Photos by Ashley Barnas December 07, 2022
When a person is told they have a life-threatening illness, they won’t hear anything else.
But what a doctor or medical provider says next is pivotal. That’s where empathy comes into play.
“The doctor or the medical provider must really stop and ask questions of the patient: what are they thinking? What are they feeling? And really build that relationship,” said Sheryl Kline, deputy dean and Aramark Chaired Professor in the University of Delaware’s Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics.
Some people possess empathy naturally while others need time and space to develop it. That’s one intricate piece of the all-encompassing Patient Experience Academy, an interdisciplinary collaboration between UD’s Lerner College, the College of Health Sciences, the College of Arts and Sciences, Academic Technology Services, and the Division of Professional and Continuing Studies.
“The foundation of empathy is in being an active listener and really focusing on what the person is saying to you. To be empathetic, you must be vulnerable, and for a lot of people that’s very hard to do,” Kline said. “In our classes, we practice and provide space so that someone can be vulnerable. We work on how you talk, really sit with a patient so that they know you’re on their side and help them develop the skills and behaviors that help the patient.”
Twenty-seven years ago when registered nurse Laura Selwood first began working in healthcare for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), empathy wasn’t a focus.
“Now, when a veteran has an issue regardless of whether it involves primary care, the buck stops here. I tell them: ‘I’m sorry you’re having this problem, or I’m sorry this is happening to you. I can see this is frustrating. Let me help you.’ That validation of their feelings is important,” Selwood said.
Registered nurse Anne Anyanga, who has worked with the VA for more than three years, has learned calming tactics and enhanced her communication skills.
“The training has given me an opportunity to reflect on how we deliver care and how we use our values as an organization to show that we really do care,” Anyanga said. “We treat veterans for a variety of mental health conditions based on their past experiences, and I’ve learned how to lower the temperature when they’re upset. I used to keep quiet, but I’ve learned your tone matters in how you interact with them and resolve their issues.”
Both learned that in the Patient Experience (PX) Academy, which was born in 2014 and first launched with ChristianaCare, where 1,000 staff and medical providers were trained in hospitality healthcare. The pillars of the PX Academy are based on managing changing expectations, excellent customer service, service recovery, openness to experience, comprehensive listening and empathy.
“The program drove ChristianaCare’s patient experience scores over the 90th percentile as measured by more than 8,000 patients who responded to the surveys. This level of achievement is the goal for almost every healthcare organization,” said Ali Poorani, the academy’s faculty director and principal investigator, who’s also an associate professor of hospitality business management in Lerner.
Based on the success of the program, the Wilmington VA approached the University in 2018, seeking to bring the PX Academy to its healthcare system with the curriculum tailored to meet the needs of the VA’s unique population.
“The VA is very conscious that veterans sacrificed for our country and to give us freedoms, and so our program focuses on taking care of veterans and their unique needs,” Kline said. “We’re helping the people who help the veterans, and these healthcare providers are doing more than just providing medical care. Many veterans have profound and emotional experiences, and so the training focuses on emotional aspects as well.”
Vincent Kane, director of the Wilmington Veterans Affairs Medical Center, said one of the center’s strategic initiatives is to Excellerate trust between the medical center and the veteran community, putting veterans and their families first – and what matters to them – at the forefront.
“Having the veteran’s voice at the center of our relationship and how and where we deliver healthcare is critical,” said Kane. “When you define exceptional healthcare, you must ensure that it’s research-informed, evidence-based and state-of-the-art, but it also has to be delivered in a caring, compassionate and respectful way. If you don’t have both, then you don’t have exceptional healthcare. To work with UD to build up the hospitality component of healthcare delivery to Excellerate the overall veteran healthcare experience was just a great marriage.”
The VA Patient Experience Academy launched initially with managers and saw astounding results.
“After the first phase of training nearly 400 medical providers at the Wilmington VA Medical Center and five satellite locations, the results as measured by veterans were outstanding, outperforming national averages by about 2.5%. That was a huge improvement,” Poorani said. “They also became number one in terms of patient experience in Delaware — better than other healthcare systems, so that’s something we really are proud of.”
Kane is proud of the center staff’s efforts to Excellerate the veteran’s overall experience, but knows more work is needed, noting the VA must constantly innovate and improve.
“All of our metrics went up dramatically, including how the veterans perceived their provider,” Kane said. “But these training sessions can’t be a one-and-done. They must be hardwired into how we help and support our staff during onboarding.”
While the program was paused during the COVID-19 pandemic, its success spawned a new two-year contract between UD and the Wilmington VA. A reimagined virtual program launched in October in large part due to an online platform designed and developed by Kelly Cross and Paul Hyde of Academic Technology Services, who continue to support facilitators of the VA PX Academy. The twice-weekly entirely virtual training will reach as many as 700 Wilmington VA employees in the region, including doctors and nurses.
The interactive interprofessional education program creates a bridge between hospitality and healthcare and involves the dynamic Healthcare Theatre program, a joint venture between CHS and CAS.
“From a human-centric perspective, we need to be mindful that patients are human first and a patient when they seek out healthcare,” Poorani said. “But after they leave the hospital or the primary care office, they’re also consumers. So, they are seeing a lot of things happening as a consumer in other industries, and they expect that from their healthcare.”
