4th Annual Hotel Hero Awards

March 27, 2007 | The Palace Hotel

Winners are noted with an asterisk (*).

Beyond the Call of Duty

Yu-Hua “Tina” Chen
Room Attendant, Omni San Francisco

Tina Chen is recognized as a star performer by her colleagues, managers and guests alike. Her department head believes that she is “about the hardest working Associate you’ll ever see.” In October, 2006, the busiest convention month of the year, Tina worked over 27 days straight, and she always maintained her smile, was full of energy and did a great job. Furthermore, Tina takes great pride in recognizing and servicing the Omni’s guests by handwriting welcome notes each morning. This personalized recognition, in addition to the meticulous service she provides, has garnered rave reviews and literally hundreds of commendations.
Chris Morano
Chief Concierge, San Francisco Suites on Nob Hill

It took Chris Morano a scant six months to rise to Chief Concierge at the San Francisco Suites on Nob Hill and to elevate the property’s guest satisfaction ratings to 100%, a rating that still stands. The letters from corporate giants and professional colleagues alike lauding Chris’ dedication, compassion, upbeat personality and knowledge fill volumes. But that’s only the beginning…aside from Chris’s over forty-hour-a-week work schedule, he revived the hotel’s quarterly newsletter. On his own time, Chris rewrote the in-room guest directory and the text for the Website. Again, on his own, Chris became a licensed Notary Public in order to save money for the property and for his guests. Other Nob Hill hotel guests and neighborhood residents frequently avail themselves of Chris’ notary services, and generally Chris obliges one and all with A1 concierge assistance as well. With his unparalleled guest service abilities and unstinting devotion to his City and community, Chris Morano is already a hero in San Francisco.
Michael-Patrick McAnelly
Door Attendant, The Westin St. Francis

Putting oneself in harm’s way to protect a guest certainly qualifies as going “Beyond the Call of Duty.” That is exactly what Doorman, Michael-Patrick McAnelly did recently near the front entrance at The Westin St. Francis. A mentally disturbed man started shouting obscenities at a woman guest he had been following in front of the hotel. Michael-Patrick ran to her aide and put himself between the assailant and the woman. The man then pulled a knife on Michael-Patrick, but Michael-Patrick stood his ground and yelled for the police. The man fled before police arrived, but they found Michael-Patrick trying to calm and console the distraught guest. The police have recommended Michael-Patrick for a Citizen’s Award for his heroic actions in coming to the assistance of the woman.
Gloria Ware*
Executive Meetings Manager, Cathedral Hill Hotel

To her colleagues at the Cathedral Hill Hotel and to many of the hotel's guests, Gloria Ware has wings. Gloria generally begins her days at 7 am with a daily walk-through the lobby and restaurant to say "hello" to any clients. Not long ago, during her walk-through, Gloria encountered an older gentleman who was in obvious distress and was disoriented. The story unfolded to reveal that his wife, Pearl, had just been diagnosed with cancer and he was looking for a shuttle to California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) where he could see her following her first treatment. Immediately, Gloria contacted the American Cancer Society (AMC) to intervene with CPMC, the hotel’s owner, who donates hotel rooms to AMC for patients and their families. Duke and Pearl were immediately moved from their shabby motel room to the Cathedral Hill, where their expenses were handled by CPMC. This small-town couple was completely overwhelmed by the “Big City” in addition to the tribulations caused by cancer.
Robert Boone
Accounting Supervisor, Cathedral Hill Hotel
Bob Boone’s colleagues agree that working alongside this dedicated, supportive and good-humored individual actually makes their jobs more enjoyable. He comes in early and, even before starting his own day, offers any needed assistance to the Night Auditor. Bob’s concern for others also extends to those less fortunate, and he always finds creative ways to be of real assistance to those in need. An avid antique and memorabilia collector, he recently purchased an antique slot machine which he used to decorate his office. His visitors and colleagues “played” this slot machine for a good cause. At Thanksgiving, he collected the coins dropped in the slot which totaled about $300. He negotiated the purchase of 50 turkeys from Safeway with this money. He not only personally delivered them to a local food program; he donated them in the name of the Cathedral Hill employees.

