“My parents owned a small hotel in west-central Ohio and I worked there from the moment I could—cleaning rooms, maintaining the pool, making beds,” said Dammeyer. “You name it, I did it. It was a great life experience that, as you can see from my 35 years in the industry, had a lasting impression.”
Since 1984, Dammeyer rose through the hospitality ranks at Winegardner & Hammons Hotel Group, where he most recently served as president and chief construction/development officer. Over 35 years, he has served in a variety of development, construction and purchasing roles. During Dammeyer’s tenure there, he led the development of more than 30 hotels.
“I am personally and professionally driven to learn and grow by the constantly evolving hospitality world we develop and operate in,” he said. “I am energized because I’m challenged and always learning something new. Just think, could any of us have imagined the type and quality of products we’re developing now 30 years ago? Probably not—and that’s why I do what I do.”
Now, he’s taking on a new leadership role at White Lodging as current White Lodging President/CEO of Investments and Development Deno Yiankes, who was among Hotel Business’ distinctive “10 to Watch” in 2014, steps down to retire. To support the leadership transition, Yiankes will join the company’s board of directors and remain an advisor through the end of 2020.
“White Lodging is one of the country’s most strategic, efficient and focused development companies, and I’m privileged to be working with such a talented team,” said Dammeyer. “White Lodging has been very thoughtful about this transition. While Deno is retiring in January, he will serve in an advisory capacity to me and the company for the remainder of the year. I’m grateful we have a full year to transition and drive the company forward together. We have several exciting projects opening in 2020 and a tremendous pipeline in 2021 and beyond. Deno will also play a continued role with the company as a member of its board of directors.”
With a substantial pipeline of development projects, including more than $1 billion of premium urban hotel investments and openings set to occur over the next four years, White Lodging is entering the next decade with success in view.
“White Lodging has built tremendous momentum with its urban portfolio over the past decade,” he said. “I think you’ll see more of the same, and maybe an even more elevated focus on urban properties in concentrated markets—premium brands that are timeless in design and provide exceptionally unique guest experiences, like the recent opening of Hotel Distil in Louisville, KY, and the upcoming opening of The Otis Hotel in Austin, TX, both Autograph Collection hotels. Food and beverage will continue to be a large contributor to the guest experience, and White Lodging has a greater commitment to this than any other management company I’ve seen—from design to branding to quality to execution.”
Mentorship is inherently built into the world of hospitality. It is about authenticity and fostering lasting relationships, much like what is cultivated and provided to guests each day. For Dammeyer, this notion resonates with him on a personal level.
“I’ve had the pleasure of working with a number of mentors who have impacted my life and career, but the two that were the most impactful have to be my parents,” he said. “I witnessed firsthand what honesty, hard work and treating people with respect meant. They also showed me if you start with quality and excellence, that customers and partners would come back; this is a lesson I take with me to every project I’m involved in and a foundational principle I reiterate to my teams regardless of their role.”
In terms of strategy, White Lodging is setting its sights on building its business in new and current markets.
“Our development strategy is to focus on long-term assets in the urban core, supported by unique premium brands with elevated design and guest experiences,” he said. “This includes continued investment in our current markets of Austin, Indianapolis, Chicago, Louisville, Denver, Nashville, Charlotte and San Antonio, as well as new urban markets.”
Some analysts are predicting an economic slowdown and potential impact on the hospitality sector in the year to come. However, Dammeyer believes White Lodging is well-positioned to weather through economic cycles and sees the potential for opportunities.
“This positioning includes a strong balance sheet, sustainable long-term debt structures and a seasoned management team,” he said. “White Lodging may even grow faster in an economic slowdown with acquisitions at the right price, and lower land and construction costs.”
White Lodging’s secret sauce is a complex recipe. It’s the hospitality company’s people and strategy that make all the difference.
“It includes a highly engaged founder, a commitment to long-term assets, financial stability, quality associates, and being a leader in brand development and innovation,” he said. “Together, they create a company that will last forever. I’m proud to be part of the team.”
He added, “White Lodging’s full management team, including founder Bruce White, are all aligned around the same mission, and that’s to grow a great company and one that will remain relevant across generations. I’m here to help execute that mission every day. My goal is to maintain White Lodging’s place among the best operators and developers of premium properties across the country.” HB