Star City Six – Tom Benes
Graduate Lincoln (www.graduatehotels.com/lincoln) is a handcrafted boutique hotel located in the heart of Lincoln’s Historic Haymarket District, within walking distance to over 40 different bars and restaurants. Tom Benes is the corporate sales manager for Graduate Lincoln.
Tell us a little about your business.
Graduate Lincoln opened in June of 2017 after an $8 million renovation to refresh and rebrand what was previously the Holiday Inn Downtown. One thing that makes our hotel different from other properties is that it’s designed around the culture and community of Nebraska. You’ll find nods to Johnny Carson, Kool-Aid, and of course—corn. This fun and unique design either evokes memories for guests who are familiar with the area, or enlightens new travelers of all the great things our community has to offer. Being a full-service hotel with 231 rooms and 15,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, we are able to handle groups of all sizes!
How did you get started in the business?
About 3 years ago, I was minding my own business, perfectly happy as a general manager at a local restaurant. After talking with a guest at the bar, she asked me what it would take for me to drop everything and help open Lincoln’s first boutique-style hotel. I thought she was crazy, but when I looked into the Graduate brand—I was hooked. It seemed like such an exciting thing to bring to Lincoln, and I knew I had to be a part of it.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced professionally?
Going from the restaurant and bar industry to the hotel industry seemed like an easy jump, but it wasn’t. I embraced the challenge and it was surprisingly refreshing to be bad at something. I learn new skills and insights every day. One thing remained the same, though—put the guest first and everything else will work out.
Tell us a little about your family.
I am the youngest of five. My family is loving, caring, and completely insane. They may be a little dysfunctional and look for any opportunity to embarrass me, but no one makes me laugh harder. I’m lucky to have such a great support system and they are a huge part of my successes.
What is the most unique or interesting thing about you that most people probably don’t know?
I hate high-fives, but don’t mind fist bumps. I love really spicy food, but can’t eat anything that’s warmer than room temperature.
What are you the most proud of?
Opening Graduate Lincoln. It wasn’t just about opening a hotel to me. It was a chance to be a part of adding something so unique to our community that we can be proud to show travelers. It’s also great to see that locals become walking billboards who take just as much pride in Graduate Lincoln. There is nothing more gratifying than seeing guests enjoy experiences and create memories in an atmosphere that you can’t get anywhere else.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
You’re not as important as you think, but you’re more important than you’ll ever know.
If you could choose only one descriptive word to be remembered as, what would it be?
What is your greatest talent that you don’t utilize in your daily work life?
I can make a pretty dang good lasagna.
What is your favorite local restaurant?
Graduate Lincoln’s very own John J’s Chow Hall, of course!
If our readers would like to contact you, how should they do so?