Healthcare Theatre trains students to be patients and family members, who then take part in simulated healthcare encounters, so learners can practice their medical and communication skills in safe, but highly realistic, healthcare encounters.
By incorporating Healthcare Theatre in the PX Academy curriculum, providers are placed in challenging situations, and instructors observe how they react to patients. Allan Carlsen, director of Healthcare Theatre, said he and other instructors are watching for certain things.
“We want to make sure that doctors introduce themselves well, present a plan of care, and ask the patients if they understand it and accept it,” Carlsen said. “These scenarios give providers an opportunity to practice what’s being taught — empathy, advocacy, all the communication skills, and service recovery. When things go south in these interactive freeze-frame encounters, the providers can stop and start the simulation and talk among themselves. The doctors have an opportunity to help two different vets, each with varying issues, and they get to practice talking to them.”
One “tougher” scenario Selwood and Anyanga faced included a veteran from out-of-town coming in for care with a family member with no medical information.
“That scenario helped us learn how to coordinate care and interact with our veterans to instill confidence that the VA really is a nationwide healthcare system,” Anyanga said.
Selwood said that scenario encouraged her to change her approach with new patients and their families.
“Previously, I used to have loved ones contact eligibility with their questions,” Selwood said. “Now, I’m equipped with more knowledge and can make contacts directly for them and provide better service connections, helping them feel more empowered.”
Poorani said through the PX Academy, the faculty and VA staff are bridging hospitality and healthcare.
“Though hospitals are not hotels, our investigations show nearly 70% of what hospitals do is rooted in hospitality,” said Poorani.
The success of the academy is data-driven and based on numeric and comment-based pre-and post-assessments provided by VA staff.
William Sullivan, adjunct faculty at Lerner and managing director of the Courtyard by Marriott – Newark University of Delaware, said the academy’s success relies strongly on data, and that data, thus far, “has told a great story.”
“This is exactly what we do in the hospitality world,” Sullivan said. “When we marry the concepts together, there’s a lot of great positives. But most of our guests come in healthy, and unfortunately, in the VA’s case many come in with illness. So, we must be different, but we also apply some of the same tools to the measurement process.”
All VA Wilmington staff will ultimately undergo training in the VA PX Academy which brings comfort to Selwood and Anyanga.
“The care starts in the call center, when a veteran or their loved one makes that first call and the first words and the tone that they hear: ‘Hello, how can I help you?’” Anyanga said. “By the time they get to a nurse, I could be the third person they’re talking to, so it’s beneficial that we’re all on the same page in care delivery.”
Paul Weaver was a senior chief petty officer in the U.S. Navy. He retired in 1992 after 23 years of service and uses the VA healthcare system. He’s now an actor with UD’s Healthcare Theatre Program and called the program a “natural application” to fix some of the issues he’s seen first-hand.
“It gives me hope that the next time I go to the VA, things may be different,” Weaver said. “The caregivers and staff must realize how important they are to the veteran. They depend on VA employees to solve their problem, and employees must realize they have a responsibility to provide a solution or seek the answer to the veteran’s problem. Even if they can’t provide a solution for every veteran that walks through the door, they must satisfy them, so they don’t walk away feeling defeated or ignored.”
Joplin High School students could have several new Topics of study available to them next year if the Board of Education approves a list of proposed course additions.
The list will be considered for approval by the board Tuesday. Proposed courses, according to documentation provided to the board, are:
• Hospitality and Tourism. The semester-length elective “would give students the chance to learn employment skills necessary for any job or career that they plan to work with the public” and “would focus on an area not yet covered in our (family and consumer sciences) department.”
• Fundamentals of Design. The yearlong elective “will give (students) the opportunity to expand on what is already taught in Housing and Interior and Fashion Design.”
• Intro to Early Childhood and Education. The semester-length elective “would be an entry-level course for any student interested in the Early Childhood & Education Pathway.”
• Career Pathway to Teaching Profession Level II. This course would replace the program previously known as Cadet Teaching. The Level II course would be geared toward seniors.
• AP Computer Science Principles. This yearlong Advanced Placement elective would “cover a wide range of computing Topics with a special focus on the impact of technology and computing on students’ lives.”
• The World at War. The semester-length course would combine academic standards related to both world and U.S. history to teach the “lasting impact” of World War I and World War II and how the wars can help in “understanding current global standings and relations.”
• Ancient Civilizations (Early Man to Rome). The semester-length elective would “explore the origins, evolution and varieties of world civilizations from their origins (c. 3000 BCE) up to the start of the Middle Ages (c. 1000 CE). ... All of these civilizations developed ideas, philosophies, religions, social values and techniques that we may still learn from.”
• Women’s History. The semester-length elective would “examine the experiences and contributions of diverse groups of women in society in early world history and modern American history. This course will provide knowledge about the social role of women and their involvement in areas such as health, history and political activism and will also provide knowledge about gender stereotypes and how this affects the learning process.”
