At the helm of a lifestyle boutique hotel brand that is poised for a sizeable growth spurt in by 2020, Dream Hotel Group CEO Jay Stein literally worked his way up from the kitchen, craving to cook up inspiration to start some type of career.

“I really had no great desire to go into the hospitality industry,” Stein admitted. “I had a great desire to do something—a passion to start a career. I worked in a restaurant as a cook and went back to school and took hospitality management, mainly to get my parents off my back.”

At the beginning of his career Stein approached a hotel’s F&B director to get his foot in the door.

“I’ll work weekends, I’ll work nights, I’ll work functions—I don’t care what you pay me. All I want to do is learn,” he remembered as part of his pitch. “I became a sponge and it just worked out.”

After sitting in on executive meetings and reading financial statements, Stein soon realized that F&B only controlled a relatively small portion of a property’s profitability—room inventory is where the money is at—so he approached the general manager.

“I said I really want to understand the rooms part of this thing, so he said, ‘You run the F&B and I’ll promote you to assistant manager if you’re serious about it,” Stein recalled. “Not long after [being named assistant manager] he moved on and I moved up to the GM role and it took off from there.”

Now a hospitality industry veteran, Stein has worked more than three decades in hotels, including Hilton Worldwide, Starwood Hotels, Doral Hotels and over 20 years with Hampshire Hotels Management, the predecessor of Dream Hotel Group.

Dream Hotel Group Bets Big on Corporate Event Business

Under the stewardship of Stein, Dream Hotel Group, which includes the Dream Hotel, Unscripted, The Chatwal and Time Hotel brands, is known for throwing high profile events for worldwide tech, financial, insurance and entertainment companies.

“They want to be where the cool kids are and the excitement is,” he said of the allure of Dream’s high profile and hip properties, which draw more than their fair share of celebrities.

“Whether it’s a charity event and the after-parties we host, there are a lot of celebrities at our properties and people like that—they feed off that energy,” Stein added. “They’re up in those spaces and they know that’s one of the hottest places in the city, so that’s very exciting for the attendees.”

The Electric Room at Dream Downtown in New York
The Electric Room at Dream Downtown in New York

High-gloss aside, Stein is proud that Dream Hotels Group also plays in the meetings segment.

“We’re one of the few lifestyle hotel companies that puts a big emphasis on meeting space. Some have significant space—10,000 square feet or more—and some have smaller meeting spaces,” he said.

“We embrace large meeting spaces for all of our lifestyle hotels because we realize most of our guests midweek are corporate customers,” Stein added. “Meeting planners love the F&B, creativity and the out-of-the-box thinking. Planners really love us because we take such an interest in dining and nightlife.”

Dream’s move to counter the early 2018 commission cuts from Marriott and Hilton by raising its commission rate to 12 percent is of keen interest for independent meeting planners especially.

Dream Hotel Group Plans for Big Growth Through 2020

Stein said the brand is targeted to grow by 229 percent from 2016 to 2020 and is bullish on an expansion into Asia, the Middle East and Africa, opening an additional corporate office in Bangkok headed by former Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts CEO Abid Butt.

Dream Phuket Hotel & Spa in Thailiand
Dream Phuket Hotel & Spa in Thailiand

“We have great lifestyle hotels with an emphasis of the city we’re in, nightlife food and beverage. I think the formula we have is perfect for that part of the world,” Stein said of the appeal his brand has internationally. “We do a have a bit of a secret sauce of what we do. We call it ‘aggressive hospitality,’ so guests are surprised and look over their shoulder and say, ‘How did they do that?’

“And we have unique spaces, so to do an event in one of our nightclub venues or event meeting spaces, it may look like an art gallery in SoHo,” he continued.

“And if you do bring a group to one of our properties, and you take 30 or 50 rooms, chances are you’re going to be the only one there,” Stein added about his brand’s competitive difference over big-box hotel meetings. “They have the full attention of our groups and meetings team, and we like it that way. They are the only one there, not one of five or six other groups.”

The Dream Hotel Group Portfolio: Existing and Incoming Properties

THE CHATWAL HOTELS

  • Hotel: The Chatwal New York
  • Opening in 2020: The Chatwal Lodge | The Chatwal San Miguel de Allende
  • Opening in 2021: The Chatwal Maaga Maldives

DREAM HOTELS

  • Hotels: Dream Downtown | Dream Midtown | Dream South Beach | Dream Phuket | Dream Bangkok | Dream Hollywood 
  • Opening in 2018: Dream Nashville  
  • Opening in 2020: Dream Palm Springs | Dream Pattaya Na Jomtien
  • Opening in 2021: Dream Atlanta Buckhead | Dream Belize | Dream Dallas | Dream Doha | Dream Gasveli Maldives | Dream New Delhi
  • Opening in 2022: Dream Carabao Island

TIME HOTELS

  • Hotels: The Time New York | The Time Nyack

The Time Nyack Hotel in Nyack, New York
The Time Nyack Hotel in Nyack, New York

UNSCRIPTED HOTELS

  • Hotel: Unscripted Durham
  • Opening 2019: Unscripted Belize 
  • Opening 2020: Unscripted Birmingham Central Hall | Unscripted Tulum 
  • Opening 2021: Unscripted Austin

NIGHT HOTELS

  • Hotels: Night Times Square | Night Theater District

HERITAGE HOUSE RESORT

  • Hotel: Heritage House Resort

LEGACY PROPERTIES

  • Hotels: Gallivant Hotel | Hampton Inn Manhattan Times Square North | Days Inn Hotel | Hilton Garden Inn Times Square

Before You Go: Check out more industry profile articles on our Movers & Shakers profiles page.​