As general manager of the 2,019-room Hyatt Regency Chicago, Patrick Donelly oversees operations of the largest Hyatt property in the world. The South African native began his career in hospitality in San Francisco in 1986, working his way up to regional food and beverage director at the Hyatt Regency Chicago from 1991-1995 and returning to the hotel as GM in 2007. “When I emigrated, I was told the jobs were in Reno so that’s where I started,” he says. “But I couldn’t find a job there, so fortunately I was given a job with the Hyatt in San Francisco. Then I went to San Antonio, Palm Springs, back to San Francisco, Chicago, Knoxville, Milwaukee, O’Hare and back to Chicago. I’ve also opened a number of hotels including two in Hawaii.”
Over the last three years, Mr. Donelly oversaw an impressive $168 million renovation at the Hyatt. Mr. Donelly capitalized on a downtime in the economy and realized it would be the best time to renovate because they wouldn’t lose a lot of business. “When you’re in a hotel the size of ours, you have to be very careful about the size, the displacement and the time it takes you to do renovations,” he says. “The renovations came in three phases. We first redid 1,000 guest rooms in the West Tower, stripping them down to bricks and mortar and redoing everything in 12-and-a-half weeks for $50 million.” The Hyatt then did the same renovations to the 1,019 rooms in the East Tower in 13-and-a-half weeks, and the final phase was to revamp the public space – the lobby, BIG Bar, Stetsons restaurant, et cetera. “We wanted to take everything that had been done in the last 25 years and create a total wow factor. And I think we did.”
Speaking of the restaurant, the Hyatt’s food philosophy is: Food. Thoughtfully sourced. Carefully served. “It’s Hyatt’s corporate initiative to focus on sourcing sustainable and responsible food and beverage,” explains Mr. Donelly. “It’s grounded in three pillars: health people, healthy planet and healthy communities. The long-term strategy is to ensure travellers have more options to fit their lifestyles while staying in Hyatt hotels around the world and ensuring health and wellness is top of mind.”
And throughout the hotel, you can’t help but notice that women are on the corporate fast track. “Most of our top sales leaders here in the hotel are female,” shares Mr. Donelly. “More women are leading the way in executive roles, and it’s great to see the balance of gender start to even itself out.”
Outside of his work, it’s no surprise Mr. Donelly loves to travel. “I like to go back to Africa and take six to eight people from America with me who’ve never been there,” says the father of two who’s also an avid golfer. “We’ll do a 10-day power trip and go on safari, shark diving and see parts of Johannesburg.” He’s also a self-proclaimed, die-hard Manchester United football (that’s soccer, folks) fan and visits England at least four times a year to see a match.
But if you ask Mr. Donelly his favorite destination to work or travel, he loves Chicago. “Every hotel, every city I’ve been to has been uniquely different,” he shares. “But I’ll tell you the Midwest and this hotel is the nicest and greatest I’ve worked in. I’ve just been very fortunate to have been with a great company.”