DALLAS—What causes hunger in America? It’s an important question, with numerous answers: poverty, joblessness, the economy, lack of access and more. In every city and state, the reality is stark—people are going to bed hungry due to food insecurity. Food security refers to the household-level economic and social condition of reliable access to an adequate amount of food for an active, healthy life for all household members, as defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The team at Omni Hotels & Resorts believes no one should go hungry and it’s committed to serving local communities and beyond through its new “Say Goodnight to Hunger” initiative, which was launched in June. For every stay booked directly on its website, the brand has made a donation to help provide dinner for a family of four for an entire week. As a result, Omni has donated more than three million meals—and counting—to help Feeding America, a hunger-relief organization, provide more than 18.2 million meals each year for food banks to feed kids, families and seniors in communities across the U.S.
“When you look at the hotel business, a lot of hotels have been volunteering at local food shelters. We’re in the business of providing meals when people are traveling, and the money we raise goes to Feeding America to support a network of food programs throughout the U.S. and 60,000 food pantries,” said Peter Strebel, CMO for Omni Hotels & Resorts, based here. “We can channel the money to where our hotels are located, as well as partner with local food banks and volunteer. We didn’t want to just donate to an organization, we wanted to mobilize our 20,000 associates and have it tie into what we do for a living. It’s part of our core values…”
Feeding America’s work to quell hunger is closely aligned with the values and mission of Omni Hotels, which encourages leadership on the local level to enable its associates and guests to make a meaningful difference in the lives of others. The brand also gives back to communities through participation in job programs, toy drives, charity walks and other efforts.
“We will donate 18 million meals, but there’s 46 million people in America right now in food-insecure households, which is defined as a family that struggles to make ends meet and the last thing on their list is buying the groceries. When we began this relationship, I had no idea of what a food-insecure household looked like and I was so wrong… It can be any reason, such as a child got sick or a husband lost his job. After paying the mortgage and lights, there’s very little left for food. We’re about four months into it and we’ve already donated about four million meals,” said Strebel. “The thing that really excites me is we had 3,600 associates go out and volunteer with Feeding America. In Atlanta, 50 staff members worked at a food bank; at hotels in Austin, Chicago, San Francisco—all over the country—associates went to the local food banks to go in and help. It makes it exciting to see associates get involved.”
Omni’s ability to harness the power of team synergy enabled them to activate thousands of associates companywide via multiple platforms to generate buzz and enthusiasm for the new program. The brand also put a plan in place to measure outcomes. Omni’s strategy included rolling this out to the hotels via online, conference calls, videos, he noted.
“We keep a register of every employee who donates time and we measure not only how much money, but how much time we’re donating,” he said.
At Omni, the company’s culture starts with the ownership group and trickles down to the frontline staff, according to Strebel, and as a privately held brand with one owner, the company strives to take a long-term view of the business.
“There is a positive nature at Omni. We have this culture that the guest is number one. It’s called ‘The Power of One’ and associates are challenged to make sure each guest interaction is a positive one,” he said. “We have 20,000 employees working for Omni, and yet we’ve maintained this family environment and treat each associate as a member of our family. There is a strong caring culture here.”