Jerry Reyes had a tough act to follow when he took over as the director of housekeeping at the W New Orleans Hotel in 2005: his identical twin brother, Ramon. Jerry not only had to live up to certain expectations because of the fine job Ramon did before leaving to become the director of rooms at the W Hotel Atlanta; he also faced the burden of expectations that came with his co-workers assuming Ramon never left.
“For my first year there, everyone called me Ramon,” Jerry recalls. “I just had to roll with it. It was too time-consuming to give multiple explanations a day.”
“When I visited the hotel a while after, everyone was calling me Jerry,” adds Ramon with a laugh. “We don’t correct people. If I see someone on the street, someone waves at me, I just wave back.”
The Reyes twins don’t just look alike. They work alike too, using similar hands-on management styles and an equal level of drive to rise to comparable heights in the New Orleans hospitality industry. Ramon, who first broke into the business as a doorman, is now the director of operations at the Omni Royal Orleans Hotel. Jerry, who got his start as a waiter at a hotel restaurant, is the director of rooms at the Loews New Orleans. It’s been an impressive dual upward trajectory for these 34-year-old brothers.
Ramon was the one who “discovered” the hotel industry, enrolling in an elective program with the Travel & Tourism Academy as a senior at West Jefferson High School in Harvey, La. Jerry started years later but made up for any possible lost time by taking on a staggering workload while in college: For a six-month stretch, he was juggling classes, five day shifts a week in the restaurant, and, because he wanted to learn the rooms side also, all seven night shifts as the night auditor.
Ramon’s story of ambition doesn’t involve quite the same level of sleep deprivation as Jerry’s, but he, too, proved bold.
“After several months as a doorman,” Ramon explains, “I approached the GM and said, ‘Hey, I’m making a great deal of money’—more money than a person my age really needed—but I said, ‘I don’t want to do this for the rest of my life. I want to move up. I want to learn different things. I want to cross-train.’ And he said, ‘Go for it.’”
Ramon proceeded to work nearly every hotel job imaginable over the next few years—and unlike Jerry, he also experienced the world outside New Orleans, working for three years in Atlanta and one in Washington, D.C. And you might say Ramon got out of “The Big Easy” at just the right time. Jerry took over for Ramon at the W less than two weeks before Hurricane Katrina.
“That was a trial by fire,” Jerry recalls. “Ramon was lucky to leave before Katrina. I was at the hotel throughout the storm—I never left. And we were one of the first hotels to re-open after Katrina. We didn’t have much of a staff, but we re-opened the very next day. And our rooms filled up quickly because all these insurance adjusters were coming into town and needed a place to stay.”
Along with surviving Katrina as his initiation to the W, Jerry counts as one of his proudest accomplishments successfully bringing parking management in house at multiple properties. At Loews, he tripled annual parking profits and elevated guest satisfaction scores on parking from 85 percent to 92 percent.
“I attribute my success with parking management—and a lot of my success, really—to being a Six Sigma Green Belt. This kind of quality management training opens up your thinking process,” Jerry says. “Using that Six Sigma background, I was able to analyze everything in terms of numbers and go with confidence to the general manager and tell him what additional profits we could provide to the hotel by bringing parking in house.”
Now that the hotels where the Reyes brothers work are managed by the same firm, the owner has asked Ramon to follow in Jerry’s footsteps and bring the parking in house for the Omni Royal Orleans Hotel. Same owner or not, Jerry and Ramon would be comparing notes constantly anyway. They speak at least twice every day, and they estimate that about 90 percent of their conversations have to do with business.
Just don’t ever ask them to work at the same property.
“I tell everyone who says they want to have twins that they really shouldn’t because twins fight a lot,” Ramon notes. “I have a great relationship with my brother. But I don’t know how it would go if we had a disagreement at work.”