If you check into a property managed by local hotelier Rob Blood expecting an average experience, you can count on being pleasantly surprised.
That’s because Blood—founder, principal, and CEO of Lark Hotels—spends his days ensuring guests will enjoy a visit to remember at any one of the properties under the Lark umbrella. In fact, it is precisely these unique user experiences that are responsible for the increasing number of repeat guests who have become loyal to the group’s distinct brand of hospitality.
With destinations including the Captain Fairfield Inn in Kennebunkport, the Ale House in Portsmouth, the newly reopened Blue Inn on the Beach on Plum Island, and more locations in the works, the juggernaut that is Lark Hotels has never been stronger, thanks to the efforts of Blood, whose personal recipe of authenticity, passion, and “not waiting until tomorrow” is the driving force behind the group’s success and expansion. While he freely admits he loves working to increase Lark’s reach, the group’s CEO is adamant about retaining “tight control over the guest experience so the quality stays high.” One of the ways Blood does this is by being selective about staff, and the first thing considered is not always a candidate’s experience in the hospitality trade. Yes, relevant skills can be important, but the things that truly matter to the Lark team are personality and professionalism. For Blood, identifying a shared connection with prospective employees is critical. He looks for those willing to make an “emotional investment” in the company, because if job candidates are willing to work hard, he is more than happy to teach them the finer points of hospital corners and the most efficient way to clean a bathroom, “regardless of their resume.” At a Lark hotel, guests won’t find “an ever-changing guest staff,” but rather select points of contact to connect with throughout their stay.
When compared against major hotel chains, Blood’s model is somewhat unconventional, and perhaps so successful, because he didn’t originally set out to work in the industry—he was an English major in college. Blood credits hands-on work for his fresh perspective and adds that he’s learned the most by working alongside hotel staff in, of all places, the laundry room. It is here that Blood says the “pulse of a property lives,” and where he’s had meaningful conversations about topics big and small with everyone from chefs to housekeepers.
While guest relations reign supreme, it is impossible to visit a Lark property and not immediately be struck by the distinct decor and design elements. “Every property is conceptualized based on location,” says Blood. Design plans are drawn up with the history of each location in mind, and the design team, led by Rachel Reider Interiors, works hard to “make sure guests feel like they are here now,” while also bringing “imagination and a touch of mischief” to each property. While guests can count on these notable style elements with a nod to the past, rooms are also intentionally modern and outfitted with numerous amenities such as Apple TV, iPads with local information, Tivoli radios, and wireless Internet.
Advancements in technology have impacted the way nearly everyone conducts business, and operations at Lark are no exception. As recently as 2003, the group was still mailing paper confirmation letters to guests in advance of their bookings, and today, half of all reservations are made from mobile phones. This climate of connectivity allows Blood and his staff to be in regular communication with each other throughout the day, something that is especially helpful as team numbers could be in any number of different hotels on a given day.
With many hours spent so deeply involved in the industry, is Blood himself able to enjoy a hotel vacation? While he may not unplug the same way many people do, he does draw inspiration from hotel stays, but his “mind is never inactive.”
When he’s not working, Blood is a proud Newburyport resident who enjoys spending time with his family. In warmer months you’ll often find him taking in the outdoor atmosphere at The Poynt or The Deck. You might also spot him enjoying his favorite lemon ricotta blackberry muffin at The Tannery’s farmers’ market on a Sunday morning.
While Lark Hotels has dreams of becoming a robust national brand, Blood has always been drawn to the ocean and loves the unique nature of New England, where “you can drive 30 minutes and have multiple amazing experiences among great natural and human-built resources.”
No matter the location, Blood is intent on cultivating and maintaining hotel experiences with unmatched guest service and personal touches. As Lark Hotels continues to grow, Blood vows to always keep the heart of the mission close, which is great news for visitors both repeat and new.