Unsung Hero

Jesus Barragan
Dishwasher, Cathedral Hill Hotel

Jesus Barragan has worked in the Stewarding Department of the Cathedral Hill Hotel since 1979. The hotel’s Executive Chef, Bruce Paton states, “Recently, on an extremely busy food and beverage day one of the dishwashers in the Stewarding Department called out sick at the last minute. There was no replacement to be found. Jesus Barragan came to the rescue. He assumed double duty and never voiced a word of complaint." The Chef goes on to say, “As you read this, you’re probably wondering, ‘what’s so special about that? Thinks like that happen all the time in the hotel business.’ Well, what is not common is a twenty-seven year veteran employee of the hotel who is always willing to help. Jesus is always ten minutes early every day and has not missed a single day in the five years I have been here. He works tirelessly when we are busy and when we are slow, he occupies himself and his co-workers with deep cleaning projects. Jesus inspires his fellow workers by example, bringing out the best in everyone he works with."
Paula Boyd
PBX Operator, Palace Hotel

As one of the Palace Hotel’s PBX Operators, Paula is a hero to our guests as well as to the employees of the hotel. She works in an extremely busy department yet she never makes guests or employees feel rushed. A perfect example of Paula’s helpful, caring nature occurred when a meeting planner called from the road and a different time zone. The client had completely forgotten the time difference, and was trying to reach her hotel contact but it was now very late in the evening. Paula calmed her down and took detailed notes, all the while, letting the guest know things would be fine and that they would work this out together. At the conclusion of the call, Paula contacted the Convention Service Manager and communicated all the program changes. The Manager called the client back to confirm everything was set perfectly. The client was now calm, happy and totally impressed with Paula’s efficiency.
Ming Huang
House Person, Omni San Francisco
Ming Huang began working in the Housekeeping Department of Omni San Francisco in January of 2002, one of his two jobs in hospitality. He is called the Housekeeping Department’s superhero and a recitation of his accomplishments and how he cheerfully assists any and all requests is quite lengthy. The Director of Housekeeping relates but a few of his accomplishments and credits in both the areas of guest and internal customer assistance and satisfaction. She states, “If we need beds moved out of guest rooms to make way for client offices, Ming is your man. If a guest’s cell phone falls onto the roof of the Grand Ballroom, Ming will be happy to climb out (in the rain) and retrieve it. If a guest needs a foreign newspaper we don’t carry, Ming will go out and buy it. His heart is in Housekeeping, where he is our miracle worker.”
Michael Walsh
Foreman Painter, Cathedral Hill Hotel

When the Cathedral Hill was purchased in January 2004, and simultaneously Joie de Vivre took over management of the property, minimal capital reinvestment had been done for ten years and the property was deteriorated. The painting staff had been reduced to one. Under the new administration, a new direction was set for the property. For the First Annual Hotel Hero Awards in 2004, Mike worked extremely hard in the garage, the Mezzanine, the Ballroom, and in the public areas to make the hotel shine for this important “re-launch” of the property to the hospitality community. Mike returned his staff back to the original size and went to work on helping achieve the vision of the hotel. He designed the paint scheme for the new Business Center, helping turn an unused space into an attractive, guest-friendly asset. He treats the hotel as if he owned it himself.  He accepts nothing less than perfection.
Virginia Wong*
Cables Attendant, Ritz-Carlton
Virginia Wong is a “pre-opening” team member of The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco employee dining room department, called “Cables.” She began with the property in 1991. “Cables” is the busiest outlet of the Ritz-Carlton, serving anywhere from 200-400 customers daily. She engages with everyone, ensuring they are informed of the menu served that day. She remembers employee preferences and will set aside food or condiments when necessary. Virginia will call an employee to let them know their favorite fare, whether it’s fried chicken or pad Thai noodle being served. Virginia takes good care of those who take care of our City’s visitors, and for all her qualities she is being recognized as a Hero by her friends and colleagues.

