Opening a Hotel During a Pandemic: Nicole Warner, Hotel Millwright

SUBSCRIBE to our channel so you never miss an episode!

Knowing Hospitality is a full service hotel management and consulting company that stabilizes properties on behalf of owners and lenders. Visit us at to learn more.

Book a 90-minute hotel strategy call: for past episodes and show notes.


Opening a hotel during a pandemic may seem strange but that’s exactly what Nicole Warner, General Manager of the all new Hotel Millwright in the Amana Colonies of Iowa was tasked with doing. On this episode of the podcast, we’re diving into operations and talking about bringing a hotel to life.

Nicole shares insights into how the opening process was planned and executed, building a high performing team, and what it’s like being a property leader during one of the most difficult times in the hospitality industry.

She illustrates how the hotels’ principles of proper training, engaging service, a great product and thoughtful touches, have not only kept them busy, but driven business from all over the country, even while many hotels and markets struggle during the downturn.

This episode is a great reminder that no matter what hotels are dealing with today, the fundamentals of communication, transparency and empathy are more important than ever.

On this episode we discuss:
- Marketing the opening of the hotel (4:50)
- The guest mix at the hotel (6:00)
- How the hotel has been managing COVID-19 (6:55)
- What it’s been like as a GM during a time of upheaval and crisis in hospitality (8:20)
- The process of opening a hotel: 90 days out to day of (10:27)
- Training a entirely new team for the pandemic (13:21)
- Actionable learnings through the hotel opening (16:54)
- How thinking and execution of guest programming and activities has changed (19:52)
- A message to other hotel GM’s (26:42)

About Nicole

Nicole Warner is the General Manager at Hotel Millwright in Iowa and a long-time Operations and Hospitality Director with industry experience in Colorado, Washington, and California. Nicole demands results: at one location, she spearheaded resort improvements that increased rental revenue by 18% and generated $1 million in revenue. At another site, she increased employee satisfaction by 21% in one year. Nicole is an Iowa City, Iowa native and so she’s excited to be back in her home state. She’s also got a wicked sense of humor.

And the songs:

Daft Punk, Around the World
Dope Lemon and Winston Surfshirt, Every Day is a Holiday


Hotel Millwright:


Don’t miss out on game changing hospitality insights. Sign up to our newsletter here👇