I met with Maria Razumich-Zec, General Manager of The Peninsula Chicago. Mrs Razumich-Zec joined the Peninsula Group as General Manager of The Peninsula Chicago in 2002 and was promoted to the position of Regional Vice-President – USA East Coast in 2007, with regional responsibilities covering The Peninsula Hotels in Chicago and New York, and Quail Lodge & Golf Club in Carmel, California. She was appointed to the Group Management Board in 2007 and was retitled as Regional Vice-President in 2013.
Peninsula hotels possess a unique identity among the great hotels across the world. Formed in 1928, the group relies on prestigious establishments across 10 large cities: Hong Kong, Shanghai, Tokyo, Beijing, New York, Chicago, Beverly Hills, Bangkok, Manila, Paris, and soon London (in construction). The Peninsula label is synonymous with luxury, comfort, and unparalleled service. The ambition of the group remains very high and always places firm demands to enthrall its clients.
I leave you to discover my interview with Maria Razumich-Zec below.
What is the definition of luxury and the art of hospitality at the Peninsula Chicago?
Our goal is to go above and beyond for our guests. When you come into a Peninsula hotel, ideally you expect the rooms to be beautiful and very well maintained. But what I think makes the difference is the service that we provide for our guests. Our goal is to go above and beyond for our guests. That’s true service and true luxury.
When we welcome our guests, it’s very important for it to be as seamless as possible. We try to meet our guests right at the front door. We have what we call iPad check-ins, so we take the guests right to the guestrooms so that they don’t have to stop by the front desk. We try to make it as seamless as possible during their stay. Another service that we offer for our guests is when they check in, we ask them if they would like to communicate with us via text or via email so that it’s a little bit easier. It’s interesting how many guests say yes and how many guests carry on conversations with us online, so they don’t have to pick up the phone.
Is the Peninsula the best place in Chicago?
The Peninsula is part of the community. For us to be successful, we have to be very involved in the community. We are very philanthropic. We support many charities in the city. For me, it’s important that we bring the community into the hotel. At our restaurant, 80% of our business is the local community. It’s important, not only for myself but for my managers and my staff, that we engage with the citizens of Chicago. Many of us live in Chicago, so it’s important to give back to the community in which we work and live.
How do you define a team success?
There’s one thing that’s interesting about Peninsula, and it’s something that starts in Hong Kong, with our chairman and our CEO, Peter Borer. It’s very much a family environment. We only have 10 hotels, and we have a very large footprint considering we only have 10 hotels. We really try to take care of our employees. For instance, in Chicago, after 9/11 and during the recession, we never ever laid off any staff. Some staff may have worked fewer hours—maybe instead of 5 days a week, they worked 3 days a week—but they always knew that they had their benefits, they had their insurance, they had their 401k…. They always knew they had a job. We were the only hotel in Chicago that did that. It is very important that our people feel like they have a home, that they feel comfortable.
One thing that Peter Borer always talks about is making sure that the back of the house and the facilities for our team are just as good as what we have for our guests and making sure that our team is well cared for. That’s very important for us. There are a lot of things we do outside the hotel for our team. There are things we do when somebody has a child or a baby. We’re always reaching out with our team members because they’re the ones who take care of our guests, so we want our staff to be happy. It’s a very important feature of who we are as a brand and who we are as a company. The family feeling is very prevalent in all of our hotels.
Known for his international expertise on luxury hotels through his magazine, Laurent Delporte shares his vision and experiences in the world of hotels on his site DELPORTE Hospitality. He decodes the behind-the-scenes action in the sector: from food and beverage facilities, accommodations, architecture, to the quality of services. He offers interviews, advice, and articles as pragmatic resources that industry professionals and private individuals can refer to in their search for information.