Robert D. Zimmer

June 1992

Food Arts presents the June 1992 Silver Spoon Award for sterling performance to Robert D. Zimmer, visionary hotel planner.

Zimmer heads his own management and development company, the Robert D. Zimmer Group, with offices in Dallas and Santa Fe, and is managing partner of the recently completed Inn of the Anasazi in Santa Fe. He is the co-founder and former CEO of the Dallas-based Rosewood Hotel Group.

A former seminary student who later studied architecture, art history and environmental planning, Zimmer's hallmark is creating luxury properties with soul. If one quality sums up the aesthetic of his hotels, it's site sensitivity.

At each hotel project he has masterminded (The Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas; Houston's Remington, now a Ritz-Carlton; the Bel Air in Los Angeles; the Hotel Hana Maui at Hana Ranch in Hawaii; and the recent $25 million face-lift at the St. Andrew's Old Course Hotel in Scotland), Zimmer has sensitively fused both the building and the operation within to its distinctive cultural and physical setting.

Zimmer is also passionately committed to "healthy hotels," by which he means hotels with windows that open, with state-of-the-art water-filtration and air-ventilation systems, with energy-efficient light bulbs and water-saving devices, with recycling programs.

Zimmer was born and raised in Los Angeles where his father was in the movie business. As he began to travel and work internationally, Zimmer, whose name means "room" in German, stayed in literally hundreds of hotels and fell in love with the business. "I love traveling and learning a new culture," he says. "But I hate to see people mimicking the West in Southeast Asia. I hate to walk into a hotel in Bora Bora that looks like it should be in Paris. Everywhere I went, I saw a lot of disparity and lack of harmony. So I kept saying if I ever did this, my hotels would have a great sense of place." His philosophical approach was also shaped by his years in the seminary and years of living in Asia, where he studied Zen Buddhism. "When you study theology and mysticism, it gives you a greater sense of the oneness of it all," he says.

Most inn keepers do not talk about being at one with environment, holistic hotels or harmony and balance. What about the bottom line? Zimmer says it is not true, as some of his detractors claim, that he is uninterested in profit. He just put his own money where his mouth is at the Inn of the Anasazi and says appropriate ways to do business" he says. "I believe excessive greed and excessive profits are destroying our environment. The bottom line takes care of itself when everything else is in place."

What's next for the 54-year-old visionary? An eco-resort in Costa Rica. "Eco-resort means it is environmentally sound, incorporates both the cultural and environmental elements, has organic food indigenous to the area, doesn't destroy the land, and has walkabout paths in the rain forest where guests walk the earth gently," he explains.

It's all part of the Zimmer vision. "I see people in the '90s looking for retreats."