Staff photo by Troy Stolt / Hiren Desai, Founder and CEO of 3H Group Hotels, poses for a portrait at 3H's corporate headquarters on Thursday, April 1, 2021 in Chattanooga, Tenn.

The hospitality industry took some of the hardest hits during the pandemic, with hotels everywhere emptying out as travel shut down. At 3H Group Hotels, there were layoffs and pay cuts — CEO Hiren Desai eliminated his own pay altogether — but there was also a foundation that made it possible for the company to endure and eventually thrive, Desai says.

"We got kicked in the gut, but what do you do?" he says. "We met and said, this is what we have to do. Everyone was flexible enough to do what was required of them, and when we asked them to come back, they all came back. What more can I ask?"

Desai says the culture of the company he founded in 2000 is built on the principle of working as a family. Much of the core group of 17 employees at the company headquarters on Riverfront Parkway have been with him from the beginning, when he started with one hotel.

"It reinforces that we are family at the end of the day," Desai says. "They've been with me through thick and thin. We have very little turnover."

Over the years, the company portfolio has expanded to include more than 21 properties, including four hotels in Chattanooga, along with coworking, residential and retail properties in multiple states. During the pandemic, 3H Group opened five new hotels and picked up five from sellers who just couldn't weather the storm, Desai says.

3H Group Hotels

* Founded: 2000

* Employees: 17 on the corporate team, with 21 hotels/properties that employ 570 employees in six states.

* Why this is a Best Place to Work: Honest, hardworking and hospitable people are the pillars upon which 3H was founded, has grown and continues to flourish. 3H Group Inc.’s focus is on creating exceptional experiences for our clients and business partners that are second to none, and to provide associates an equal opportunity working environment that encourages communication, teamwork and respect.

* Online:


Now that the business is starting to normalize a bit, his next moves will help set the direction for future growth, Desai says.

"We've grown from small to mid-sized," he says. "Do we keep growing? You've caught me at a total crossroads."

Meaghan Redner, director of e-commerce at 3H Group, has been with the company 10 years. She joined the company as a marketing coordinator a couple of years out of college, and was in the first-ever marketing role at 3H.

"You get to know your coworkers on a personal level, that's the biggest thing," she says. "When you hire, you can teach anyone with the right background just about anything. It's about adding to the family."

Redner's role has evolved and expanded over the years, and the business has been a great place to build a career, she adds. Multiple people on the core corporate team have come from staff roles at the company's various properties, she says.

"There's a lot of facets to the hotel and hospitality industry," she says. "There's definitely room for growth."