Michael Singer never set out to be a hotelier; he always dreamed he’d be a chef. But, along the way, his college principal urged him to take a management course instead. “I’m pleased he did, because seeing the quality, commitment and creativity of chefs today, I would have made a poor one,” quips the GM of the Hotel Novotel Toronto North York.
Born in London, England, Singer has been at the helm of the Hotel Novotel Toronto North York for the past decade, while overseeing three other full-service hotels in the Vrancor portfolio. “I never thought I’d stay in one property this long. It’s been a learning curve; working for a successful entrepreneur is different than a large multi-brand company.”
Singer oversees a complement of 100 in the hotel, but he’s also responsible for a total of 450 associates in Vrancor. His biggest challenge is twofold: “From a management perspective, it’s change — we cannot manage our people and product like we did 20 years ago, or even five years ago. We have to keep up with trends, adapt and be flexible. The days of autocracy and being a figurehead are gone.”
From a guest perspective, Singer says personalization is an ongoing challenge. “It’s the latest buzzword but what does it mean? I’d prefer to say “recognition,” simply ensuring that at every guest encounter, we’re welcoming, enthusiastic and engaged.”
To ensure staff have the necessary tools, Singer says training is key. “More than 90 per cent of team members have now been through the Accor “Heartist Training” program. The effect on guest-service scores has been noticeable.” For the first time, last month, all full-service hotels participated in the Aon Hewitt Engagement Survey.
Singer also stresses the importance of loyalty programs as a way to differentiate the hotel. “They’re a big factor. Our ALL has just been launched and will certainly add another string to our bow. We have to keep driving service and recognition.”
After all these years, Singer still loves what he does. “If I wake up one morning and don’t want to go to work, I’ll pack it in,” he says, pointing to a quote from Ghandi as his inspiration. “‘A sign of a good leader is not measured by the number of followers you have, rather the number of leaders you create.’ I’d like to think I’ve created a few leaders.”