As GM of the country’s largest hotel, Ron Pellerine is used to daily challenges. So, when the announcement came down the pipeline a few months ago that, after 38 years as a Delta Chelsea Inn, the 1,590-room downtown Toronto landmark was changing management hands, and becoming the Eaton Chelsea Toronto, it didn’t faze the 36-year-old hotelier. “The hotel’s uniqueness relates to the fact it’s constantly evolving and ever-changing,” he says. “Each day is a new challenge, but it’s always interesting.”

Meanwhile, Pellerine’s path to mastering hotel management has also been quite interesting. “My career began as a chef, and I never thought I’d be a general manager,” he says. With no formal hotel management training, Pellerine learned the tenets of hospitality through experience. “I grew up in the business,” he states, recalling his first job as dishwasher at [Ontario’s] Elmhirst Resort. “I enjoyed the opportunity to meet and interact with guests from all parts of the world, but I did have a love for food.”

With a passion for hospitality, and a hunger to learn, Pellerine eventually went back to school, attending Ryerson and Cornell and landing at the Chelsea two years ago. Running Canada’s largest hotel, and overseeing a complement of 800 employees, may seem daunting, but it’s not Pellerine’s biggest challenge. “[The challenge is] exceeding guest expectations, especially since we deal with a diverse clientele, including leisure, business, travel trade and airline crews,” he explains. “We are truly the hotel for everyone, whether it’s family, couples, business travellers, tour groups.”

Now, with a new name on the marquee, further changes are expected over the next few months as the owners (Langham Hospitality Group) and the hotel execs work to re-brand the hotel. Renovations are being phased in, with changes set to be made to the guestrooms, ballroom and the façade. The popular water slide will remain. “The meeting and banquet space will be completed by the end of summer, the balcony refurbishment will start in October, and guestrooms begin in December,” explains Pellerine. “The Eaton brand aims to provide a stylish, modern level of comfort and design with can-do service and sustainable living. It’s all about balanced living and delivering ‘Everything You Need’ at exceptional value: comfort, convenience and connection.”

And, in these days of eco-consciousness, the brand is firmly committed to greening — “sustainable living through eco-friendly hospitality solutions to limit our footprint on the environment,” says Pellerine. Among the green initiatives planned for the future are a “Vertical Garden,” which will be incorporated into the design of at least one key public area to help create a soothing environment for today’s busy travellers; there are also plans to adopt a “paperless” policy.”

But the changes aren’t limited to renovations and eco-friendly evolutions. The exec team is in the throes of making enhancements to its e-marketing campaigns, implementing new revenue-management software ideas, hiring a quality manager and improving its accessibility. Ultimately, despite the myriad changes and the rebranding efforts, Pellerine says success is driven by “making solid connections with guests and employees to build great memories. [It’s all about] attention to details with follow-up.” 

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