Also proposed are several electives to be offered virtually: Network System Design, Intro to STEM, Intro to Human Services, Intro to Coding, Intro to Communications and Speech, Fundamentals of Digital Media, Economics, Business Computer Information Systems and Agribusiness Systems.
The courses have been suggested by teachers and administrators following a review of current offerings and curriculum “to ensure that all Joplin Schools’ programs are meeting state requirement and best serve the needs and interest of our students,” administrators said in documents provided to the board.
Associated costs with implementing the new courses would be minimal and would consist mostly of textbooks and other resources, the district said. All courses would be taught by current faculty, with the possible consideration of an additional teacher in the family and consumer sciences division.
In other business Tuesday, the board will:
• Review the 2021-22 audit report, which was prepared by Westbrook and Co.
• Consider change orders to the Dover Hill Elementary School project in the amount of $19,586.80 for sidewalk drains, paint, sod and window bar stock.
• Review the graduation rate at Joplin High School and plans for improvement.
Muller to head community engagement, faith relations for Habitat for Humanity
Hannah Muller has been named director of community engagement and faith relations of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Chattanooga. Muller most recently served as volunteer engagement manager for Habitat, according to a news release.
Muller has a long history with the organization, serving as one of the leaders on the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project when she was employed at Habitat's Nashville affiliate. In her role in Chattanooga, she has coordinated volunteer efforts on various Habitat projects.
As she begins her new role, Muller's position will allow her to interact with community organizations as well as with the faith-based community. Habitat President and CEO Jens Christensen said in a statement hat Muller's loyalty and commitment to Habitat made her the perfect fit for the position.
"Hannah began her career in the hospitality industry where customer service is critical to success," said Christensen. "She brought those experiences with her to Habitat in Nashville and now to Chattanooga. Her desire to make a difference in the lives of others is inspiring to everyone on the team and we're excited to have her in this new position."
Muller is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University and served in various positions in the hospitality industry before making a career move to the non-profit world.
Hurst earns national ABA wealth management honor
Zach Hurst, vice president and managing director of the Chattanooga office for The Trust Company of Tennessee, has been named to the 2023 class of American Bankers Association Under 40 in Wealth Management, according to a news release.
This national award recognizes wealth management and fiduciary professionals across the country who are committed to the highest standards of achievement at work and in their communities, the release stated.
"Zach makes a positive impact wherever he goes and is an asset to our company, valued clients and his community," said Daniel Carter, president of The Trust Company of Tennessee, in the release. "He gets all the pieces in motion to deliver individualized client service and has grown our Chattanooga office to serve clients on a national scale. Our entire team celebrates with Zach on this accomplishment."
Hurst joined the firm in 2017 and previously served as a financial advisor at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management and in multiple collegiate-level athletics administration positions.
Siskin Hospital West named among top rehab hospitals
Siskin Hospital West has been recognized as a best nursing home for short-term rehabilitation for 2022-2023 by U.S. News & World Report, according to a news release.
The annual best nursing homes ratings, now in their 13th year, is designed to help prospective residents and their families in making informed decisions in consultation with their medical professionals about where to receive short-term or long-term nursing home care. Only 16% of U.S skilled nursing facilities earned the "Best Nursing Home" designation this year, the release stated.
"We are honored that Siskin Hospital has, once again, received this designation for our Subacute Program," said President and CEO Dr. Matt Gibson in the release. "This achievement is a testament to our associate's commitment to deliver the highest quality of care to our short-term rehabilitation patients."
For 2022-2023, U. S. News rated more than 15,000 nursing homes on care, safety, infection rates, staffing and health inspections. For the first time, the best nursing homes ratings feature a new measure on weekend staffing and another new measure on infection rates that led to hospitalizations, according to the release.
Business News is published each Sunday. Information about new hires, promotions and business awards should be sent to onthemove@times freepress.com.
Ten members from Aspen Skiing Co.&#8217;s hospitality division, including two employees of Limelight Hotel Snowmass, were recognized during the Colorado Hotel and Lodging Association Stars of the Industry Awards held Nov. 30 in Denver.
Three employees won star awards and seven employees were nominated for awards.
The award-winners were Emily Alexander, director of events, The Little Nell; Phurba Sherpa, purchasing supervisor, The Little Nell; and Lexie Oeth, F&amp;B manager, The Little Nell.
Hospitality workers are calling for a rethink of the industry to Excellerate career longevity and the attitudes of customers as the staff shortage continues to reshape employer and employee expectations.
Julia Antonetti, 26, has been in the industry for eight years and, despite a move into full-time tourism work, she keeps her foot in the kitchen door with a couple of hospitality shifts every week.
"I think for a lot of people in the industry it is their career … not just a uni job," she said.
Ms Antonetti said the upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions had given the industry opportunities to rethink how it attracts and retains workers.
"There's a huge opportunity to rebuild … with long-term growth opportunities and really change the way people perceive working across the whole hospitality industry," she said.
"I would like to see more professional development in the industry, because historically a lot of the training has been on the job and it's not formal."
In her day job as a project officer with Ballarat Regional Tourism, Ms Antonetti started a program called Hospo Heroes, which involved a series of training days offered by businesses in the area.
"The Hospo Heroes program really wanted to … help provide professional development opportunities," she said.
