Canopy by Hilton’s new West Palm Beach hotel is set to open in February under the leadership of general manager Chris Steele.

Chris Steele was 14 when he started work as a restaurant host. “While all my teenage friends were playing and having fun, I was at work,” Steele said.

Twenty-one years later, the hard work has paid off.

Steele, 35, is general manager of the Canopy by Hilton West Palm Beach Downtown hotel. The 150-room Canopy hotel, the first in the state of Florida, is set to open Feb. 13 at 704 S. Dixie Highway.

Steele said opening the boutique Canopy brand “is a unique and prestigious thing for any general manager.”

>>What a view: Take a peek at this rooftop bar at one of West Palm’s newest hotels

But to do so at such a young age speaks to the value, and discipline, of Steele’s decision to stick to the hospitality industry and work his way up.

Steele worked hard, learning as a teenager to be agreeable to all sorts of customers. He learned to respect hard work in others, too, whether it was the dishwasher or the manager. And he learned to be thankful to his parents for the push they gave him when he was young and could not foresee how this path could pay off years later.

Steele said he grew with the industry through its ups and downs. Today, he says the hotel industry plays an important role as the anchor of any destination, serving as the means by which a traveler picks a city and its amenities.

>>Rooftop bars: 7 elevated spots for fun in Palm Beach County

In the age of Airbnb and various vacation rental websites, hotels are under increasing pressure to make their products unique.

That’s no problem with Canopy, which will feature a number of unusual and artsy flourishes reflecting its historic and tropical locale.

There’s the rooftop bar dubbed BanterUp, which will open on the hotel’s 13th floor.

There’s the railroad theme running through the property, a nod to Henry Flagler.

There are the painted headboards being imported from Brazil, featuring bright splashes of paint to add zest and whimsy to each room.

Then there are the sculpted banyan roots made of hand-painted tubing, dipped in sand and interwoven with hand-blown crystals by artist Terje Lundaas of Miami. These banyan roots will be in the lobby and the downstairs restaurant dubbed Banter.

Creating a hotel that’s interesting and fun is the goal. That’s because a hotel sets the tone for the rest of a traveler’s trip. “It’s the first impression that people get from a city,” Steele said.

When Canopy opens in February, Steele intends to make that first impression a good one.

Name: Chris Steele

Age: 35

Title: Chief Enthusiast (General Manager) of Canopy by Hilton West Palm Beach Downtown

Hometown: Born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, raised in Southeast Georgia, currently living in downtown West Palm Beach.

Education: High school and on-the-job experience.

Family: Wife — Belen Steele

About your company (revenue, clients/caseload, employees, mission): Locals will be visiting for the dining and the experience, like the 13th floor rooftop bar and lounge. And our hotel guests will be cultured vacationers and business travelers. We will have roughly 100 employees.

First paying job and what you learned from it: Host at Denny’s in Jekyll Island, Georgia. I learned how to treat fellow co-workers, how to talk to and treat guests, and all about patience.

First break in the business: After working my way up through the food and beverage industry, I wanted to be a general manager of a hotel, like my dad. So, I applied to be a second assistant general manager at the still-under-construction Hyatt Place Jacksonville Airport. I got the job, and continued my well-rounded career from there.

How your business has changed: As hotel cost of goods and rates for the guests have increased, so too have the expectations. The increase in expectations from the guests have caused hoteliers to significantly increase the quality of training and personnel and the quality of the product being offered. Hotels are now more of an experience, instead of just a necessity.

Best business book: Dale Carnegie: How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Best piece of business advice you ever received: Talk less, listen more.

What you tell young people about your business: That the hotel industry is a lifestyle, not just a business. Gain the experience. Classroom time does not replace real world experience in this industry.

What do you see ahead for Palm Beach County? There will be significant continued growth as the neighboring cities such as Fort Lauderdale and Miami continue to reach their tipping point. Cities such as West Palm Beach that are safe, clean and stable will continue to grow. Especially in the hospitality industry. Palm Beach is where the dominating brands want to be.

Power lunch spot: Loic Bakery and Cafe. Homemade French pastries are the BEST!

Where we’d find you when you’re not at the office: At a CrossFit Gym or strolling downtown between Rosemary Square and Clematis Street experiencing all the great sights and delicious dining experiences that downtown has to offer.

Favorite smartphone app: Google Maps. I’m an Android guy (Samsung Galaxy Note 10) and Google Maps really enables me to experience the city in a great way as it points out all the things I would miss otherwise.

What is the most important trait you look for when hiring? I really focus on two, as they are hand in hand: leadership and integrity. Leadership as I hire someone to set the example and to one day replace me so that I may continue to grow and they may as well. Integrity because I need to trust that the individual is doing the right thing when I am not looking. As a habit, I stay plugged in, but I do not micromanage. There is a big difference.


Source link