Management Profile

Profiles of key members of the management team at Royal Sonesta New Orleans.

Alfred L. Groos

General Manager

Alfred Groos

Alfred L. Groos was appointed General Manager of the Royal Sonesta New Orleans on April 1, 2006. After graduating from Cornell University School of Hotel Administration, Groos started his hospitality career at the Royal Sonesta New Orleans as a trainee. In 1994 he moved to the former Chateau Sonesta Hotel New Orleans to become the hotel’s opening general manager. In 1996 Groos was named General Manager of the Royal Sonesta Boston. Groos returned to New Orleans in 2000, when he rejoined the former Chateau Sonesta Hotel as General Manager.

In 2003, Groos served as President of the New Orleans Hotel & Lodging Association. The Association, which is comprised of hospitality professionals of the Greater New Orleans area, represents the lodging industry and provides a means to further professionalism, knowledge, and profitability. That same year, Groos was honored with Where Magazine’s 2003 “General Manager of the Year” award.

Groos has served on the board of the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau and in 2005, was named Chairman of the Board. He currently serves on the Bureau’s Executive Committee. In 2006, Groos was sworn in as the Vice Conseiller Gastronomique for the Confrerie de la Chaine des Rotisseurs. In 2007, Mayor C. Ray Nagin appointed Groos as a Commissioner to the board of the Morial Convention Center, whose exclusive mission is to spur economic growth and development that will attract out of state visitors to the state. Groos currently holds the Secretary position on the Morial Convention Center's board.

In 2009, Groos was appointed to the Advisory Board of the Lester E. Kabacoff School of Hotel Restaurant and Tourism Administration. He was selected by the Governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal, to the French Quarter Marigny Historic Area Management District Board of Directors. The organization’s mission is to strengthen the historic area within its boundaries and maintain it as a vital component of Louisiana’s tourism industry.

In 2010, Groos was selected as an honored member of Sonesta’s Corporate Operations Committee responsible for overseeing the daily operations of certain newly developed Sonesta properties.

 

Mark Ernst

Assistant General Manager

Mark Ernst

Mark Ernst was named assistant general manager of the newly renovated Royal Sonesta New Orleans hotel. He joined the Sonesta team as our Food & Beverage Director in March 2014. In his new role, Ernst serves as second in command to the hotel’s general manager and will remain primarily responsible for food & beverage operations, while also overseeing and leading the rooms division of Royal Sonesta New Orleans. Ernst comes to us with 30 years hospitality experience, including 20 years in management. Ernst’s leadership has been instrumental in positioning Royal Sonesta New Orleans’ entire range of culinary offerings as top dining destinations and go-to experiences in New Orleans. Prior to his time with Royal Sonesta New Orleans, Ernst worked for several years as assistant director of food & beverage at The Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans, and was a food & beverage director at the San Francisco W Hotel.

 

Brigette Folse

Director of Sales & Marketing

Brigette Folse

Brigette Folse was named as the hotel’s director of sales and marketing in January 2015. Folse is responsible for the leadership, effectiveness and productivity of the Royal Sonesta New Orleans’ sales organization. The position’s primary responsibility is to guide sales strategies in all market segments towards maximizing hotel revenue. Folse joined the Royal Sonesta New Orleans in 2013 as the director of sales and has demonstrated exemplary leadership abilities that have positively impacted her team’s effectiveness. “Brigette Folse is a solution-driven goal-oriented leader. She possesses strong interpersonal skills that propel the production of our sales team to exceed their goals. We are confident that under Folse’s direction the sales and marketing teams will exceed expectations. Brigette Folse is an asset to our executive team and we are fortunate to have her talent on board,” said Alfred L. Groos, president and general manager of the Royal Sonesta New Orleans.

Folse has over two decades of experience in the hospitality industry that includes overseeing several major hotel openings. Before joining the Royal Sonesta New Orleans, Folse served as the associate director of sales for the Hyatt Regency New Orleans. While at Loews Hotels, Folse served as associate director of sales at the Loews Coronado Bay Resort & Spa in San Diego and as the national sales manager for the opening of Loews New Orleans. Folse has held additional managerial positions at both the J.W. Marriott and Hotel Monaco in New Orleans.

 

Brian Englehart

Director of Rooms

Brian Englehart

Englehart joins the Royal Sonesta team after having served at some of New Orleans’ premier hotel properties and hospitality entities. Previously, he was director of operations at Wyndham New Orleans French Quarter, general manager of Limousine Livery luxury transportation service, general manager of The Saint Hotel, director of hotel operations at The Roosevelt New Orleans and director of housekeeping with The Ritz Carlton. In total, Englehart has nearly 25 years of career experience in executive hotel service and hospitality.