Rising Star

Alejandra Almaraz*
Front Desk Supervisor, Laurel Inn

Alejandra Almaraz received her Bachelor’s Degree from the University of San Francisco in 2001. Immediately following, Alejandra began her career at the Laurel Inn as a Front Desk Host. In 2005, she was promoted to Guest Services supervisor at the Laurel Inn, where she currently works. In addition, Alejandra is a Spanish translator for Joie de Vivre, and trains newly hired employees in San Francisco and in the company’s Silicon Valley hotels.
Antonio Carranza
Banquet Houseperson Supervisor, Cathedral Hill Hotel

Antonio began working at the Cathedral Hill Hotel as a banquet extra houseperson in 2004. Since moving into the houseperson supervisor role, he has advanced the enterprise with his outstanding customer service skills and dedication to his department and the hotel. Antonio has also been instrumental in establishing a program to monitor banquet linen and laundry service. Before his attention to this matter, the Banquet Department was losing thousands of dollars in linen with the outside laundry department. Antonio put together a program to count linen instead of weighing it, and implemented a daily check of the returned linen. These actions alone have saved the Cathedral Hill thousands of dollars in lost linen.
James Cole
Assistant Director of Food and Beverage, Ritz-Carlton

James Cole’s introduction to the hotel industry in 2003 began like most careers. Within a very short period of time, however, he has successfully progressed with increasing responsibilities. James manages to always make a positive impact on not only customer, but also employee satisfaction levels. Judging by a number of guest satisfaction comments and thank you’s from various hotel departments, it is no wonder that James Cole has been a Ritz-Carlton “Leader of the Quarter” nominee two times in 2005 and won the coveted award for the First Quarter. During his tenure as In Room Dining and Lobby Lounge Manager, he moved his overall employee satisfaction ratings from 62% to 95% and 73% to 95% respectively.
Tara DeSantis
Lead Front Desk Agent, Clift

Tara’s meteoric rise began about four years ago when she was hired as a Front Desk Agent at the Clift. Her interaction with guests was a delight to behold, many of whom have become regulars because they love Tara! One return guest in particular brought all of his company’s business, including conference bookings, back to the hotel mainly because of Tara’s guest service skills and dedication to customer service. Tara has been chosen to assist with all new Front Desk employee orientations, and she has left her stamp on all she has trained. Not only does she instruct them on the “nuts and bolts” of Front Desk procedures, but she imparts with skill and understanding the philosophy of Clift’s customer service initiative and core values. This is equally apparent in her having scored a perfect 100% on a recent “shopper” report.
Carmen Serra
Front Office Manager, Omni San Francisco

Carmen started her hospitality career working as a management trainee with Reneson Hotel Group while still studying Hospitality Management at San Francisco State University. After graduation, Carmen worked briefly as a Guest Relations Agent and then joined the Omni San Francisco in September 2005. After only two months as an hourly associate, Carmen was promoted to Assistant Front Office Manager. Carmen is the first to buy a personalized greeting card for a guest celebrating a special event, to find cufflinks or neckties for the “forgetful” businessman or to find just the right evening gown when a guest needs something extra special. Carmen is a tremendous role model and cheerfully influences associates with her positive attitude on all levels of delivering guest satisfaction. The Omni’s guests continually write about how she did an outstanding job of welcoming them, accommodating their needs, and her ability to always find the opportunity to create a truly memorable experience during their stay.

Lifetime Achievment - Operations

Richard Brown
Linenman, Clift

The old saying that “first impressions last forever” is certainly true in the case of Richard Brown. Tony Stroik, Director of Sales and Marketing at the Clift was “welcomed” by Richard about four years ago on a guest floor as he was walking to his room (having just relocated to San Francisco, he was residing in the hotel). Tom says, “Richard greeted me with a warm smile as I left my room and asked if I was staying long. When he heard that I worked there and was in Sales and Marketing, he immediately started grilling me on why there was not more business; how this is such a beautiful hotel which deserved to have more recognition. For a moment I thought I was being re-interviewed for my job! I was particularly impressed that he was so passionate about the success of the Clift. I soon discovered that Richard Brown has been an invaluable asset to Clift since 1962 and will soon reach 45 years of service!” Richard found his calling early in his career as he has not strayed far from his first position in Housekeeping. He ensures that his floors have the necessary linens. At age 65, he is seen pushing and pulling carts most 20 year-olds would not be able to budge, and always with a warm smile.
Phil Henry*
Bell Captain, Argent Hotel

