Level Up: Vinay Patel

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Vinay Patel is an executive for SREE Hotels, which is a family-owned business that his uncle and family friend started over 40 years ago.

 

What You Need To Know

  • Vinay Patel is one of the executives for SREE Hotels, a family-owned business that his uncle and family friend started more than 40-years ago
  • Based in Charlotte, SREE Hotels has a portfolio of 23 hotels, mostly in the southeast, representing 10 different brands
  • Patel graduated with an economics degree from UNC Chapel Hill, is a huge Tar Heels basketball fan and is now on the board of trustees for the university

 

They started off buying a run-down hotel in South Carolina, renovated it and repeated the process, eventually growing a booming business based in Charlotte.

SREE Hotels has a portfolio of 23 hotels, mostly in the southeast, representing 10 different brands.

From housekeeping to bartending, Patel worked just about every job in the business while attending UNC Chapel Hill.

“We don’t want to have team members ever come up to us and say, ‘you haven’t done this.’ We have done everything, and during COVID, our managers went back to the basics: they were doing laundry, they were doing housekeeping, they were doing front desk, they were bartending, you name it, they were doing it,” he said.

He says the start of the pandemic was the worst time in the industry.

“This building, I remember, we had more employees working than we had guests in rooms,” Patel said.

He says they did not lay off any salaried employees, and he believes that fostered loyalty.

For 2022, the booking numbers are now a lot better.

When it comes to hospitality, he says there’s something that never changed after the height of the pandemic.

“People will forgive old. They will not forgive dirty. They will not forgive bad customer service,” he said.

His company has promoted housekeepers and front desk clerks to become general managers.

Patel believes the secret to success in the hospitality industry involves two things.

“You need an attitude and ethic. I can teach you what to do, but I can’t teach you to smile and I can’t teach you to want to work,” Patel said.

He started off wanting to be a nuclear physicist, but his uncle gave him another option. Learning the hotel business from the ground up.

“You either love or hate this business, and I love this business because it’s all about the people,” he said.

Another one of Patel’s loves is his family.

His wife, Shefalee, is a market researcher. The couple also has two sons.

Patel graduated with an economics degree from UNC and is a huge Tar Heels basketball fan.

He’s now on the board of trustees for the university.

“When the speaker called me and asked, he said, ‘would you be interested?’ I said, ‘that place has a very special place in my heart, and my eldest is there right now, if you think I’m capable, I’d be happy to do it.’ There are so many Asian Americans on campus, and he felt that representation from another Asian American would be important,” Patel said.

Patel and his family grew up in the South Pacific island country of Fiji.

“I went from Fiji, where you barely wore shoes, to school, to Charlotte Country Day School,” he said.

Now, he and his family live in Charlotte’s Ballantyne area. He built a house for his mom, and she lives across the street.

“She sacrificed a lot, having to take care of my dad in a wheelchair, being by her side the whole time. She deserves everything she has,” Patel said.

Patel is thankful for everything he has. 

And even with his personal and professional success, here’s what grounds him.

“For me, it’s God, family and then everybody else at the end of the day,” he said.

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