Even as a child, Randy Zupanski knew he wanted to work in the hotel industry, but little did he know that one day he’d be running the iconic Westin St. Francis in San Francisco. Appointed to the post last October, the 50-something hotelier is no stranger to running renowned properties. Among the list of hotels he has helmed in six countries are the Fairmont Pacific Rim in Vancouver, the Shangri-La Rasa Ria Resort in Malaysia and the Fairmont Makati in Manilla, Philippines — heady stuff for a kid from London, Ont., who was introduced to the hotel industry through a dishwashing job while he was in high school. “The job was a great introduction to the industry and provided me with an understanding of the hard work that takes place in the heart of the house to support our associates in delivering a high level of service,” says Zupanski. It’s an ethos he continues to espouse in his new role overseeing the 1,195-room property.
The graduate of London’s Fanshawe College is already feeling at home in his new hotel, now under the Marriott umbrella. “With the recent acquisition of Starwood by Marriott, this opens the door for change and innovative opportunities at all levels of the business,” states Zupanski.
Of course, the hotel’s rich 112-year history was also a drawing card. “The Westin St. Francis is an iconic hotel with tremendous history and architecture. The property is comprised of two buildings, the Landmark Building, which was originally built in 1904 and consists of 614 guestrooms, and the Tower Building that opened in 1972 and has 581 guestrooms. I love having the combination of these two structures, as it offers both a historic and modern feel that can appeal to all guests.”
Running such a mammoth property requires the commitment of his entire team of 1,025 associates. “Our team actively supports one another to ensure our guests’ needs and expectations are not only met but exceeded.”
Operating in an increasingly competitive market means Zupanski’s biggest challenge is “to improve financial returns while retaining balance with an equal focus on our associates, guests, and the brand.” He prides himself on being “hands-on with a balanced approach, while being fully engaged in all areas of the business.”
Zupanski arrived at the hotel on the heels of a $6-million renovation to its meeting spaces and more updates being planned. “We are constantly investing in improvements at the hotel, as it’s important to keep things fresh. We are currently in the process of reinventing our food-and-beverage offerings. We also have a renovation of the Landmark Building guestrooms scheduled to start in late 2017.”
Though renovations may keep the hotel current, “At the end of the day, the number-1 point of difference will always be the associates and how they value the guests,” says the gregarious hotelier. “It’s what sets the hotel apart.”