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Executive team: Gateway Global founder Sam Amato (center) started Gateway Limousine in 1979 and now has daughter, Gina Amato-Bonelli, and son, Joel Amato, in key roles securing the company’s future as a ground transportation provider in an area that births the most advanced technology in the world.
SAN FRANCISCO — When operator Sam Amato picked Gateway for his limousine company name in 1979, he chose to play on the Golden Gate Bridge’s symbolic and literal gateway to “growth, hard times and success,” as he puts it.
1979 marked some significant gateways to the future, such as the invention of the first computer spreadsheet program and emoticons. The year before, Apple launched a project to design a personal computer with a graphical user interface.
In 2015, the Gateway Global Transportation name sounds more advanced than ever, given its proximity to the San Francisco International Airport; along the main route between downtown San Francisco and Silicon Valley; and adjacent to the San Mateo Bridge, a straight shot to the near East Bay and the further Livermore Valley suburbs.
“I could not have picked a better name for what we do,” Amato says.
Gateway now denotes far more than a bridge or major airport, as the San Francisco-Silicon Valley explodes with transportation demands from social media and technology companies. Long gone are the days when Amato went door to door in downtown San Francisco with stretch limousines looking for corporate business.
To keep pace with the most technologically and culturally progressive metro region in the U.S., Gateway is adjusting its operations to match the shifting demands and dynamics of the ground transportation market.
Gateway’s events, groups and shuttle business has grown quickly the last few years, with most business coming from traditional chauffeured services as well as group transportation related to road shows, corporate events and leisure events. A growing portion comes from airport-, hotel-, and employee-related shuttles.
“We’re tired of all the Uber talk,” says Joel Amato, Gateway’s vice president of operations and the son of owner and founder Sam Amato. “We’re making the adjustments to succeed amid changing demographics and clients. Providing high-end service with more hand-holding can retain clients.”
The Amatos emphasize the logistics of managing total transportation moves and commuter and shuttle services, in addition to the traditional limousine model of separate point-to-point trips.
As the world’s technology hub, the San Francisco Bay Area has seen a historic surge in wealth and skyrocketing costs of living. Major firms such as Google, Apple and Facebook require added bus and motorcoach services, with some companies opting to create transportation divisions because they can’t find enough outside supply to meet their demands.
“If only the builders could make buses faster,” Joel says. “We can’t get equipment fast enough.”
Gateway is planning to buy two Van Hool, 56-passenger motorcoaches from ABC Companies, and will put them into service in September. The black, executive style models will feature leather seats and amenities suited to technology company commuters.
The Amatos have created an events department that focuses on group transportation for corporate events and tours, sports teams, and road shows. The events division of Gateway applies the high-touch principles of chauffeured service to moving larger groups in luxury buses and motorcoaches. That also helps in dealing with transportation network companies, since special event and bus transportation is one area where TNCs cannot compete.
Meet the perfect looking chauffeur — and he never talks back. Gateway Global has an extensive chauffeur training program and levels of status. Its training rooms also bear customer notes complimenting chauffeurs on outstanding service.
Competing with TNCs such as Uber is all about providing experienced chauffeurs who are thoroughly trained and tested. Gateway has an extensive program run by a full-time senior chauffeur and trainer, James Lilley
, who works out of a separate office and classroom at the company’s Burlingame facility.
Gateway staffs its chauffeurs based on four levels of experience, with the goal for chauffeurs to work their way up to “senior chauffeur.” Chauffeurs are trained to research clients on Google to learn more about them and gain insights. Gateway keeps detailed lists of client preferences, likes and dislikes, and personality profiles, so they can match clients with the right chauffeurs.
“We want to provide premium service,” Joel says. “You can’t do that if you compete with TNCs. You can’t change your model to one that only cares about price. The clients going to the Ritz-Carlton and high-end hotels will want chauffeur service.”
Joel opposes the idea of creating a lower tier oriented to a rate-driven app. “You don’t want to shop yourself out against your own rates,” he says. “You don’t want clients booking indirect to get a cheaper rate instead of booking direct with our rates.”
Like many chauffeured transportation companies, Gateway provides duty of care, meaning chauffeurs are background checked and trained, vehicles are fully insured, and chauffeurs practice safety.