The little things are everything to Andre Zotoff, vice president and general manager of San Diego’s Hotel del Coronado. Under Zotoff’s leadership, the iconic Southern California beach hotel has undergone a renaissance, shifting focus from leisure groups to meetings. Flipping the split, in fact, from 65 percent leisure to 65 percent group in only two years.
With this major change, Zotoff is on a mission to improve the planner experience in a big way—without the big price tag—by stepping up the property’s game in countless small ways. “Meeting planners are under more pressure to produce the best meeting ever,” he says. “Hotels fail meeting planners when they only look at budget. It’s not about the money, it’s about the creativity.”
Few know creativity better than the animated Zotoff, who’s worked in hospitality around the globe, even spending time as a master chef. The kitchen is where he honed his creative instincts. “It doesn’t matter if it’s on the plate or in ideas, I’m always challenging the status quo, creating an environment where people [feel comfortable] presenting ideas,” he says. “I’ll try anything at least once.”
That even includes starring as the eccentric bow tie-wearing, motorcycle-riding hotel owner in a feature film (“Day Dream Hotel,” watch the clip here) for the first-ever Coronado film festival. We talked with the imaginative GM to gather some of his most forward-thinking ideas for meetings hotels.
Save a Seat
“People have to sit in meetings all day, and we’re proud to say we have the most comfortable chairs on earth. They’re very residential. We spent $1.5 million on chairs.”
“Someone had the idea to make a mermaid-style workout swim class where everyone wears a tail. That launched in May. We have to shoot for the sky.”
“Our strategy for our banquet menu is: How can we make it smooth and user-friendly for the planner, but also for the attendee so they don’t say, ‘I’m No. 156 of this group and no one really gives a damn about me.’ For our continental breakfast, after everyone gets their plate, we pass cinnamon buns at the tables. They are warm and smell so good, and it doesn’t cost anything extra to pass them. I had a guest say, ‘The cinnamon buns were to die for.’ That made my day.”