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HU@30 - The Rich Roast Brewing Since 1992 by Gregg Hopkins

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June 10, 2022
Gregg Hopkins

A lot can happen in 30 years! That’s three decades—nearly the span of most people’s entire professional careers. And when it comes to technology, 30 years feels like a century ago. In 1992, the first SMS text message was sent, Visual Basic was introduced for MS-DOS, IBM debuted the very first notebook computer and flip phones were still the “latest thing.” In fact, at that time, the first iPhone was still 15 years away from becoming a reality and changing our world forever. But in that critical year of technological evolution, one man had a vision to create a forum for technology professionals that was focused exclusively on the hotel and hospitality industry. That man is Rich Siegel. Founder and Publisher of Hospitality Upgrade. From a stapled 28-page newsletter, Xeroxed onto yellow paper that he wrote, produced, and distributed from his home office—to a major magazine and media enterprise that is considered to be the leading source of information on hotel technology, HU has come a long way in the past 30 years—and Rich has become a true icon in our industry.

Last September during HITEC 2021 in Dallas, the PROVision team got together with Rich for breakfast and over our coffee, the subject of the 30-year anniversary of HU came up. We reminisced about all that has happened in each of our careers over that time span and had a few laughs. Afterwards, however, we got to thinking… this is an amazing milestone that deserves real recognition and celebration. After sharing our idea for the HU@30 dinner with the Hospitality Upgrade team, we decided to include the celebration as part of Hospitality Upgrade’s annual Executive Vendor Summit and the idea for the “Rich Roast” was born.

One of the most difficult aspects of coordinating this momentous event was figuring out who would be the official “Rich Roasters.” Many of Rich’s industry friends and long-time colleagues eagerly volunteered for the task and, in fact, some couldn’t wait to roast him, it seemed—so deciding on the “final 8” wasn’t easy. 

I was deeply honored to have been asked to emcee the Rich Roast portion of the HU@30 celebration dinner at EVS. I have known Rich since the mid 1980’s, worked with him at Lodgistix, and have since watched him and his media enterprise, which now includes Hospitality Upgrade and Hotel-Online, grow and evolve from its inception in 1992 into the multi-faceted organization that it is today. Richard Tudgay served as my co-host at the roast and shared with all of us a side of him that I don’t think anyone was expecting!

At the end of the day, Rich himself selected who would take the stage at the event as his “Roasters.” Those he selected included association executives, vendors, hotel CIOs, consultants, and others who have been part of his 30-year journey with Hospitality Upgrade. They included:

  • Frank Wolfe (aka “the penguin”), CEO of HFTP
  • Coco Tollgaard (was one of Rich’s original advisory board members when Rich was launching the publication) 
  • Ken Barnes, CTO at Progress Residential 
  • Ted Horner, Owner of E Horner & Associates
  • Kris Singleton, President & CIO at Enseo 
  • David Chestler, President & Chief Revenue Officer at PROVision Partners
  • Mark Holzberg, President & CEO at Cloud5 Communications 
  • Peter Holmes, VP Enterprise Sales at Kalibri Labs (friends with Rich since the early 1980s)

Each of the Roasters shared funny memories and stories about Rich, but underneath it all, what was truly apparent was their deep respect and affection for him, as well as admiration for the community that he helped to create. Best of all, it was all for a great cause, with proceeds from the celebration benefitting the HTFP Foundation. 

So, here’s to another 30 years. I can’t wait to see where hotel technology will be in 2052!

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