Ms Antonetti said the aim was to build industry connections at the same time as improving workers' skills.
"Whilst you might start out as a dishie or a waiter, you just don't know where you might end up," she said.
The program was funded as part of a Victorian government initiative.
Ms Antonetti's boss, John Harris, who is the co-owner of Ballarat wine bar, Mitchell Harris, has also been trying to promote a more professional approach to hospitality service.
"For us, it is giving not just kids, but all our staff the opportunity to thrive and gain new skills," he said.
"Whether that ultimately leads them away from us — that's the nature of the industry at the moment."
Mr Harris said some people did treat the job as casual or seasonal, but others found themselves surprised by the joy they find.
"Nothing makes us prouder than seeing young people coming through the doors, looking for part-time work, not necessarily wanting a career but falling in love with what is great about this industry," he said.
Mr Harris said older people were also changing the face of the hospitality industry, bringing higher standards and attention to detail to service.
"We'd certainly like to see more mature-age people," he said.
"They bring a whole lot of experience and knowledge and they've often been customers in hospitality venues for a long time and they often know how guests like to be treated."
Posted , updated
The Apple Hospitality REIT (NYSE:APLE) is a company I frequently covered before and during the pandemic. After all, that was the most interesting time to follow what had become a highly-volatile hotel industry. In this article, I'm going to cover the company again. Apple Hospitality is in a terrific spot again. The pandemic is over. Multiple financial indicators are above pre-pandemic levels. The dividend has rebounded, and the outlook is surprisingly good, especially in light of supply growth. Moreover, the company maintains a fantastic balance sheet, allowing it to withstand ongoing headwinds from high rates and Fed policy uncertainty. Hence, APLE's stock is up this year, outperforming the market and most of its peers by a wide margin. I continue to believe that APLE will be a good source of long-term REIT income.
Now, let's dive into the details!
Apple Hospitality is a huge player in the hotel industry. How huge? Well, here are some numbers:
The latest numbers (November investor presentation) show that the company behind the APLE ticker owns 220 hotels. These hotels cover close to 29,000 rooms. The company is 99% room-focused. This means that, unlike some other players, it is less dependent on business events and related.
The company covers 15 brands. Most of them are Hilton, Marriott, and Hyatt. Its hotels are managed under separate management agreements with management companies. The largest is LBAM-Investor Group, managing 34 of APLE's assets.
Its hotels cover 37 states and 87 markets. The average TripAdvisor rating is 4.3, which is satisfying - and no surprise as these branded hotels are often well-managed.
Since the pandemic, APLE has been a net buyer of hotels (in $, not units). It bought 14 hotels worth $558 million while selling 25 hotels for $253 million. Acquisitions are performing better than expected as a third of them are producing trailing twelve-month yields of more than 10%.
With that said, why would you want to invest in hotels? There are some benefits to commercial REITs. For starters, APLE gets most of its revenue from luxury hotels. The higher and upper financial classes tend to keep spending during recessions, despite the undeniable fact that travel spending is cyclical luxury spending.
Moreover, the hotel industry is competitive yet hard to master. Unlike self-storage and residential real estate, it's hard to get access to hotels without being very wealthy - to begin with.
According to The Motley Fool:
In addition, unlike real estate purchases, REIT investors have no active involvement in the property. They only need to choose their hotel REIT carefully, accept the risks that may come with it, and sit back and watch their investment grow. They never have to evict anyone or clean up after a messy tenant; professional management teams behind the REITs do all the heavy lifting.
The biggest reason why someone would buy into a competitive and rather slow-growing hotel industry is income. Heck, that's the number one reason why people are buying REITs in the first place.
Looking at the Seeking Alpha dividend scorecard, the company scores high on safety and growth, somewhat high on yield, and abysmal on consistency.
That's no surprise, as the company took measures in March 2020 to combat what was known as SARS-CoV-2 back then.
The company suspended its dividend, postponed all non-essential capital improvement projects, and used all of its liquidity to protect the business.
Before the pandemic, the company paid a $0.10 per MONTH dividend. Yes, APLE is a monthly-paying stock. The dividend was reinstated exactly one year later when management announced a penny per share in monthly dividends.
Now, the dividend is back at $0.08 per month, which translates to a 5.6% yield. In other words, the YCharts yield above has not been updated yet.
Before the pandemic, the stock usually yielded close to 8% as the stock price and dividend payout were steady. APLE was an income stock, not a growth REIT.
The company's dividend recovery is impressive. However, what's even more important is that it seems sustainable as fundamentals have come roaring back. This is what APLE's CEO Justin Knight commented:
The increases in dividend are a direct result of continued strength in the operating performance of our hotels and an expectation the current trends would continue into the future. I think to your second question, our payout ratios are lower than they were prior to the pandemic. And we have, in addition to being in a position to increase dividends, been also able to preserve capital to reinvest in our business and to fund share repurchases and partially fund acquisitions and our capital improvement.
Moreover, the company repurchased shares.
Recent market volatility has also provided us with the opportunity to purchase our own shares at a meaningful discount to their intrinsic value. Through October, we had purchased just under 200,000 shares at a weighted average market purchase price of approximately $14.21 per share for an aggregate purchase price of approximately $2.7 million. Shares were purchased under a written trading plan as part of our share repurchase program.
