Spotlight Interview: Doug McBrearty, Principal, Gulph Creek Hotels


Launching his career in hospitality in 1973 after graduating from Penn State with a hotel major, Doug McBrearty went to work for Sheraton for 17 years. He then worked for developer Rouse and Associates, headed up acquisitions for GF management. In 1995, he co-founded Gulph Creek Hotels (and Gulph Creek Development), which has grown to become a leading hotel management company and hotel developer. Headquartered in Wayne, Pennsylvania, Gulph Creek, now headed by Amy Gancasz has a portfolio of managed and owned hotels, including Hilton, Marriott, Intercontinental Hotels Group, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, Choice Hotels, Hyatt and Best Western International. Today a team of over 800 employees operates more than 20 Gulph Creek Hotels.

What’s one early career experience that shaped your approach to hospitality?

I learned early on that no matter how much I wanted to try to train our hotel guests, they are untrainable. Therefore, don’t waste time trying to change their behavior. Accept it and adapt our approach to fulfill their needs. Customer service is at the heart of our industry, and we’ll always try our best to deliver a top tier experience for any guest that walks through our doors.

What was the hardest part about being a hotel entrepreneur in the 1990s, when you founded Gulph Creek Hotels with your business partner in 1996?

As an entrepreneur you have no income until you actually create something, and it becomes profitable. This usually takes us about 3 to 4 years. Also in order to develop a hotel you need a very broad skill set to get the key points right (hotel type, market strength, location, builder, management team just to name a few). All of that on top of the fact that in every project you need to raise equity and personally guarantee all of the debt. The risks are enormous. In order to do all of this you need to know a lot about the industry and be willing to risk everything.

Hotel LBI, located in Ship Bottom, New Jersey, opened in 2019.

The pandemic has completely altered the way the hotel industry serves its customers. How has the business changed, personally, for you?

Cleanliness has always been the bedrock of good management, but we did it quietly.  Now, guest perception of a safe, clean environment is paramount so we are vocal and transparent about the steps we take to ensure a safe and healthy environment. Today, our marketing and advertising budget has been allocated to communicate new protocols, sanitation measures, and extra steps that employees are taking to implement a truly ‘contactless’ check-in. We pride ourselves as an innovative hotel management company, always on the lookout for ways to sustain a best-in-class guest experience.

What lessons have you learned from the early days of the pandemic to today?

Historically, I was never a fan of remote check-in. I prefer that guests come to the front desk and be welcomed by our personable hotel staff. This has been a tough adjustment for me. In this environment, the ability to remotely check-in and skip the desk is a differentiating offer. We still go out of our way to make sure that guests are comfortable and educated on the many amenities available to them during their stay. Hospitality is delivered in a new and creative way in 2021, and Gulph Creek is prepared to meet and exceed the expectation of the post-pandemic hotel guest.

Safety is obviously important to you, especially given your recent partnership with ROAR for Good. How has this partnership benefited your business?

We carefully vetted and tested this technology solution with our staff, to make sure it was something that they wanted to implement. The response was overwhelmingly positive, and we knew ROAR for Good was the right partner for us. Not only do they align with our mission and goals, but they provide a layer of security that allows our staff to be more efficient and productive throughout their shift.