François Guay never set out to be a hotelier. In fact, as a young boy growing up in Montreal, his dream was to become a Formula One racer or an airplane pilot. His arrival on the hotel scene was somewhat circuitous, with Guay first earning a degree in electronics before realizing his heart wasn’t in it. Instead, the 38-year old is piloting the nascent Hotel William Gray to success.
Guay fell in love with the hospitality world after working at various jobs, including cashier at a grocery store and restaurant server. Knowing he wanted a solid grounding in the hotel world, he enrolled in LaSalle College’s Hotel Management program, juggling studies with a full-time job at the Delta Montreal — working his way through various departments while learning the theory behind it all.
Almost a year ago, he landed at the hip 127-room William Gray, a boutique property housed on eight floors in two historic buildings in Old Montreal, steps away from Place Jacques Cartier and the old port. There he oversees a team ranging from 135 to 150, depending on the season.
Guay defines his style as “grounded, attentive, approachable and respectful.” He loves that “every day brings learning possibilities. The secret is to keep an open mind.” Having worked his way up from a pot washer to GM, Guay says he’s come to “respect and understand the importance and impact of each employee.”
His focus on customer service ensures his team helps guests in the “best way possible. Every single interaction has to make the guest feel like they are the only thing in the world that matters.” He sets an example for staff by helping them set new boundaries in the level of service they offer. “[We’re not] looking to reinvent the wheel, but [I] dare to set us apart.”
Though the hotel has been open for little more than a year, it’s already generating buzz, drawing the 30-to-60 year-old leisure demographic from Europe, the U.S. and Mexico. The hotel also benefits from partnering with two of the city’s top establishments and tastemakers. For example, Café Olimpico, a popular, local coffee shop with roots dating back to 1970 is housed within the hotel building, while local retailer OTH (Off The Hook) is located adjacent to the hotels lobby. The hotel also houses a beautiful rooftop restaurant called Maggie Oakes. Next month, the hotel will launch a spa that will feature a complete hydro-therapy circuit with salt room, 10 treatment rooms, a pedicure and manicure station and an outdoor pool.
At the end of the day, Guay says it’s important to differentiate yourself from other hotels by “being on the forefront of technology and providing a haven that fosters creativity and offers a sense of discovery.”