LAZ Parking/ LAZ Ultimate Hospitality

LAZ Parking’s interactions with customers may be brief, but that does not make them any less important, Andrew J. Tuchler says. “We always talk about the first and last impressions,” he declares. “The guest experience always starts and ends on the front drive.”

Based in Hartford, Conn., LAZ Parking specializes in parking management services for multiple markets, including office, hospitality, healthcare, government and municipal, and colleges. Tuchler, who is a managing partner of its LAZ Ultimate Hospitality division, notes that the firm’s history goes back to the mid-1970s.

At that time, Chairman and CEO Alan B. Lazowski, President Jeffrey N. Karp and Chief Culture Officer Michael Harth became friends in a small town near Hartford. When Harth attended his senior year in college, he formed a valet business in San Diego, which served beachside restaurants.

Lazowski and Karp followed his lead and started a valet business in Hartford and Boston, serving a restaurant, a nightclub and a surface parking lot. In 1983, the companies merged to form LAZ Parking, while Harth continued operating independently on the West Coast under the name Sunset Parking.

In 2006, LAZ Parking secured a contract with Millennium Park Garages in Chicago, which earned it the status of a regional player. It also won the attention of VINCI Park, one of the world’s largest parking firms, which sought to invest in a U.S. company.

In the following year, VINCI bought 50 percent of LAZ Parking, which then acquired Sunset. Today, LAZ Parking operates hundreds of thousands of parking spaces across the country and employs a staff of approximately 7,800. 

LAZ Parking stands as a leader in its market, Tuchler says. “[We’re also] a very desirable organization to be a part of. We’re intensely family oriented and we’re very focused on our associates.”

Hospitality Focused

Tuchler is a longtime veteran of the parking industry. From 1987 to 1989, he worked for LAZ Parking as he attended college. He later founded his own company, Ultimate Parking.

“My focus in parking was in New England and strictly hospitality,” he recalls, noting that the firm enjoyed strong success. “[But over] the course of a 20-year growth period, we really hit the ceiling in terms of opportunities.”

When LAZ Parking acquired his company in 2009, Tuchler gained a new role and a larger footprint to work with as the manager of the company’s dedicated hotel parking operation. Under his leadership, “We were able to take LAZ Parking from 50 to 200 [hotel] partners,” he says. “That’s created tremendous opportunities for hundreds of individuals.”

Those individuals have been key to the division’s success because they make the first impression when they accept a customer’s car keys. As a result, “We’ve done our best organically to promote from within,” Tuchler says. “We have stories of hundreds of valets that are managers now throughout the country.”

Technology and Service

LAZ Ultimate Hospitality is seeing a strong emphasis on technology and automation in its market, which is good news for the division, Tuchler says. “Technology allows us to be more effective and efficient and spend more quality time with guests,” he says.

It means the division can offer clients more services and improved reporting and metrics. For example, the technology can allow customers to check on their car and, send and receive communications “all while they’re still in their rooms,” Tuchler says. It can track productivity and return times.

“You could think of technology as taking some of the human element out of the operation,” he says. “But, it actually allows our staff to be more hands on with customers because the actual transaction is simpler. It’s also something we want to be a part of, because the world is changing.”

Building the Team

LAZ Ultimate Hospitality faces roadblocks when recruiting the talent it needs to cope with its growth, Tuchler says. “There’s only so much we can do internally,” he says. 

“The need for external talent is upon us,” he continues, noting that the robust economy makes it even more challenging. “[But] we’re heading on and doing quite well.”

LAZ Ultimate Hospitality has coped by increasing its focus on recruiting through social media, including the CareerBuilder site, Tuchler says. “We also have the ability to leverage our culture as a competitive advantage to attract new team members,” he says.

When hiring, the division looks for the right attitude and appearance. “It’s really going to be important [how they] present themselves, including how their interaction is with us, how their eye contact is and how they are groomed,” he describes. “Those are key indicators for frontline people and it’s what our guests look for.”

Recipe for Success

Both LAZ Parking and the Ultimate Hospitality division have a high percentage of repeat business, Tuchler says. “As a result of that, [we’re] winning more business,” he says. 

“If we service our relationships and partnerships correctly, our points of contact will grow within those organizations, whether it’s the general manager, financial controller, regional manager,  or the hotel management or ownership group who has 15 – several 100,” he says. “It’s [all due to us] cultivating those relationships.”

LAZ Parking’s treatment of its own people plays a crucial part in this as well, Tuchler adds. “If you’re focused on creating opportunity for your employees, then they’re happy,” he says.

“They’re focused on creating value for their client,” he states. “When all of that happens, it’s a recipe for continued success.”

Wise Investments

LAZ Parking has invested in employee training with LAZ University, which was created by Vice President of Human Resources Andi Campbell. It offers training programs including Manager Certification 101, “which really focuses on the foundation of leadership,” Tuchler says.

LAZ University offers four different certifications, all dealing with management. “We also have monthly coaching clinics and continuing education,” he continues. “We now also provide courses on the seven habits of highly effective management.”

LAZ Ultimate Hospitality also recently partnered with Flash Valet, which valet parking customers can use to request their car, pay and tip by using their mobile phones. “Flash Valet is one of the leading providers of valet parking technology,” Tuchler declares.  

“It is iCloud-based instead of having hardware at hotel front drives,” he says, noting that this is helpful to hotels that have small front-drive spaces.

The company also partners with Zingle, which allows users to text ahead to valets and request their car. “It’s a great application for dealing with car dispatching and car retrieval,” Tuchler says, noting that the company uses Zingle at its restaurant locations. “We probably service 100 restaurants throughout the country.”

Looking for Opportunities

Tuchler sees more opportunities ahead for LAZ Parking and the Ultimate Hospitality division. 

“We’re focused on growing our operations,” he says. “Our high-level team members are constantly meeting, strategizing our vision and fine-tuning it.” 

The company also wants to create more opportunities for its employees to move ahead, as well as more ways to integrate state-of-the-art technology. 

“[Those are] a very intricate part of our operations, every day,” he says. 

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