As of October 31, 2022, the company had $342 million remaining under its program.
People researching commercial aerospace know that the United States was the first major country to recover from the pandemic. To this day, domestic travel in the United States is what drives aerospace demand.
Related, hotels in the US are doing quite well. While occupancy rates for APLE hotels are not yet fully back to normal as the chart below shows, financial numbers have recovered.
Even better than recovered. The company's average daily rates now exceed pre-pandemic levels. Revenue per available room has improved for six straight months versus pre-pandemic levels, with growth rates reaching double-digit levels.
Note that this recovery is happening despite imploding consumer sentiment, (related) high inflation, and increasing economic uncertainty.
If these headwinds were nonexistent, people would probably be camping outside of hotels to wait for an available spot.
It also helps that industry forecasts expect this recovery to last.
Another tailwind is coming from supply growth. Apple Hospitality expects that nearly 50% of its hotels do not have any exposure to new projects under construction within a five-mile radius. That's the lowest number in years as high construction costs and supply issues make building new hotels less attractive.
In light of high rates, it is important that APLE has a healthy balance sheet. As of September 30, 2022, the company had $1.3 billion in debt. $990 million of this came from term loans and senior notes. The company has no maturities larger than $240 million until 2025. $800 million worth of debt matures after 2026.
Moreover, 87% of its debt is fixed-rate debt. The weighted-average interest rate on its debt was 3.7% as of September 30.
With just 3.3x net debt to EBITDA, extended and staggered maturities, a relatively young portfolio and over $700 million in total liquidity, we are able to be both patient and flexible as we work to capitalize on dislocations in the market. We have been and will continue to be highly selective and intentional in the build-out of our portfolio pursuing assets that are additive to those that we currently own where we can achieve attractive pricing.
Hence, it is no surprise that APLE shares are back on track. Including dividends (the total return performance), APLE shares have almost closed the gap with the iShares US Real Estate ETF (IYR).
What's important is that great fundamentals translate to strong outperformance. Over the past 12 months, APLE has returned 21%. Its REIT peers are down 13% as high rates are just not great for yield investments like REITs.
While I do not expect APLE to turn into a capital gains monster, I think the mix of a high (expected) dividend, buybacks, and low (expected) capital gains is a great recipe for high shareholder satisfaction.
APLE shares are currently trading at 9.5x funds from operations. The historic range, excluding the pandemic (which messes up my y-axis), indicates that APLE shares are still highly attractively priced.
I agree with that. I believe that APLE should not be trading below $21 per share. That's what I consider the fair value to be, for the time being.
APLE is back on track. The company has turned into a source of high and reliable REIT income again. Unless a new pandemic hits us anytime soon, I expect APLE's dividend to soar to at least $0.10 per share per month again. This time, there's more upside as the company is recovering beyond pre-pandemic levels.
Pricing is strong, occupancy rates are improving, and the outlook is supportive of further growth - despite economic challenges.
Moreover, in light of a hawkish Fed, APLE has a stellar balance sheet. The leverage ratio is low, almost all debt has fixed rates, and average yields are low.
While I do not expect APLE shares to take off anytime soon (or ever become a capital gains monster), I think the company is a great place to get high REIT income.
Depending on my personal income situation and diversification plans, I may buy myself some hotel exposure with APLE in 2023!
(Dis)agree? Let me know in the comments!
President Joe Biden hosted French President Emmanuel Macron at the White House on Thursday, using the very first state dinner of his presidency to shore up relations with a key American ally whose friendship has until recently been on the rocks.
Sources close to the planning described a super-sized event under a tent on the White House grounds, including not only the many Democrats clamoring for social time at the White House but also a number of officials and policy staffers interested in strengthening relations with France.
In his remarks celebrating ties between the two nations, Biden offered a toast to “the enduring alliance between France and United States,” calling the alliance “a partnership that’s marked by so many firsts.”
The two presidents raised glasses, with Biden saying, “Vive la France and God bless America.”
The moment takes on extra meaning because of how long the Bidens have waited to hold a state dinner – so long, in fact, that many Democrats worried they were squandering it as a valuable diplomatic tool.
Hear what Biden said about a potential meeting with Putin
Advisers to the president told CNN the dinner is part of the US effort to revitalize ties with France. It comes a year after the US announced a surprise US-Australia submarine partnership – upending France’s own submarine deal with Australia and infuriating French officials. The perilous relations are no small matter, given the array of major challenges facing the larger western alliance.
“If you look at what’s going on in Ukraine, look at what’s going on in the Indo-Pacific and the tensions with China, France is really at the center of all those things,” said John Kirby, the National Security Council’s coordinator for strategic communications. “President Macron has been the dynamic leader inside the G7 … so the President felt that this was exactly the right and the most appropriate country to start with for state visits.”
In an early sign of that diplomacy, the Elysee confirmed to CNN on Thursday a series of gifts exchanged between the world leaders and their spouses.