Quite possibly the most sought after, frequently requested employee at the Argent Hotel is 35 year hospitality veteran, Phil Henry. Whether handling foreign dignitaries such as former President of France Mitterand or a first-time Bay Area visitor from Eureka, Phil Henry manages all needs with a style and panache all his own. Every guest who has the opportunity of being checked in by Phil receives first class treatment. A frazzled, travel-weary guest may enter the hotel, but after Phil works his welcoming magic, the guest returns to the lobby renewed and with a sense of comfort and confidence that can only be attributed to the relief he or she feels at “being home.” Many a bellman began a career under the expert tutelage of Phil Henry. He was instrumental in the hiring of legendary doorman, (and two-time Hotel Hero Award Finalist) Tom Sweeney, at the Sir Francis Drake almost thirty years ago. Phil is a helpful partner to other hotels in the area, as well, securing rollaway beds when needed or personally delivering luggage to other hotels for guests who have transferred to The Argent.
Gene Sevilla
Income Auditor, Hilton San Francisco

Gene Sevilla has balanced the books for the West Coast’s largest hotel for 43 years. Five days after the hotel opened its doors in San Francisco in May 1964, Gene sharpened his No. 2 pencil, sat on the floor of a garage level office (the furniture hadn’t arrived yet), put his two machines on a cardboard carton and started tallying restaurant, bar, banquet and room service receipts. Seventy-five cents an hour sounded pretty good to Gene. He had been working at a local bank when he passed a long line on Taylor Street on his way to work. Gene took his place in line, was interviewed and was asked if he could start working that night. From that date in 1964 until June 2005, Gene Sevilla worked as a Night Auditor. In 2005 his daylight position as Income Auditor began. His oversight and execution of the numerous details involved with capturing the revenue the hotel has earned and ensuring that customers have been properly charged is flawless. Gene says, “Ensuring our reporting accuracy is in our customers’ and our best interest. We don’t want to embarrass ourselves or our customers.” Customer service, attention to detail and hard work are constants. Gene embodies these virtues and attributes.
Tom Sweeney
Doorman, Sir Francis Drake

As reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, “it must have been hard to get a cab at a San Francisco hotel Tuesday night, since at least two dozen doormen from the city’s top hotels, each wearing his own costume, showed up to honor Sweeney.” That’s Tom Sweeney, 30-year, legendary doorman at the Sir Francis Drake. The occasion was a celebration to honor Tom’s 30-year career as the country’s most famous doorman. At the age of 19, he was really interested in being a fireman or working for the Police Department, but after he took a “temporary” job as one of the hotel’s three doormen, he was hooked on hospitality. But, he may still be able to get a police badge. Tom once tackled two robbers who stole a guest’s luggage. The luggage was then returned to the happy guest. As a testament to his stature, Tom arrived for his anniversary party in Rescue One, the San Francisco Fire Department’s biggest and best emergency unit. Tom says, the secret of his success is staying calm, “and you have to love dealing with the public.” This love is certainly returned in full measure by all those who know and admire Tom Sweeney.
Michael Thorburn
Executive Concierge, Mandarin Oriental
Michael started at the Mandarin Oriental in 1987 as restaurant manager for Silk’s. Michael is said to do “cartwheels” for his guests. Chasing a guest down the street to deliver a message, searching the City for a unique treasure and charming one and all with a friendly smile, accompanied by a warm handshake or hug, are all in a day’s work in delivering VIP service to each and every guest. Michael has also, on occasion, sat vigil at the bedside of an ill guest or colleague. When fellow members of the concierge community are ready to apply for membership at the prestigious Les Clef’s d’Or, they often turn to Michael for his letter of recommendation, knowing that he has a full understanding of the demands and scope of the profession. When there are community functions to aid the less fortunate in our community, Michael is always the first to offer assistance. Where Magazine said it best,” If there is one word that aptly characterizes the professional attributes of Michael Thorburn’s career, it would be ‘quintessential,’ the purest, most perfect example of anything.”

Lifetime Achievement - Department Manager

Stanley Liu
Chief Engineer, Argent Hotel San Francisco

In 1987, when it was known as The Meridian Hotel, Stanley Liu began as a Journeyman. During the ensuing years and various re-flaggings, Stanley was Assistant Chief Engineer at the ANA Hotel and now, finally, Chief Engineer of The Argent Hotel San Francisco. His leadership grew among his peers as he sought additional training in all areas related to his position. His passion for improvement was exceeded only by his unflagging commitment to guest service. Stanley has led initiatives in conservation and eco-friendly practices. He has worked diligently with PG&E to retrofit or replace existing equipment with energy saving devices. Additionally, for the last five years, the Argent Hotel San Francisco has consistently placed in the top three hotels in the City for Recycling and environmentally sound practices. Outstanding job performance and leadership helped him rise to the challenge and Stanley Liu has led his team effectively through his hotel’s current renovation.
James McCasland*
Chief Concierge, Hilton Union Square

