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Times of the Islands Magazine

Anderson Hospitality Services has Set New Direction at Casa YBel Resort's Thistle Lodge

Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Jim Anderson’s hospitality career had humble beginnings as a dish and pot washer at the ripe age of 14. Fast forward to life after college at Ohio University, Jim began his full-time hospitality career as a cook in Columbus, Ohio.

A move to Florida resulted in a career working for major hotel chains including The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, where he worked in multiple hotels across the country, participated in new property openings, and served on the Malcolm Baldridge Defense Committee which had a key role in garnering the award. 

Anderson also worked for Lowes Hotels where he opened Nashville’s first cigar bar and a number of upscale independent resort properties where his facility design work resulted in significant improvement to operations.

He has worked as a chef, food and beverage executive, and resort hotel general manager during this period.

Anderson utilizes his years of experience and expertise, providing hands-on hospitality consulting services for independent restaurants and resort Hotels.

We caught up with Anderson, who currently oversees all resort food and beverage operations at Casa Ybel Resort on Sanibel Island, home to The Thistle Lodge Beachfront Restaurant, 2255 W Gulf Drive.
Tell us about your business. When did you open? What was the main motivation for starting your business?

Anderson Hospitality Services was founded in January 2018. After a long and successful career in resort hotel management, I felt I had a wealth of knowledge and experience that I could draw upon to help businesses achieve greater success.

The Thistle Lodge Beachfront Restaurant opened in 1994. The original Thistle Lodge was built in the 1890s as a private residence.

What's something you wish people knew about your business?

Knowing how thorough, passionate, and driven I am to achieving business excellence.

I [also] wish more people were aware of this beautiful dining spot. We are ‘tucked’ away inside the Casa Ybel Resort grounds and off the beaten track, so to speak. 

Personally speaking, what is your favorite thing about your business?

Taking on different assignments, analyzing, developing strategies, and executing them, and then seeing how much easier it is for employees to succeed in an improved work environment.

The Thistle Lodge is the most beautiful and charming dining room I have ever seen, with a spectacular view overlooking the resort’s beautifully landscaped green space and the Gulf of Mexico.  

What is a common question you get?

What made me choose this line of work, and the answer is simple, it started as a part-time job and I just liked the work, the action, and pace of the environment, and I haven’t looked back since.

As for The Thistle Lodge, people always want to know the history of the building, when it was built, who owned it, when it became a restaurant, etc. We provide a handout (below) for guests that tells the story of the lodge.

What is the biggest compliment you've received about your business?

That my efforts resulted in a dramatic improvement in the people, product, and profit of the business; and how beautiful and charming The Thistle Lodge Beachfront Restaurant is, and the view!

What is your most popular dish? And, personally, what is your favorite?

At the Thistle Lodge Beachfront Restaurant at Casa Ybel Resort, the Lobster Bisque is probably the most beloved dish. My personal favorite is the Seafood Provencal.

Are you involved with or do you support any local nonprofits, community organizations, or causes? 

Casa YBel Resort’s Management Group, led by JR Ramirez, is a very community-oriented business, participating in Crow’s Taste of the Island, as well as March of Dimes, Captains for Clean Water, Make-a-Wish Foundation, Children’s Education Center, CREW Land & Water Trust, and Community Housing & Resources Inc - Sanibel.

How did you come to work at Casa Ybel Resort?

I have known two of the management group’s principals, for quite a while and worked for Coral Hospitality before going off on my own. They were looking for someone who could come in and work with the F&B team, do an assessment, make recommendations, and set a new direction. 

Do you have any upcoming events, specials, or new items/services that people should know about?

We have a couple of business strategies that we were in process of launching when the pandemic hit. We expect to announce and execute them at the appropriate time once we are past the COVID situation.

How has COVID-19 impacted your business? Have you rebounded? 

The impact was initially significant due to the state’s mandated closure. Once we were back open, business returned pretty quickly. We actually had one of our best summers ever. All things considered, we have done quite well and are looking forward to the future. 

Did you do anything special given the circumstances?

We adopted the best sanitation and safe service practices immediately ie; gloves, masks, sanitizing all surfaces on a regular schedule, and like a lot of our fellow restaurants, we offered curbside pick-up to our valued guests.