Macron gifted his US counterpart a centerpiece from French goldsmith and tableware house, Christofle, the Elysee said. The present, crafted in 2012, is a tribute to the French transatlantic liner, the “Normandie,” which sailed with a Christofle silverware collection in the interwar period, per the Elysee.
Biden was also presented with a vinyl record and CD of the soundtrack of the film “A man and a woman,” directed by Frenchman Claude Lelouch. The Elysee described the gift as a “nod to the personal history of the Biden couple” as they watched the 1966 film during their first date. The film also won France’s highest film award, the Palme d’Or at the Cannes film festival.
First lady Jill Biden received two French literary works: a copy of “Madame Bovary,” by Gustave Flaubert, as well as a collection of essays written by Albert Camus, per the Elysee.
Finally, Biden received two gifts from the Elysee Palace gift shop, a watch from watchmaker LIP and a jumper from the French brand Saint James.
The dinner has domestic political overtones, as well. As the Bidens roll out the red carpet for Macron and his wife Brigitte, there’s word they have two more state dinners in the works along with several other social events to come. Several people with knowledge of White House planning and operations, who spoke to CNN for this story, confirmed this State Dinner will be one of several hosted by the Biden administration in upcoming months.
It may suggest, said those familiar with the thinking around future state dinners, Biden indeed wants to run for a second term, something he has said he intends to do, but a decision that also hinges on the consent and support of his wife and extended family.
“These are intricate – and expensive – events,” said one of the people, who has worked in the White House, of state dinners. “If the administration is willing to sink budget dollars into them, there’s probably a larger strategy at play.”
The guest list for Biden’s first state dinner was big from the start, made extra-large to include all of the people who have missed out on key social time with the president due to Covid-19 restrictions. Having done the mental calculations months ago as planning began, said two people familiar with the dinner’s details, the East Wing, the West Wing, the State Department and the National Security Council’s lists ballooned.
Among those attending the state dinner were celebrities and musicians, as well as top lawmakers, according to a printout of guests from the White House. Stephen Colbert, Anna Wintour and John Legend were among the invitees to rub shoulders with the likes of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy.
Two guests of Macron – the head designers for fashion house Oscar de la Renta, Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia – confirmed to CNN that Jill Biden wore the luxury label at the dinner.
Garcia said they collaborated with the first lady for about two months on the dress, getting her input on what she wanted for the look, which included “a sense of ease.”
This first State Dinner offered the opportunity to finally make amends to VIPs and diplomats, members of Congress and deep-pocketed donors. A decision was made to hold the dinner in a tent on the South Lawn, which would allow them to comfortably seat the more than 400 guests expected to attend. (The White House is referring to the tent as a “pavilion,” as it has clear panels on the sides.)
An indoor dinner in the State Dining Room is limited by space restrictions – only about 120 guests can be accommodated. The second and last Trump administration State Dinner, for Australia, was held in the Rose Garden, which could seat approximately 200 for a formal dinner.
“We’ve always expected a larger guest list as it’s the first state dinner of the Biden Administration,” Vanessa Valdivia, Jill Biden’s press secretary, told CNN.
The dinner for France was actually supposed to take place months prior, said the two people, but scheduling conflicts, including campaign trips for midterm elections, foreign travel and the wedding of Naomi Biden, meant the date was pushed back more than once. Thursday evening was ultimately where the schedules of several executive branch agencies landed with clear calendars.
Unfortunately for the White House social offices and usher’s office, the final date also meant pulling off the ritual of holiday decorations and dozens of White House holiday parties in tandem with a debut State Dinner, something that has not been done before during a modern presidency. The White House calligraphers, kitchen staff, service teams and floral shop all worked to juggle the demands of overlapping, high-caliber events.
Ancillary kitchen space has been added with refrigeration units placed outside the White House kitchen area, as is usually the case for multiple or large social events, especially during the busy holiday party season where there can be as many as two or three receptions per day. (Three of the industrial-sized refrigerators outside earlier this week were labeled with the word “cheese,” in black magic marker – unclear whether for the French dinner, or holiday party nibbles.)
For the State Dinner, the Bidens have opted to use rental dishes, glasses, flatware, table accoutrements and linens. The venue, though on the White House grounds, does not allow for the official White House china services to be used for the dinner, said White House social secretary Carlos Elizondo. White House curators, who oversee the use of all items in the White House collection, do not count the temporarily installed tent as part of the campus – and thus the china of presidents’ past would not be part of the service.
The overall design and the floral arrangements were put together by an event planner, Jung Lee, and her company, Fete, a posh party design outfit favored by celebrities.
A stage and dance floor was erected in the tent for the evening’s entertainment from singer Jon Batiste, a New Orleans native, a city Jill Biden said Wednesday is “shaped by both French and American culture.” The Macrons will visit New Orleans after Washington, before returning to France.
The décor for the dinner was inspired by red, white and blue, the shared colors of the American and French flags, and “our common values: liberty and democracy, equality and fellowship,” said Biden at a preview of the table settings and menu.
The trick of a successful State Dinner format, says a former White House social secretary, is to seamlessly and organically combine elements from both the United States and the visiting country, an offering of hospitality on the side of a main course of diplomacy. But without being too hokey about it.
