East Peoria Hotel Sells "Service"

Stoney Creek Inn-East Peoria opened its doors January 13, 2000. This new property was the 5th Stoney Creek Inn built, and with the annex of 45 rooms, which was added in July 2000, was also the biggest. "With a total of 153 sleeping rooms, including 15 theme suites, 4300 square feet of meeting space, and 2 Premiere Suites that are the finest in the area, the newest Stoney Creek Inn provides a refreshing change of pace for the traveler," said LaVonne Hamilton Klein, Stoney Creek Inn general manager.

The founding vision for the business has remained the same through the years, although the hotel has continued to expand its services. "The vision of Jim Thompson, owner of the Stoney Creek Inn and the man responsible for the concept, was to provide a work environment where some good people could grow and go on to be the best that they could be," said Klein.

His concept provides refuge for the weary traveler, a "home away from home." The Northwoods theme of each hotel contributes to the welcoming atmosphere, and the people hired have a sense of quality service extended to each other, and to their guests. The vision has remained the same, the physical concept has been expanded upon to include meeting space, and each property has new features to make our guests stay more comfortable, and to entice group business and the individual traveler. Technological additions have been made to accommodate the corporate traveler, along with a frequent traveler club. In the next five to ten years, we expect the vision to be expanded into new communities, with new and exciting updates on each additional property. At the same time, the original theme of "Experience the Great Outdoors….Indoors" will always be the focus. The guest and the employee will always be the priority.

Stoney Creek Inn-East Peoria, prides itself on selling "service". The hotel room, the meeting space, the technology package, and the other amenities come with the service, but the main ingredient that brings our guests back is the service. "When we walk into the lobby and see two little girls, sitting on the floor before a warm fire, playing with their Barbie Dolls, we see the success of Stoney Creek Inn. When our guests check in and want to know if a certain front desk employee is working, and our employees can call the guest by their name as they walk in the door, we see the success of Stoney Creek Inn. When we look at literally thousands of complimentary comment cards we have received since opening, we see the success of Stoney Creek Inn," Klein said.

Many employees work to sell this service each day. The hotel has about 50 full and part time employees. Many of our employees have reached, or are about to reach their one-year anniversary at Stoney Creek Inn-East Peoria.

The hospitality industry is noted for a high turnover of employees and employee retention is a top priority. They try to have regular departmental meetings, incentive programs and provide feedback to our employees to keep the communication lines open. Customers come from every walk of life, the corporate traveler and the leisure traveler. They have expanded their group business; it is now a growing market segment. The close proximity to Eastside Center and the Festival of Lights festivities also generates a high yield of guests for us. They added 45 room nights in July 2000, and still have managed to increase occupancy by 19 percentage points. Much of this is due to the marketing and sales efforts of our staff and the high level of return visitor to Stoney Creek Inn. "We like to think this is because of the high level of service our employees offer," she said.

Along with expanding existing property, Stoney Creek continues to expand into new markets. Stoney Creek Inn has expanded into a new property in Des Moines, Iowa that is scheduled to open in October 2001, and its newest property in St. Joseph, Mo., opening summer of 2002.

The hotel is set apart from other’s in the industry for a number of reasons. "Stoney Creek Inn-East Peoria is a refreshing change of pace with its Northwood’s theme—warm and cozy, a touch of at-home comfort and the commitment from the staff—a pride in their work, their employer, and their environment. Our employees have a strong commitment to our guest, and a willingness to "go the extra mile," Klein said.

That positive client-based attitude starts at the top at Stoney Creek Inn. Employees are reinforced for the exemplary service our guests receive. Each employee is empowered to do what is necessary to ensure our guests have an enjoyable stay.

The industry initiated changes in the facilities through the years. The technology-induced frenzy has precipitated adding new-age technology, such as high-speed Internet access in each sleeping room, a state of the art business center, designated phone number for each room, and guest voice mail in a Northwood’s theme hotel. "This change is a positive one because it facilitates the needs of our guests, and makes us a more viable choice, not only for families, but also for the business traveler," she said.

Customers often have misperceptions about the industry. "Perhaps the concept that all hotels are alike is a common misperception; at Stoney Creek Inn-East Peoria, we have sought to prove that this is not so," Klein said. There are a lot of choices in the Peoria area, and Stoney Creek Inn offers something for everyone, whether you are a leisure guest enjoying the swim through pool or a business traveler making use of the business technology package.

Marketing is essential to the success of the organization. The initial marketing efforts were to inform our community first, involving Stoney Creek Inn-East Peoria in many local efforts. Radio and print ads in publications such as Inter Business were part of the efforts.

They have now expanded their efforts to coop with the PACVB, a billboard on I-74, a ever-expanding web site (stoneycreekinn.com), hosting the Peoria Pirates, continued radio spots, Festival of Lights packaging, print ads, community and state wide memberships, community involvements from our staff, while diversifying into some regional and state wide advertising. "We continue to support our local community, as this is integral to our success," Klein said.

Stoney Creek Inn recruits employees in various ways including employee referral, local colleges, newspaper ads, and Internet. Being a relatively new property, they also have many people stop in and fill out applications.

There are many expansions still in store for the future of the hotel. Stoney Creek Inn expects to continue the growth of the company with new properties.

Stoney Creek Inn-East Peoria is a relatively new property, and they will continue marketing this property to increase the occupancy and revenues of the hotel. They are also prioritizing the human resources area of the hotel, looking at ways to keep our employees happy, and establishing longevity with the group of hard working people we have working with us. "At Stoney Creek Inn, we feel our employees are our greatest assets," Klein said.

There have been challenges for the hotel to overcome. "The most challenging aspect has been growing the business," said Klein. "Every employee of Stoney Creek Inn knows we have a property we are proud of, an atmosphere of friendliness. They have been challenged to bring this news to others, by site inspections, sales calls and marketing efforts. They will continue in these endeavors in the future.

"The most rewarding aspect of Stoney Creek Inn is to fulfill the vision of Jim Thompson, to provide a positive work environment for some good people, and at the same time provide a welcoming atmosphere for our guests. If we can accomplish those two things, we can call Stoney Creek Inn-East Peoria a success," she said.

The hotel is located at 101 Mariners Way in East Peoria. IBI