 

Juanita Hill-Kennedy

Director of Human Resources

Juanita Hill-Kennedy

Juanita Hill-Kennedy joined the hotel as human resources director in May 2015. Hill-Kennedy is responsible for developing and directing hotel policy in accordance with Sonesta International Hotels Corporation standards relative to all human resources activities at the French Quarter property. Specifically, Hill-Kennedy will oversee new hires, manage employee relations, help guide career development, and oversee promotions and relocations at the hotel. Working closely with management, Hill-Kennedy will also help guide Sonesta’s Culture of Caring community initiatives at the New Orleans property. She will monitor employee morale while effectively managing retention and increasing employee productivity.

Immediately prior to joining Royal Sonesta New Orleans, Hill-Kennedy served as region human resources manager at Iv-AGA Engineering, a Metairie-based firm with offices in Louisiana and Texas, where she was responsible for recruitment, training and employee relations. An expert in the field of human resources, Hill-Kennedy has also worked as a highly successful independent consultant. At Harrah’s Entertainment, Hill-Kennedy served as regional director of recruitment and employment over a workforce of over 5,000 employees. Juanita Hill-Kennedy pursued her undergraduate studies in the field of education at the University of New Orleans with some course work at Honolulu Community College in Hawaii. She is certified as an SPHR-Senior Professional in Human Resources and most recently obtained certification as an SHRM-SCP, an honor bestowed by the Society of Human Resource Management. Hill-Kennedy’s professional affiliations include NOLA SHRM, the New Orleans SHRM chapter where she served on the board of directors as the organization’s diversity director. She is also a member of the Society of Human Resources Professionals.

 

Paul Steiger

Director of Engineering

Paul Steiger

Steiger comes to Royal Sonesta New Orleans with more than 20 years of hospitality industry experience. Most recently, he served as director of engineering at the 800-room Nickelodeon Resort and Suites in Orlando, Florida. He also has an extensive brand protection background from his time as Central Florida district manager for the Steri-tech Group, where he oversaw service operations for more than 1,100 hotels and restaurants. Steiger also has supervised the operations end of hotel transitions in both Florida and New Orleans.

 

Daneen Zeringue

Director of Revenue

Daneen Zeringue

Daneen Zeringue's career in hospitality first began when she joined the Sonesta team in 1993. She started at the front desk with an interest in rooms operations where she soon realized her long-term goal was to become the hotel's general manager. In 2005 Zeringue was appointed the general manager of the former Chateau Sonesta in New Orleans. Her focus shifted to revenue management as it became a critical role in the hospitality industry. Zeringue has found a happy work-life balance as the revenue director at Royal Sonesta New Orleans since 2009.

Zeringue holds a Master of Business Administration and Bachelor of Business Administration from Loyola University New Orleans.

 

Jeff Mattia

Executive Chef

Jeff Mattia

Royal Sonesta New Orleans welcomed Jeff Mattia to the team in May 2016. He brings a farm-to-table approach to our food-and-beverage outlets, as well as its catering operations. Mattia has passion for local farms and sustainable farming, working with growers like Covey Rise, Chappapeela, Two Run and Southern City Greens.

Mattia, who previously served as executive sous chef at Hyatt Regency New Orleans, is a Connecticut native who began cooking while serving in the U.S. Marine Corps, setting up field meals for up to 10,000 troops. Following his service, he earned a bachelor’s degree in culinary arts from Johnson & Wales University.

His professional experience includes working at the prestigious Mohegan Sun Casino and at the Foxwoods MGM Grand Casino, where he served as chef de cuisine at the four-star rated Craftsteak. Mattia has also worked under several high-profile chefs. He also held a position as executive banquet chef at Water’s Edge Resort and Spa in Connecticut before relocating to New Orleans in 2010 to work as executive sous chef at Besh’s Restaurant August. Mattia was also executive chef for American Sector at The National World War II Museum.

“Besides an impressive work history, Chef Mattia has developed a real knowledge of the New Orleans market,” says Al Groos, Royal Sonesta New Orleans general manager. “In addition to an incredible attention to detail, his cooking has wonderful imagination and soul that our guests will really enjoy.”

 

Jose Flores

Director of Finance

Jose Flores

As its director of finance Flores brings an extensive operational and financial expertise to the Sonesta executive team.

Flores joins Royal Sonesta New Orleans with more than 13 years of hospitality experience. Most recently, he served in the director of finance role at Commune Hotels + Resorts, The Resort at Pedregal in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico and at the Viceroy in Anguilla, British West Indies. He also has experience in the roles of financial controller and assistant managing director at other properties across the U.S. Flores attended Miami Dade College where he received an Associate of Arts degree in banking and financial support services.