Since his first hour as a concierge twenty years ago, when he was able to locate an antique violin in Vienna for a guest without (he admits) even knowing what he was asked to obtain, Jim McCasland has made the difficult a snap and the impossible simply an opportunity to learn something new and excel. Whether it is designing the perfect “pop the question” ambiance for an ardent suitor; saving the day of a speaker who left his speech at the airport; being “tested” by a meeting planner to see if he can truly deliver on a bizarre (but legal) request (he can and does); handling VIP tours and outings or assisting a work colleague with dinner reservations for his anniversary, Jim delivers with enthusiasm, style and meticulous care. Jim represents the gold standard of customer service. Jim was one of the first San Francisco concierges to join Les Clefs d’Or and has been extremely active in its membership and growth in the Bay Area. Jim was a leader in the formation, growth and international prestige of The Northern California Concierge Association (NCCA). Jim has been totally engaged with this group’s significant contributions to the San Francisco non-profit sector, including Project Homeless Connect with both volunteering and planning events to serve our City’s less fortunate. He embodies the quotation: “Happiness is the full use of one’s powers along the lines of excellence.” Jim is a very happy man, indeed. 
Howard Mutz
Conference Service Manager, The Palace Hotel

Thirty-five years ago, Howard Mutz began a career in hospitality as a Busboy at the St. Francis Hotel. His skills, personality, and ability to exceed expectations led him up the ranks to Director of Catering at the same hotel. His love of San Francisco’s colorful history and of the hospitality industry earned him the distinction of being named the Westin St. Francis’ Historian, a title he still holds even though he is now a member of the Palace team. Howard shares a love of animals with many of his clients. Every Friday is “Tux Day” at the Palace, when Howard brings his dog, Tux, to work. Howard’s 35 years of outstanding hospitality service has led to a broad spectrum of accolades and honors. Not the least of which is the renowned “Howard Mutz Award,” which is presented by his long-time clients, E.R. Squibb (now Bristol Meyers) to someone who goes above any beyond in hospitality service. Having an award named after you is the culmination of making the difficult a breeze and the impossible a mere hurdle to jump over. Stories about Howard abound, but this in particular stands out: A long-time client used to dread leaving her home in Texas to travel. She shared with Howard how she missed her home, friends, and the cowboys. Howard arranged to have a mannequin dressed as a cowboy propped up in her room to make her feel “at home.” His sense of fun is but one of his famous attributes. His compassion is an inspiration.
Jerry Turner
Chief Engineer, The Palace Hotel

Jerry Turner is as much a part of Palace history as the Garden Court itself. He was employed by a contracting company working on the Palace in 1973, when he was noticed by the Chief Engineer at the time, who was so impressed that he lured Jerry to the hotel. He has been an integral part of the hotel’s operations since that time. He oversaw the intricacies of the 1989 hotel renovation through the reopening in 1991, replacing, refurbishing, reinventing and restoring to its present grandeur. He has reported to six general managers, all of whom have relied on Jerry as a tremendous resource for his knowledge and distinguished tenure. One remarkable example of his leadership was demonstrated in 1989 as a result of the Loma Prieta Earthquake. The Palace was in the midst of a major renovation and Jerry was contacted by the City to assist with repairing a pipeline that broke on the Oakland side of the Bay. The San Francisco side had no electricity at the time. Jerry worked with the Navy to access a barge with a generator and, after hours of working on the complex system, actually helped to restore the City’s pump to provide water. This contribution was recognized by the Mayor, the Admiral of the U.S. Navy, and the Commodore of Treasure Island. It is no wonder that the frequent response to many a question both inside and outside the hotel is, “Ask Turner.”
Tom Wolfe
Chief Concierge, Fairmont San Francisco
San Francisco icon, pioneer, and founder of the first US Chapter of Les Clef’s d’Or, and co-founder of the Northern California Concierge Association, Tom Wolfe is the epitome of a lifetime of achievement. Tom expertly introduced to both San Francisco and the United States the concept of “personal service” and is often requested to achieve the impossible. Tom began his career with Fairmont in 1975, and worked for a year in Hong Kong as a Concierge Consultant for the Shangri-La International Hotels. He became the first concierge in Japan at the Hotel New Otani in Tokyo and was the Executive Chief Concierge at the Plaza Hotel in New York before returning in 1995 to the Fairmont San Francisco. His global perspective provides a wealth of service and connections to both clients and colleagues alike.
Tom has been and continues to be a gracious mentor to every professional concierge, new or experienced, who has had the good fortune to meet and learn from him.

