News for the Hospitality Executive
David Lewin, General Manager of the Hyatt Regency San
(San Francisco, CA – February 9, 2012) --- In a world where high tech often trumps high touch and relationships develop via digital devices, the hospitality industry remains a bastion of tradition, one in which exceptional service standards elevate hotels to greatness.
Achieving that greatness requires an outstanding leader, a get-things-done outside-the-box thinker with the skills of a diplomat, the agility of an acrobat, the acumen of a CFO and the humility of someone truly dedicated to service. And it would be difficult to find a person who better embodies these qualities than David Lewin, General Manager of the John Portman-designed Hyatt Regency San Francisco.
Lewin’s destiny was set at an early age, thanks to his father and uncle, the legendary hoteliers Werner Lewin and Henri Lewin. David learned many lessons from them, but there was one bit of advice that has no doubt helped contribute to his success. “Watch after the little guy, whether that means the associate or the guest,” he says. “Those who do the most mundane jobs will have the most dramatic impact on the guest experience. If there’s lipstick on your Champagne glass, it could turn out to be a disaster. And whoever’s at the bottom now will be at the top soon.”
His father’s and uncle’s rise in the industry from waiting tables in Shanghai after escaping Nazi Germany to making a name for themselves as hoteliers with Fairmont and Hilton are perfect of examples of that. Lewin took a different route to success: the Cornell School of Hotel Administration and a management-training program.
Judy Chronkhite, the hotel’s Director of Sales and Marketing, uses three words to describe David Lewin: engaging, straightforward, supportive. “David is an outstanding communicator. He’s very compassionate and has a very dynamic personality. He’s one of those people that you really love to be around,” she says.
And David loves to be around people. “I’m very visible. I like my guests. I like my staff, so I spend a lot of time with them. People feel comfortable letting me know how they feel. If they’re not comfortable being around you, they’re not going to be forthright when something is wrong and needs to be addressed,” he says.
Lewin’s unique dress style with his signature bow tie makes him visible in another way. “I started wearing one when I was working as a doorman at a nightclub. You can’t grab someone by the bow tie and throw them against the wall like you can with a necktie. That’s how it started, but I liked them and kept wearing them.”
The reason for wearing a bow tie may be habit, but it goes beyond that. “I do things that make other people wonder why I do them. Bow ties are just one of those things,” he says. “I also wear a Speedo. I started wearing one really young and saw how upset it made people and thought that to get that kind of rise out of people for such a small thing was amazing.”
Keeping the hotel’s traditions alive is one of David’s primary duties as GM. “Our culture is one of the most important things that we have,” he says. “From the top down we’re encouraged to celebrate that culture and to come up with new traditions to further it.”
One of these new traditions has transformed the tired-old Employee of the Month
Concept into Employees of the Month, with a winner chosen from each department. All winners are invited to a reception where they can bring two guests, and their pictures are pasted on Wheaties boxes in the cafeteria for a month. A name is drawn, and the winner can pick what will be served in the cafeteria for a day.
Communication is key in David’s world, and he has installed whiteboards in every department. If an employee needs something, they can write it on the board, and the manager takes over. Not email, not texting but just simple communication is what he’s after.
Another innovation David has come up with is to create new ways to blow off steam. He recently brought in a boxing coach for two one-hour body strengthening classes for any employee who wanted to attend. About 10 percent did. “We could go out to a bar, but we teach the staff that there are lots of other ways to blow off steam,” he says.
Whether it’s helping employees blow off steam or dealing with a difficult-to-solve problem facing guests, David has it under control. “I’m the make-it-happen kind of GM,” he says. It’s my job to beat the drums and be the voice that gets it done.” And if his experience at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco is any indication, his is loud and clear.
About David Lewin
Born and raised in San Francisco, David Lewin attended the Statler School of Culinary Arts, City College of San Francisco, and graduated from Cornell University’s renowned School of Hotel Administration.
He launched his career with Hyatt Hotels & Resorts in 1986 as a corporate management trainee at the former Hyatt Regency Los Angeles and soon after become a sales career as a sales manager at Grand Hyatt Regency San Francisco. David was promoted to Associate Director of Sales in 1990, where he won Hyatt’s prestigious “Sales Manager of the Year” award, and to Director of Sales in 1992, where he won Hyatt’s esteemed “Director of Sales of the Year” award.
In 1997, David transferred to Hyatt Regency San Francisco as Director of Sales and Marketing. During his time in San Francisco, he shared his hospitality knowledge and experience as an instructor at the University of San Francisco from 1990 to 2000, enlightening aspiring hoteliers about hotel sales and marketing and hotel operations.
Completing his career in sales and marketing in 2000, David was promoted to General Manager at Hyatt Westlake Plaza, where he oversaw the property until 2004. He then moved to Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport as General Manager, a position he held for three years before relocating to the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Resort & Spa. In 2011 he transferred to the Hyatt Regency San Francisco where he now serves as General Manager.
About Hyatt Regency San Francisco: Situated on the Embarcadero Waterfront, across from the iconic Ferry Building Marketplace, with ferries to Sausalito, Tiburon and Alameda, the Hyatt Regency San Francisco is the city’s most accessible hotel. The hotel is at the beginning of the California Street Cable Car line and is also in close proximity to the Embarcadero Center’s shops and restaurants, Financial District, Downtown, Chinatown, North Beach, Union Square, South of Market, AT&T Park (home of the SF Giants) and Embarcadero’s waterfront walking and jogging trail. As the city’s largest luxury waterfront hotel, the Hyatt Regency San Francisco boasts 802 rooms and suites. Guest services and amenities include Wi-Fi service throughout the hotel, 24-hour automated business center and newly constructed 24-hour StayFit @ Hyatt Fitness Center. Situated in the soaring atrium lobby of the hotel, amidst magnificent trees and trellises that create a serene and relaxing environment, the Eclipse Café serves breakfast, lunch and dinner featuring classic interpretations of local cuisine.
Lewin Appointed as General Manager of the 802-room Hyatt Regency San
Francisco / June 2011