My "Branded" Tears, or What I Loved About Hotel Impossible at The Dude Rancher

Big Sky Country: Drink it in.
Big Sky Country: Drink it in.

Although every episode of Hotel Impossible changes a property's outlook and future, no show was more moving than last night's facelift of The Dude Rancher in Billings, Montana. Big Sky Country is filled with the warm, Western locals you'd expect -- including all of the hotel's staffers. But being nice doesn't sell hotel rooms -- especially when there are fancier options down the street. So The Dude Rancher's owner, Virginia, called in Anthony, Blanche, and the rest of the HI team to help the historic hotel regain its old-world glory. And boy did they succeed -- there were TEARS rolling down my face, people. Not only did the team do a wonderful job revamping the hotel's internal structure and external design, but Anthony also really helped the execs understand what they need to do to make The Dude Rancher the spot to stay in Billings.

1. Anthony's appreciation for the branded carpeting and vaulted ceilings.

You gotta give this man credit -- he knows his biz like the back of his hand. And even though he's a native Brooklynite (yeah Brooklyn!), Anthony was quickly able to recognize the Western hallmarks that give The Dude Rancher a unique personality and make sure those elements stayed amongst Blanche's (super-fab) redesign.

2. The mere acknowledgment of how critical a coffee maker is to selling a hotel room.

I know I'm not the only person who needs a cup of the caffeinated stuff to get themselves going in the morning -- in fact, over 78 percent of travelers expect a coffee maker to be in every guest room. And while the front desk staffer may not have known which rooms had what amenities, it was imperative for Anthony to make clear (especially to all the hoteliers watching!) that certain amenities within the room and the hotel itself can make or break a guest's experience.

3. "If the front desk phone rings more than three times, someone should dive to get it." - Anthony Melchiorri

Dude, Anthony gets it. There is nothing more irritating when staying at a hotel to call the front desk for whatever one may need, yet to only hear endless rings. [Ed note: Trust me, I've been the caller in need, and it's not fun when no one answers.] When you're on a vacation or not in the confines of your own home, it's easy to forget basics (say, a razor or toothpaste) -- and the front desk should always be stocked with such. And even though the staffer did provide Anthony with his request, the message that customer service trumps all rang quite clearly, pun intended, of course.

4. Blanche's bling touches.

I had questioned Blanche's design after she painted this lobby purple in an earlier episode, however, she has proven herself to not only have excellent taste, but also a thoughtful sense of style that goes beyond the superficial. Her homey touches, like the framed belt buckles, added even more character to this unique little hotel. And her renovations weren't expensive either, something that's not only difficult to do in this economy, but also almost impossible to do with taste. Luckily, Blanche, you nailed it. Everything came out just gorgeous. Dying to visit Big Sky Country now!

5. The ending.

How sweet was it when Anthony branded the hotel with its very own design?!? The General Manager, Todd, and the Director of Sales, MJ, came across as two of the kindest, most gentle people I've ever met. Once the HI team was able to cut through the BS and hone in on what the hotel's problems were -- and how to fix them -- we saw the staffers at the Dude Rancher give 110 percent of themselves to make it work. Rarely have I ever seen a staff so emotionally connected to the property for which they are employed by. Needless to say, when Anthony added that final "R" brand, I was totally in tears. (And the rest of the staff was too.)

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