Mark Everton: Details are the keys to the castle

When Mark Everton became general manager of Dow Hotel Company LLC’s new Hilton San Francisco Financial District, he immediately saw a little problem. It was the chairs.

The cushions of the large and luxurious chairs in the front lobby had a habit of sliding out when people sat in them. Within days of noting this, he purchased Velcro strips and installed them to keep the cushions in place. Problem solved.

Attending to the little details that make the difference between a perfect stay and a subpar one fascinates the 47-year-old hotelier, whose work involves overseeing a highly varied business that includes hospitality, dining, athletic facilities and spa. And he’s always looking for new ways to make things just a little better.

“We’re trying to attract the female business traveler,” he said, listing two problems they face after a long day of face time: They don’t want to eat alone in the restaurant or drink alone at the bar, but neither do they want to order room service and either wait, still suited, for a half an hour for dinner. Answering the door in pajamas is out, too.

So he’s instituting a plan-ahead dinner card that hangs on the room door. Patrons can order an entrée delivered at a certain hour, and it will arrive in the room on time, with a call an hour in advance as a reminder.

“It’s kind of a gender switch— dinner is waiting at the door,” Everton said. “The interesting challenge … is the dynamics of the hotel in that it’s a 24-7 operation.”

Everton came to the world of hotels through finance. He grew up in Lafayette, where he lives now, and studied finance at Humboldt State University. After working at two thrift and loan companies, he began working for what was then the Four Seasons Clift Hotel in San Francisco as an assistant controller in the accounting department. He then worked for other hotels in Marin and Santa Barbara.

He moved from accounting to management soon after 1999, at the Renaissance Park 55 Hotel at Fifth and Market streets, where he had the chance to become director of operations. He was later general manager of the 484-room Oakland Marriott City Center and managing director of the 110,000-square-foot Oakland Convention Center.

He said that while he’s not “a perfectionist kind of guy,” he was interested in how operational details translated into financial success. General managers have incentives to their pay based on profit as well as customer and staff satisfaction surveys, so his own recompense depends on good performance, he said.

He also has the opportunity, at his new job, to develop a brand. The Hilton, whose property has long been owned by a group of local investors, opened up after a $45 million renovation of a former Holiday Inn at 750 Kearny, near the Transamerica Pyramid, Chinatown, the Financial District and North Beach. Rooms go for slightly more than $200 to $400.

kwilliamson@examiner.com

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