Mosmi Bhakta – PM Hotel Group
Mosmi Bhakta grew up around the hospitality sector—her parents owned and operated hotels when she was a child—but it wasn’t until she was in her twenties and working as a catering coordinator at an events center in California that she realized she could marry her background in hospitality with her interest in law.
“I kind of had a sense that I wanted to go into the legal field, but I didn’t understand—I had just watched TV,” Bhakta says. “Everything you see on ‘Law & Order’ and shows like that, it’s all litigation focused. And that really didn’t jibe with me.”
Then, one day, the events center had a big production come in that required the center’s staffers to negotiate a contract. As part of that process, Bhakta was introduced to the client’s in-house counsel.
“That was my first time realizing that there are attorneys who just focus their entire careers on contracts and transactional matters,” she says. “I actually spoke to an in-house counsel, and kind of understood what her path was. Based off that and that experience, I then started to determine, okay maybe I do want to go to law school.”
Today, Bhakta is vice president of legal affairs for PM Hotel Group, a $383 million, Chevy Chase, Maryland-based company operating in roughly 20 states. And she now finds herself exactly where she wanted to be.
A bifurcated approach
At PM, Bhakta has recently been seeing a shift in the typical hotel stay consumer. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, PM properties booked a lot of corporate business guests. Today, with the shift to remote work, they’re getting more of the leisure market: Gen Z and millennials on one end of the spectrum, and retirees with disposable income on the other end.
“I think in this current environment, you can probably get more Gen Z and millennials to get to the lower-scale boutique hotel because it’s still unique, but the price point is going to be lower,” Bhakta says. “But then you can get the individuals who are retiring who are going to want that individualized experience when they go to a hotel, they can go to a higher-level boutique, which is going to be your curios and your tribute collection or autograph collection hotels.”
Bhakta is putting her own stamp on PM’s strategy toward younger generations. One of her responsibilities is determining whether certain programming—say, a wellness focus, with yoga and spa options—is feasible. Right now, she’s involved in evaluating whether recreational marijuana could become commercially available at hotels.
“One of the things in the market, as the laws are changing and evolving, is how do you incorporate the use of cannabis?” she says. “As certain states start to adopt regulations that legalize the use of recreational drugs such as marijuana and shrooms, how do you move forward on that? How do you capitalize on that from an economic perspective?”
Bhakta has been monitoring the legal landscape closely in that regard. For example, PM is looking to roll marijuana out in one particular state first, but with recent political changes there, the regulations surrounding recreational use have been thrown into question. But Bhakta expects to see an opening within a few years.
“Because at the end of the day, it’s about maximizing profits for our owners as much as possible,” she says. “And what consumers want.”
Shaping training to limit liability
Bhakta also spends considerable time working to limit liability concerns—or protecting her client, as she puts it. She represents PM Hotel Group, the hotel management company, but she’s very conscious of certain fiduciary responsibilities under the hotel management agreement to limit the liability of the owner.
To do that, Bhakta adjusts contracts and directs the training and development of PM’s associates so they’re aware of what they legally can and cannot do. Working with the people and culture department and the risk management and facilities teams, she shapes training processes and standardizes them across PM’s roughly 70 hotels.
“You’re trying to develop those processes, but you also have to be mindful that you’re applying them to business individuals, and so it has to be something that can actually be operationalized,” she says. “It can’t be a document that you’re sharing with them that has 50 pages and a bunch of caveats. It needs to be something that is streamlined, but it gets to what you need from a legal perspective.”
Those processes include training her team to recognize and negotiate key contract terms with vendors; developing market template agreements and training her team on how to use them; and maintaining open lines of communications with her team to ensure it is set up to comply with its obligations.
Getting to yes
As for how Bhakta landed her own current job, it involved methodical preparation and being in the right place at the right time. A 2011 graduate of the University of California-Irvine, Bhakta earned her J.D. and MBA from American University in 2017.
She worked her way through law school, interning at Hunter Hotel Advisors, Wyndham Hotel Group and The Buccini/Pollin Group, a D.C.-area commercial real estate developer, before joining PM Hotel Group in 2017.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Bhakta decided she wanted more exposure to different areas of the legal field, so she joined Frost Brown Todd, a law firm in Louisville, Kentucky, as a senior associate. Eight months later, she found herself moving to Texas when PM called with an offer to return to the company in the role she now holds.
Now Bhakta has achieved her dreams of practicing hospitality law for a company that’s just the right size. And she’s in her element, drawing on lessons learned throughout the course of her life.
“I had been exposed to the hospitality industry through my parents, who owned and operated independent motels,” Bhakta says. “And over the years, that has continued to reinforce my passion for hospitality.”
View this feature in the Vanguard Summer IV 2023 Edition here.
Showcase your feature on your website with a custom “As Featured in Vanguard” badge that links directly to your article!
Copy and paste this script into your page coding (ideally right before the closing