The flowers on the tables Thursday night were mostly roses; American Beauty varietals and Piano Roses, deep red blooms because, as Elizondo said, Emmanuel Macron likes the piano. French-made Champagne flutes were used for toasting, but filled with American sparkling wine. Tall candelabras holding blood-red candles are meant to mimic the Statue of Liberty, France’s gift to the United States. And so on.
The table setting is something the first lady has said is always her first consideration when hosting anyone for a meal, a memory from her childhood and her mother. “Even if we were only having fish sticks from the freezer, she always made our dinners feel special,” said Biden, who is expected to make remarks at the dinner.
“The first lady has been involved since the beginning, it’s been important to her that the dinner reflects the warmth and approachable hospitality that the Bidens are known for,” Valdivia said.
A person with knowledge of the first lady’s hands-on approach to the dinner said she was involved with all aspects of the planning, down to doing tastings of each dish and overseeing the seating chart, much like her immediate predecessor, Melania Trump, whose first state dinner also happened to be for the Macrons. Unlike the Trump dinner, the Bidens served caviar and butter-poached lobster for a first-course, Calotte of beef and watercress and sunchoke salad for the main. Trump went with goat cheese gateau with tomato jam, and a rack of lamb. Though the two dinners would share a dessert: crème fraiche ice cream.
Another common thread with Biden’s immediate predecessor is the lack of a high number of state dinners by this time in his presidency. However, for much of it, Biden has not been able due to the pandemic to host parties. Trump had a third State Dinner in the works – for the King and Queen of Spain – but canceled it as the pandemic took hold around the world.
Biden is also not as inclined socially to host big events at the White House, Covid-19 restrictions or not. The first couple has notably spent most weekends away from Washington in Delaware or Camp David, and as a closely bonded family, there are few occasions where guest lists for dinners expand beyond relatives.
Previous presidents have used the White House frequently to entertain, typically with a subtext, whether political or cultural. In latest history, Barack and Michelle Obama hosted birthday parties and music concerts, bringing together celebrities and politicians for fun-filled, late nights of elbow-rubbing and bonding. The Obamas’ State Dinner for then-French President Francois Hollande in 2014 brought a star-studded guest list that included Bradley Cooper, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Stephen Colbert and Elon Musk.
Singer Mary J. Blige entertained at the dinner. By contrast, Trump’s two state dinners lacked bold-faced guests and headliners, as his political leanings were often antithetical from those of mainstream Hollywood. (For the Trump State Dinner for Macron, the Washington National Opera performed, which a guest told CNN was lovely, “but it wasn’t Beyonce.”)
Going back further, presidents accumulated State Dinners as a means to help soothe icy relationships, or build support on geopolitical crises.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, for example, continued to hold State Dinners during World War II, to pull in allies. Dwight Eisenhower in 1959 hosted Nikita Khrushchev, the first State Dinner for a Soviet leader, to help quell concerns of escalating nuclear tension. Jimmy Carter was not a big party guy – the State Dinners hosted by the president and Rosalyn Carter did not include hard liquor, just beer and wine – but he had held 33 State Dinners by this time in his tenure. After the signing of the Panama Canal treaties, Carter hosted one state dinner for 18 Latin American heads of state, according to data collected by the White House Historical Association.
As time went on, guest lists for the dinners routinely grew, observed by the orders for presidential china sets, which went from accommodating about 100 people, to the most latest official set for the Obamas, which accommodated 320 people. Biden, in other words, still has the time and the space to showcase the highest form of diplomacy this country can offer another world leader. And he intends to.
“There are more being planned and in the works for the future,” said one of the people with knowledge of the larger Biden State Dinner strategy. “This is just the start.”
This story has been updated with additional developments.
Two students majoring in hospitality and tourism management at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff recently participated in the National Society of Minorities in Hospitality's annual conference and career expo at Miami.
During the conference, Trenay Hayes, a junior, and Stephanie Smith, a senior, were able to network with industry leaders and interview for internships, said Suzzette Goldmon, Ph.D., assistant professor and coordinator for UAPB's hospitality and tourism management program.
After interviewing with several companies at the conference, Hayes accepted a summer internship with Hyatt Hill Country Resort and Spa in San Antonio, Texas. "My biggest takeaway from the experience was that you shouldn't be afraid to be yourself and stand out," she said.
"Employers want you to display your talents because they are looking at what you can bring to the table." Hayes said she hopes to pursue a career in the hotel industry, food and beverage industry or in event planning.
"Making others happy is a huge part of hospitality, and that's really the best part of any hospitality job," she said.Smith interviewed with Aramark, the food service, facilities and uniform services provider.
"The interview experience was great," she said. "I actually already completed a summer internship with Aramark and was able to speak about that experience. The Aramark representatives I spoke with were happy to hear that my summer internship was a success for me and that I knew about the company."
Smith said she chose to major in hospitality and tourism management because she has always loved to cook, travel and entertain people. "You have to be a people person in this industry," she said. "Someday I would love to have a career as the owner of an event center and maybe own a fine dining restaurant."
Goldmon said the National Society of Minorities in Hospitality is well known for connecting students with the entire hospitality industry.
This year's conference was hosted by Florida International University's Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, a great example of a well-established program model, she said.
