand the brand next? Under the new company, Fontainebleau Development will have numerous divisions with extensive growth plans in the hospitality, residential and gaming industries, including the development of additional Fontainebleau resorts nationally and internationally. Through partnerships and long-time relationships, we will continue to seek growth opportunities nationally and internationally.

How would you define the brand? We are guided and driven by our beliefs: quality, integrity and family. We know no bounds. At Fontainebleau Development, we transform the ordinary into the extraordinary. For more than 50 years, we have continually imagined and realized what many can only dream of. From buildings, to cities, to world-class entertainment and hospitality experiences, we have the unrelenting vision to go beyond—to cultivate culture and build communities.

How do you maintain a work/life balance? Find things you are passionate about. It is important to have hobbies that take you out of work. Some of my best ideas come from just being outside with my family. Relationships with family, friends and loved ones are, by far, the greatest source of inner satisfaction. If your job or career is damaging your personal relationships, both areas will ultimately suffer. Sure, there will be days when you will need to work overtime. The issue becomes problematic when these days become the rule, not the exception. By making your personal relationships a priority, your productivity and effectiveness on the job will increase.

What are your business principles? Create what is extraordinary. We should not be limited by what was done before us, but learn from the past and push to see what is possible. Being in the business and growing up watching my father, it is important to remember the past when thinking about the present. More is more, always offer your guests what they want and desire. We want to ensure our customer has the best and that they feel taken care of.

What are you paying close attention to in the industry? Everything. Recently, the rise of lifestyle hotels has been something I have been watching. It reinforces the need for guests to not only have a great room but a great experience. This is something that Fontainebleau Development prides itself on—the restaurants, bars and amenities are just as important—if not more—than the bed. Consumers are demanding more from their hotels and we are happy to deliver.

What advice would you give someone looking to get into the lodging space? Be prepared for anything and strive to be ahead of the competition. There is always a new hotel, a new residential building opening; you need to make sure you are always keeping up and coming up with the best product to keep your consumers. Also, I would say to take risks. Without risk, there is no real reward and no great success has come without there being some risk involved. HB