The balance between modern and timeless: insights from GM of The St. Regis New York

Hermann Elger GM St Regis

Hermann Elger, GM at The St Regis New York

The St Regis is a 110-year old landmark hotel in Manhattan. We talked to Hermann Elger, General Manager of the five-star property, about what it takes to stay on top of the competitive hotel market in New York.

You are running the flagship hotel of the St Regis brand. As it has 100 years of history, is it a challenge to keep up with its much newer and up-to-date siblings and competitors?

At The St. Regis New York, we are constantly looking at how we can both honor the colorful legacy and traditions of the flagship while still remaining relevant and enticing to the next generation of luxury traveler. It is about finding the perfect balance between what is modern and what is timeless. For us, that is having original Waterford crystal chandeliers hanging in the same room that features bathrooms with hidden TVs in the mirror. When we renovated the hotel last year, we wanted to honor the hotel’s original splendor while adding bold and modern touches to the space. Long-time guests of the hotel still feel as though they are staying at the same property they have been loyal to for decades, while the new, younger generation finds the St. Regis equally as enticing.

In a city with such a high level of competition, we are always looking at how we can innovate to enhance the guest experience, and to create services that are uniquely St. Regis. Recently, we unveiled our 2015 Bentley Fleet, making us the only hotel to offer an in-house car service that changes from day to night. We also are the only hotel to offer the signature St. Regis Butler service to all guests here in the city, a testament to the hotel’s commitment to providing the highest level of service.

The St Regis is such a popular New York property, yet it lacks ‘show off’ public areas. How does the hotel socialise and continue to be a magnet for celebrities and VIPs from not only the USA, but indeed from all corners of the world?

The hotel is in the heart of New York’s social scene, ideally situated just off of 5th Avenue. Steps from world class shopping, restaurants, theatre, music and more, there is truly no better address in Manhattan. The excitement of its surroundings is matched within the walls of the hotel, serving as both a refuge from the hustle and bustle of Midtown yet remaining a destination for bespoke entertaining.

Ballroom at The St Regis Roof

Ballroom at The St Regis Roof

A huge draw for locals and visitors alike is the iconic King Cole Bar, which nightly ushers in a fashionable and worldly set to the hotel. The bar’s intimate, yet lively atmosphere is often sought out for the perfect night cap or casual business meetings over cocktails.

Additionally, the hotel often plays host to an array of private and public events ranging from intimate concerts to fashion shows to private dinners. The St. Regis Roof, featuring our decadent ballroom remains one of the most sought-after spaces for celebrations, while we also often have guests utilize one of our expansive suites or one-of-a-kind designer suites to host intimate dinners or midnight suppers.

You’ve renovated your famous bar and restaurant – are your loyal repeat guests happy? Are you planning other renovations in the near future?

The King Cole Bar has long-served as an emblem of both style and sophistication within the hotel, delighting patrons for decades. We’ve seen fathers bring in their sons for their first drink, as it was where they too were brought by their father for their first drink. The bar also serves up the original Bloody Mary recipe, the “Red Snapper,” as it was invented at the bar by Fernand Petiot in 1934. This legacy is something that we are really proud of and want to preserve, so when renovating the space, we looked at how we could enhance the experience of the King Cole Bar rather than change it.

The King Cole Bar

The King Cole Bar

During the renovation, we expanded the original bar to create the King Cole Bar & Salon, where an extensive lounge features a dramatic open fireplace and updated the menu to embrace modern American cuisine with an international twist—a dining experience that is quintessentially Manhattan. Adored by generations of New Yorkers as well as patrons from around the globe, the famed King Cole Mural still greets bar patrons, but has been restored to its original brilliance.

We are have no plans for additional renovations at this time.

The St Regis is often the home away from home to Presidents and film stars with very high demands and expectations. How does your team rise to the challenge of satisfying distinguished guest (as well as non-celebrity guests)?

The St. Regis New York serves as a home away from home for our guests, an atmosphere achieved through our staff’s meticulous attention to detail. We pride ourselves on tailoring each and every guest experience to meet his or her individual needs. For over 100 years, we have offered hotel guests access to the signature St. Regis Butler Service, perfected over the decades. Every butler is trained specifically by St. Regis to ensure they meet our standards of service and respect.

From creating special dishes for a guest’s unique dietary needs to unpacking or repacking guest’s suitcases so he or she can make a last minute appointment to stocking the mini bar with desired treats to rearranging the furniture in our suites to match guest preferences—there is no ask too big or too small for our staff to execute. Taking the stress out of traveling is our goal, and one that keeps our guests coming back.

If you could return any hotel from the past back to its glory days, which would it be and why?

Rather than return a hotel to its glory days, there are traditional services and experiences from the past that could be nice to re-create —experiences which might allow us to slow down from a hectic pace of everyday life, experiences which might allow us to disconnect from devices and reconnect with family and friends in meaningful ways. I’m talking about services that are truly pampering and thoughtful; they come without distractions and are not rushed. These are the hotel experiences from the past that I would like to return to their glory days.

We realise your guests rely on your discretion, but do you have an amusing story or encounter that you could share?

For well over a decade, Salvador Dali called a suite here at The St. Regis New York home for several months of the year, and some of our more storied staff members still share stories of his escapades. Dali would share a drink in the King Cole Bar with his favorite companion—his pet ocelot! He also hosted extravagant parties on the hotel’s second floor where women were turned into living art as he painted dramatic scenes on their backs.

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