Christophe Le Chatton believes in taking the things you are passionate about to the highest level possible, which is precisely how the GM of Toronto’s The Omni King Edward Hotel approached the various projects he has undertaken at the historic property. Since joining the hotel in 2014, he has spearheaded the revitalization of the luxury property through renovations, which have cumulatively cost approximately $47 million.
Originally opened in 1903 as Toronto’s first luxury hotel, the King Edward was once the destination for visiting celebrities and dignitaries, as well as society events. But, as time marched on, the grande dame lost some of its lustre. With one eye on the past, Le Chatton threw himself into the project, with the goal to “reposition and redefine the hotel in its modern days as it was intended when it was first built.”
These renovations have comprised all guestrooms and meeting spaces, public spaces, exterior work and, finally, the reopening of the Crystal Ballroom this year. Even more impressive, the hotel remained open through the entire process. “As a matter of fact, our customer service [scores] never dropped during this time,” Le Chatton adds. “I think it’s a privilege to have the entire hotel redone, brought back to life, because the design flows from top to bottom,” says Le Chatton. “What has made this transition so spectacular was the fact that it was impactful immediately. People that have come in the past and people who have come for the first time feel that they are in a very modern hotel — in the sense of the services that it [offers] — but a neo-classic hotel with a lot of history.”
In many ways, the reopening of the historic Crystal Ballroom in April, following its 40-year closure, was like replacing the jewel in the crown that is the King Edward. “The room itself is a hit. The hardest part is to bring people to see it — especially people who have never seen it or heard of it,” Le Chatton explains. “Once people are brought through the door, selling it is easy. You should see the expression on people’s faces — it’s just tremendous.”
Originally debuting in 1922, the Crystal Ballroom hosted many of Toronto’s most prestigious functions through the 1970s. Similar to the hotel’s renovations, the Crystal Ballroom’s restoration has been heavily influenced by its original interior — the venue’s ornate mouldings, eight-metre-high coffered ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows offering panoramic views of the lake and the city, remain central features in the Crystal Ballroom. New, modern chandeliers and wall sconces embellished with ornate crystal elements ensure that the space lives up to its name. The ballroom’s pre-function space was also revamped, now featuring mosaic tile and a new permanent bar with ’20s inspired details.
No stranger to the hotel-renovation process, Le Chatton notes that almost every major hotel he has worked at has undergone some form of renovation during his tenure, including Cambridge, Ont.’s Langdon Hall and Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. The French-born hotelier’s resumé boasts positions with many of the world’s top luxury brands, including Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Waldorf-Astoria and Relais & Chateaux.
Having begun his hospitality career in F&B, he is also an accomplished sommelier and was named the best sommelier in Ontario and, subsequently, the third-best sommelier in Canada and first runner up for best sommelier USA (during the ’90s).
Beyond improving aesthetics, the French expat has also led the King Edward’s team to achieve greater levels of performance. In 2016, the hotel achieved the highest TripAdvisor ranking it’s ever received — eighth out of 136 hotels in Toronto. The hotel was also propelled to new heights within Omni Hotels and Resorts’ guest experience and satisfaction rankings. The King Edward currently ranks third out of the company’s 60 properties. This upward trend is also reflected in the property’s financial results. In fact, Le Chatton was named General Manager of the Year-RevPAR Acheivement Category by Omni in 2016 — becoming the first GM to to win this award during their first full year with the company. RevPAR growth has continued its upward trajectory into 2017. As of May, RevPAR had increased by 14.2 per cent, year-do-date — outpacing RevPAR growth among upper-upscale hotels in Toronto.
Anna Salvati, director of HR at The Omni King Edward Hotel, credits much of this success and performance growth to Le Chatton’s focus on team building and leadership acumen. “Christophe’s leadership has created a team-oriented environment built on trust and respect. Regular meetings, open dialogue and actionable outcomes are examples of how Christophe keeps his team working together cohesively and productively. His strong and effective communication skills ensure that everyone in the organization understands their role and strives for the highest standards.”
“You can’t do anything by yourself. And, if you’re going to do it with your team, you [need to] make sure your team is fully engaged with you and your vision and passion,” the GM explains. “I like to teach, to connect with my leadership team and to share my passion with them because I believe that to be a successful hotelier, it’s not just about numbers; you have to be passionate about service and have an eye for detail.” Despite an international career that has spanned three continents, Canada —and Toronto in particular — has become home to the GM, who met his wife Lisa while working at the Windsor Arms Hotel.
Le Chatton has pushed his sphere of influence beyond the four walls of the hotel through initiatives that give back to his adopted home and the community that supports the King Edward. He is credited with leading the charge in the hotel’s partnership with the CHUM CP24 Children’s Wish fundraiser through the launch of a toy drive and annual tree-lighting ceremony at the hotel. He also ensures the property’s participation in charity events such as “Eat to the Beat” and the Canaccord Great Camp Adventure Walk.
He’s also forged partnerships with local farmers and producers by featuring and promoting their products on the hotel’s Sunday-brunch menu.
“There is not one aspect of the hotel that is not important to Christophe,” says Salvati. “He sees its potential and is relentless in ensuring that it is achieved.”
And, he isn’t finished yet. Le Chatton continues to be driven by the goal of repositioning the hotel to reach its full potential as it was intended when it first opened in 1903. To this end, he has turned his attention to developing a new concept that will see Victoria’s Restaurant reopen for dinner service, though he is not ready to share his plans just yet. “As a GM, you’re projecting yourself into the future,” he explains. “I always say if I shared what I wanted to do six months or a year prior, people would think I was crazy.”