Chanell Oliver began her career in hospitality when she was 18, and aside from a yearlong stint helping Tao Group open Lavo in the Palazzo, she has been with SBE since its inception more than a decade ago. As the brand’s global director of VIP services, she has come a long way since cocktailing at the company’s first nightclub, Shelter. She recently helped open the SLS Miami and a slew of other SBE brands in South Beach. While many have dubbed Oliver “The Queen of SBE,” she is really more of a people’s princess, striving to instill a service ethos in her team so that all SBE customers “feel VIP.” We caught up with Oliver just as she arrived back in Las Vegas to discuss her role when SLS opens August 23.
Are you excited to be back?
After living in three major markets [Los Angeles, Miami and Las Vegas], I am thrilled to be back in a place where everyone is so passionate about hospitality. The [primary] industry here is hospitality, and this city never stops. That’s why people are so passionate about it, because to succeed in this environment you have to love what you do. I’m so excited to see that from the 100,000-plus applicants we’ve had [looking] to work here.
What does a director of VIP services do?
I’ve really tried very hard to come up with another word for “VIP,” because I think it can be a bit intimidating to the average consumer. I don’t want anyone to feel intimidated by the phrase “VIP services” and think they are not VIP. We try to make people feel special and enhance their experience, and this sentiment is echoed by [CEO] Sam [Nazarian], who has always instilled a philosophy of “surprising and delighting guests.” So whether someone who is here for a convention and who doesn’t really go out much at home, but wants to live it up for the weekend, or a big gambler or nightlife spender, we try to do this as best we can for everyone. What is surprising for the once-a-year visitor is not surprising to those big spenders, so this keeps us on our toes.
How do you keep people loyal to the brand?
We have a lot of customers who have been with us for a very long time. Some may have graduated [from college] 12 years ago, when SBE was conceived and I have seen these people grow up and evolve, just as we have grown and evolved. Some of these clients may now be married with two small children, and while they still frequent our restaurants and like to be in the scene, they may only go out to our clubs once or twice a year at this stage in their life.
What specific role will you play at SLS?
I know all of our customers and know how to connect with them. I will be working hand in hand with our team and our card-loyalty program. I’m that human capital who is making sure they are getting a personal phone call, be they a gambler, nightlife customer, someone spending a birthday with us, or a convention planner from Vegas, L.A., Miami or beyond.
What will set the new property apart?
Our operations in L.A., Miami and elsewhere give us a lot of touch points and make our brand more translatable. We have large teams of people in these markets and [our senior team] has been together since Day One, 12 years ago. Since that time, we have conceptualized every nightclub together and made a ton of friends along the way. Our customers have crossed a line and become our friends and family.
We know that relationships alone are not enough to keep people coming through the doors. They also want to see a good DJ and experience a certain level of service. We have developed strong programming, and will have DJ Vice and Erick Morillo during our opening weekend. Our relationships will get people in, and the product will keep them here.
How will SLS attract people to the north end of the Strip?
We first opened Shelter on L.A.’s Sunset Boulevard at a time when none of the who’s who went to Sunset. Everyone went out in West Hollywood, but Sam had this vision and exceeded everyone’s expectations. Now everyone goes to Sunset. We saw the same thing when we opened Katsuya at Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street, and the Redbury across the street. I’m not saying, “Where we go, the party follows,” but we strategically select locations we believe in. We are also bringing familiar brands, such as L.A.’s Foxtail, and blending them with new ones such as Life. So I don’t think anybody here is worried.
Mandalay murdered it when it first opened. At the end of the day it’s only a 2½-mile-long road.
Follow Oliver on Twitter at @ChanellOliver.