"I was extremely pleased UAPB students had the opportunity to participate in the conference this year," she said. "This was their first opportunity since the pandemic to meet and speak with professionals and other students in person."
Goldmon said the annual conference is not limited to participants from historically Black colleges and universities, but is open to all hospitality majors, including those from primarily white universities.
The occasion was opportune for sharing UAPB program successes and interacting with students from institutions such as the University of California, Cornell University and Morgan State University.
Students of other disciplines such as agriculture, business, accounting, marketing and finance also regularly participate in the conference because of the opportunity to gain paid internships of full-time employment.
Besides making sure her students attend industry conferences, Goldmon also introduces them to her former students who are now industry leaders and college advisors. "It is important that our current students network with those who already have experience and can help direct them toward promising opportunities," she said.
"One of my former students is now the general manager of a boutique hotel group and regularly offers students paid internships."
For more information about UAPB's hospitality and tourism management program, contact Goldmon at email@example.com.
Will Hehemann is a writer/editor with the UAPB School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences.
Investors are often guided by the idea of discovering 'the next big thing', even if that means buying 'story stocks' without any revenue, let alone profit. But the reality is that when a company loses money each year, for long enough, its investors will usually take their share of those losses. Loss-making companies are always racing against time to reach financial sustainability, so investors in these companies may be taking on more risk than they should.
In contrast to all that, many investors prefer to focus on companies like RCI Hospitality Holdings (NASDAQ:RICK), which has not only revenues, but also profits. While profit isn't the sole metric that should be considered when investing, it's worth recognising businesses that can consistently produce it.
Check out our latest analysis for RCI Hospitality Holdings
The market is a voting machine in the short term, but a weighing machine in the long term, so you'd expect share price to follow earnings per share (EPS) outcomes eventually. Therefore, there are plenty of investors who like to buy shares in companies that are growing EPS. Recognition must be given to the that RCI Hospitality Holdings has grown EPS by 37% per year, over the last three years. While that sort of growth rate isn't sustainable for long, it certainly catches the eye of prospective investors.
It's often helpful to take a look at earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) margins, as well as revenue growth, to get another take on the quality of the company's growth. Our analysis has highlighted that RCI Hospitality Holdings' revenue from operations did not account for all of their revenue in the previous 12 months, so our analysis of its margins might not accurately reflect the underlying business. The good news is that RCI Hospitality Holdings is growing revenues, and EBIT margins improved by 5.4 percentage points to 28%, over the last year. Both of which are great metrics to check off for potential growth.
The chart below shows how the company's bottom and top lines have progressed over time. Click on the chart to see the exact numbers.
The trick, as an investor, is to find companies that are going to perform well in the future, not just in the past. While crystal balls don't exist, you can check our visualization of consensus analyst forecasts for RCI Hospitality Holdings' future EPS 100% free.
It's said that there's no smoke without fire. For investors, insider buying is often the smoke that indicates which stocks could set the market alight. That's because insider buying often indicates that those closest to the company have confidence that the share price will perform well. However, insiders are sometimes wrong, and we don't know the exact thinking behind their acquisitions.
It's good to see RCI Hospitality Holdings insiders walking the walk, by spending US$297k on shares in just twelve months. And when you consider that there was no insider selling, you can understand why shareholders might believe that there are brighter days ahead. It is also worth noting that it was Chairman Eric Langan who made the biggest single purchase, worth US$79k, paying US$78.76 per share.
On top of the insider buying, it's good to see that RCI Hospitality Holdings insiders have a valuable investment in the business. Holding US$63m worth of stock in the company is no laughing matter and insiders will be committed in delivering the best outcomes for shareholders. This would indicate that the goals of shareholders and management are one and the same.
While insiders are apparently happy to hold and accumulate shares, that is just part of the big picture. The cherry on top is that the CEO, Eric Langan is paid comparatively modestly to CEOs at similar sized companies. Our analysis has discovered that the median total compensation for the CEOs of companies like RCI Hospitality Holdings with market caps between US$400m and US$1.6b is about US$4.0m.
RCI Hospitality Holdings' CEO took home a total compensation package of US$1.5m in the year prior to September 2021. That's clearly well below average, so at a glance that arrangement seems generous to shareholders and points to a modest remuneration culture. CEO remuneration levels are not the most important metric for investors, but when the pay is modest, that does support enhanced alignment between the CEO and the ordinary shareholders. It can also be a sign of a culture of integrity, in a broader sense.
RCI Hospitality Holdings' earnings per share have been soaring, with growth rates sky high. What's more, insiders own a significant stake in the company and have been buying more shares. These factors seem to indicate the company's potential and that it has reached an inflection point. We'd suggest RCI Hospitality Holdings belongs near the top of your watchlist. What about risks? Every company has them, and we've spotted 2 warning signs for RCI Hospitality Holdings you should know about.
Keen growth investors love to see insider buying. Thankfully, RCI Hospitality Holdings isn't the only one. You can see a a free list of them here.
Please note the insider transactions discussed in this article refer to reportable transactions in the relevant jurisdiction.
Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email editorial-team (at) simplywallst.com.
This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.
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