Lifetime Achievement - Hotel Executive

Ralph Lee*
General Manager, Hotel Whitcomb
Ralph entered the hospitality industry at the age of 19 in 1974 as a hotel utility/houseman and dreamed of becoming a bellhop. His dreams materialized after only two months on the job. While attending San Jose State University, Ralph  worked as bellman/van driver, busboy, room service water, food server, desk clerk and night auditor. By his 24th birthday, and after only a five-year run in hospitality, he was promoted from Assistant Manager to General Manager. Five years later, he became Regional Director for sixteen hotels in California. Throughout the 80’s and early 90’s, Ralph has held various general manager and regional positions with Prime Hospitality and Sage Hospitality and was the Regional Director for Village Resorts, responsible for seven oceanfront resorts on the islands of Maui and Kauai. In 1995, Ralph became General Manager of the Ramada Plaza San Francisco, making him one of the longest tenured GM’s in the City. His passion toward customer service has enabled his team to achieve several awards as one of the City’s top performing hotels in the Ramada Franchise System.

Associates at all levels of the organization are touched by his compassion and leadership. Ralph believes that being a leader is best done by example. While serving as General Manager, Ralph has served or is currently serving on a multitude of boards and committees, such as Citizen’s Advisory Committee and Chair of the Mid-Market Redevelopment Project, Board and Vice Chair for Goodwill Industries. He has been a member of the Board of Directors and President for Market Street Association and was actively involved in Mayor Newsom’s Care Not Cash Initiative. Ralph has also been honored by Childreach International as one of the Top Sponsor Hotels, received a Certificate of Honor from former Mayor Willie Brown, and is also actively involved with numerous committees and boards of the Hotel Council of San Francisco, San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau, California Hotel & Lodging Association and Skal International.
John Mazzoni
Senior Vice President, West Coast Operations and Hawaiian Islands, Hilton Hotels Corporation
While still a high school student, John Mazzoni was riding his bike along the boardwalk in Atlantic City where he caught sight of a hotel being built. As an enterprising and energetic young man, he applied for a job and his career in the hospitality industry took root and climbed upward from Atlantic City, through Miami’s Fountainbleu, Atlanta’s Airport Hilton and the Waldorf-Astoria. He was eventually named General Manager of Hilton’s only five-star property at the time, the Hilton Short Hills in New Jersey. His stops along the way to the West Coast at the Waldorf sharpened his rehab and renovation expertise; as General Manager of the Diamond Rated Hilton Short Hills, his team leadership leading to exceeding guest expectations becoming the norm resulted in his promotion to Area Vice President of the Mid-Atlantic Region with responsibility of seven hotels. While based in the Northeast, John was involved with the Millburn-Short Hills Chamber of Commerce, on the Board of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and with the Boy Scouts of America, garnering their Good Scout Award. In 2002, he was named Area Vice President, Northern California Hilton/Doubletree Hotels and Managing Director of the Hilton San Francisco.

While at the helm of the Hilton San Francisco, and as leader of the Multi-Employer Group, during some stormy times, John steered the group and his own team in a calm and deliberate manner. His mantra was always to take the high road and he instilled that message to every manager at his hotel. Constantly reiterating that the difficult times would pass and everyone would be working together again, his strength during the period 2004-2006 led to his being named Vice President of Labor Relations, Hilton Hotels Corporation. Additionally, at no time during the economic downturn that rampaged through the San Francisco hospitality industry from 2001 did John’s commitment to community involvement waver. His support and the Hilton San Francisco’s involvement with the non-profit community remained consistently strong. John was on the Boards of the Glide Economic Development Corporation, the Hotel Council of San Francisco and the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Stefan Muhle
General Manager, The Orchard Hotel

