When Kate Martin first came to the Hotel Chandler 12 years ago, it was in the midst of a major transformation. Triumph Hotels had just bought the 138-room small luxury hotel located the Flatiron district of New York City and invested millions in a down-to-the-studs renovation. She was the front office manager, in the original opening team that was brought in to increase the service standards and take the hotel to the next level. “It was a great experience,” she says. “I got to see the building gutted and rebuilt, then we hired a whole new staff and put together standards for every department.”
Now Martin is the Chandler’s general manager, and the property is going through another round of changes. Last year, Triumph spent $10 million to redesign the guestrooms and overhaul the hotel’s lobby and public spaces. “We’ve transformed every- thing, our cocktail bar to our library and lounge, to create a home-away-from-home feel,” she says. “We tried to keep the historical integrity of the building, which dates back to 1905, and bring in some modern design elements.” In May the next phase of the renovation is set to finish, bringing with it new meeting spaces, a private dining room, and a new restaurant, Juni, a 50-seat fine-dining establishment headed by executive chef Shaun Hergatt. Martin is especially excited about the new restaurant, which will feature locally sourced organic ingredients and seasonally inspired menu items, since it will allow the hotel to cater meetings and provide private dining experiences.
She says the Chandler’s renovation process has taken a long time because the construction team worked only on one area at a time to reduce the impact on the guests. Even then she says the staff worked hard to communicate the progress of each project with guests to keep disruptions to a minimum. “You need to be very conscious of letting guests know when and where noise is going to happen and provide them with as much advanced notice as possible.” She says that it also helps to keep in mind what kinds of guests will be showing up and when.
For instance, summer travelers almost always leave their rooms looking for various amenities and spaces in which to relax. With a career that has taken her all over the world, Martin is used to change. She got her start working for a hotel in Greece, where she was born and raised, before relocating to England and Canada to get her hotel management degree and continue working in hospitality before settling in New York City. Since 1999, Martin has progressed within Triumph Hotels through various positions. “I have experience with construction, which is why I took on this project,” she says. “Besides doing the origi- nal opening at the Chandler, I took another hotel through a renovation, so I’m not out of my comfort zone when it comes to making over a hotel while creating the least amount of impact on our guests.”
Martin says that the renovations and the addition of the restaurant will enable Triumph to reposition the property for a new clientele and to introduce a new rate structure. “Because we’re small and we’re not part of a big corporation, there’s no red tape or going through any approval process,” she says. “If something doesn’t work we can change it immediately.” And even with all the changes going on at the Chandler, she says her focus will continue to be on service. “We’re constantly coming up with new ways to train the staff and hear what our guests have to say,” she says. “We’re in the process now of redoing our standards, hotel- wide and for each department.”
She says there’s always some new change coming down the pike, which is good because the guests have come to expect something different every so often.