Keeping several balls in the air is not new to The Orchard Hotel and Orchard Garden Hotel’s General Manager, Stefan Muhle. Yes, he ran one hotel while opening another. And not just any hotel…The Orchard Garden Hotel is San Francisco’s and California’s first LEED Certified hotel, built to the exacting specifications of the U.S. Green Building Council. The Orchard Garden puts San Francisco on the “Green Hospitality” map. Ever since winning fourth place at the Berlin Youth Championships in the “Catering Trade” category, Stefan knew he wanted a career in the hospitality industry. Raised in Berlin, Stefan spent much of his youth working as an apprentice and, later, management intern at resort hotels in Germany and Switzerland. After completing his restaurateur apprenticeship at Berlin’s Hotel Schweizehof and graduating from Vocational Trade School in 1987, he went on to study hotel and restaurant management at the renowned Institute Cesar Ritz in Switzerland in 1988. After graduating Cum Laude from Washington State University in 1991, Stefan joined Chicago’s four-star 535-room Drake Hotel as Assistant Manager. Steadily moving upward and forward, Stefan served as Director of Food and Beverage for Ironstone vineyards in Murphys, California and as Food and Beverage Director at Bishop’s Lodge in Santa Fe before moving to San Francisco to take over the Orchard Hotel in 2001. He arrived just as there was a downturn in business. Stefan managed the Orchard Hotel during some difficult times in San Francisco with a steady and positive influence that impressed management and staff alike, and the hotel remained solid and always garnered positive and glowing comments from guests and customers.

Community Spirit

Chancellor Hotel on Union Square*
The Chancellor Hotel on Union Square has demonstrated its commitment to San Francisco in numerous and creative ways. Time and talent are provided by the entire management team who contribute at least one work day per month to a non-profit service organization. Serving meals, engaging in “Clean Sweep” programs, conducting food drives which generate hundreds of pounds of food and cash for the San Francisco Food Bank, participating in the AIDS Walk San Francisco for the last ten years are a few ways the dedicated team at the Chancellor get involved. The General Manager, Wes Tyler, is a board member of both the Union Square Association and the Union Square Business Improvement District. Keeping an eye on the future, Wes is also a member of the School to Career Advisory Board for the San Francisco Unified School District to establish and maintain a quality Hospitality and Tourism Academy in local high schools and has participated in the Mayor’s Summer Jobs for Youth Program. Keeping an eye on the community, he has completed the San Francisco Police’s Citizen Police Academy to better understand and work with the police who serve the area and community and is a member of the SF Police Officer’s Association Community Outreach Committee.
Hotel Carlton
There was a time that the only interaction between neighbors the Hotel Carlton and the Raphael House was at Halloween, when the children at the family shelter would come over for their “trick or treat” booty. In January of 2005, a special opportunity for the two providers of comfort and hospitality that has developed into a model for building strong bonds with guests, while helping to rebuild local families in a tangible and practical way. The Carlton’s staff began inviting guests to “round up” their hotel bills; the remainder would become a direct donation to The Raphael House. Every guest/contributor was then automatically entered in a drawing to “Win a Week with Us!” – a free week’s stay at the Hotel Carlton. By the end of 2006, over $12,000 had been collected, inspiring a matching gift of $2,700 from a long-time Raphael House supporter. One hundred percent of the contributions collected continue to go to The Raphael House and one hundred percent of the effort that makes the program work comes from The Carlton’s staff.
Hotel Nikko San Francisco
In 2006, a new General Manager was appointed and community service became a focal point of her agenda. Rather than let the ongoing problem of homelessness frustrate her, a call to action was initiated and the motto was instilled, “if you have a mountain to move, waiting won’t make it smaller!” After a brief meeting with the Glide Volunteer Program counselor, it became clear how the Hotel Nikko San Francisco could not only get involved, but also make a difference in the community. The Hotel Nikko San Francisco committed to take one day a month form the Glide volunteer schedule where they would staff the entire day to expedite and execute the meal process of Mo’s Kitchen, which serves hundreds of homeless and needy people. A schedule was coordinated so that each Nikko team member works for a three-hour shift (or one meal period). In 2006, Nikko employees have donated over 468 hours of service to Glide.

Inspired by their experience, Nikko employees sought out other areas where they could be utilized and help those in need. This resulted in “adopting” ten of Glide’s Housing Program families at Christmas. The families’ names, ages, and wish lists were distributed to each department in the hotel which was assigned to fulfill the wish list. This resulted in over 130 gifts being delivered to more than 40 people. This hotel is a role model in the community that has an issue which negatively impacts the very business the volunteers are employed by.

Innovation

Joie de Vivre Hospitality
The Golden Gate Greeter Program is designed with visitor expectations in mind and seeks to anticipate individual tastes and preferences. While a traditional tour starts and follows a specific route, a Greeter Visit is more like hanging out with a friend; a more personalized service based upon convenient times for the visitor and their personal needs. Guests are matched one-on-one with a volunteer, based upon their cultural interests (such as architecture, food, history, music, parks and nature), neighborhood curiosity, language and availability. Joie de Vivre hotel guests are given the opportunity to explore a San Francisco neighborhood with a proud local and, along the way, talk about what it is like to live in the City and how to use public transportation.

In launching this bold and audacious program, Joie de Vivre started small with a three-month trial period at just one of their hotels. All who participated stated how much they enjoyed their “unique and personal San Francisco experience.” Joie de Vivre has now expanded this program to 17 of their San Francisco hotels. This opportunity to experience the non-traditional and unexpected San Francisco sights makes for a more rewarding visit. “San Franciscans are friendly and proud of their city and visitors enjoy meeting locals,” said Chip Conley, founder and CEO of Joie de Vivre Hospitality. “Creating opportunities for the two to interact seemed like the right thing for Joie de Vivre Hospitality and San Francisco’s image as a welcoming city.” Golden Gate Greeters share a feeling that San Francisco has given them so much that they want to give something back.
Hotel Palomar*
Hotel Palomar’s innovative approach to improving the overall guest experience is evident in its dedication to the comfort of four-legged as well as two-legged guests. Canine guests are often found basking in the extra attention and care they receive from Palomar staff. For example, Hotel Palomar’s “canine concierge,” Virgil Romua, whose own dog, Cooper, often accompanies him to work, gladly arranges walks, grooming and trips to area parks for visiting pups and pooches.

Creature-loving guests who want to develop a new friendship while in town may avail themselves of the hotel’s “Guppy Love” Program which allows them to enjoy the in-room companionship of a goldfish during their stay and a discount at the nearby California Academy of Sciences where they can learn more about marine life and conservation efforts, all in line with Hotel Palomar’s eco-friendly philosophy. Guests also feel good knowing that Hotel Palomar takes its commitment to creatures of all types beyond the walls of the hotel. For example, ten percent of each “Woof for Wellness” package booked goes to the local San Francisco SPCA Chapter, and the staff is also involved in volunteer efforts such as the San Francisco Zoo Clean-up Day to help renew the Zoo’s gardens and exhibits. The overwhelmingly positive feedback from guests is a testament to the genuine care, comfort and pet-friendly atmosphere that shapes the overall guest experience while also contributing to the community. How “purrrrrrrrfectly” wonderful!
Orchard Hotel/Orchard Garden Hotel
The Orchard Garden Hotel is the first U.S. Green Building Council LEED-certified hotel in California and is leading the hospitality industry towards a healthier, more sustainable future. LEED Certification provides third party verification that a building is designed and constructed to high-performance standards. A key aspect of this program is ensuring that optimal indoor environmental quality is provided for hotel occupants and personnel. Care was taken to select only paints, carpets and other finishes that do not off-gas harmful chemicals, thereby affording guests a healthy, invigorating hotel experience. Daylight is another important factor in terms of creating a healthy indoor space. At the Orchard Garden, daylight is captured and brought deep into the interior through a ten-story indoor skywell. The Orchard Garden has fast become THE healthy destination in the Bay and put San Francisco Green Hospitality on the map.

Both hotels have implemented a number of energy-saving and “green” operational activities, such as: Natural citrus-based cleaning products used in the Housekeeping Department, organic bath amenities offered in every room, light bulbs switched from traditional incandescent to compact fluorescent, plate and frame heat exchanger installed on the rooftop of the Orchard Hotel to decrease power needed for climate control and cooling, built-in key card management control system at the Orchard Garden Hotel which reduces energy used in guestrooms by 10% to 20%, and recycling programs and sustainable purchasing programs. The focus of both hotels is to be environmentally friendly while still providing a luxury hotel and five-star services for their guests.