PA ProStart Blog
Name: Chris Simpler
Occupation: Executive General Manager and Director of Hotel Operations, Settlers Hospitality
There's more to the culinary field than just chefs whites and mise en place. Learn about a career in hospitality management from Chris Simpler, Executive General Manager and Director of Hotel Operations for Settlers Hospitality. In this role, Chis is responsible for all operations of Hotel Anthracite & Kōl Steakhouse in Carbondale, PA.
1. What does a typical day at work look like for you?
In our world, there is no such thing as a typical day! The General Manager in particular is expected to address a wide variety of issues, which can be anything from a unique guest request to a major repair that has to be done immediately. That said, there are important constants—ensuring sufficient staffing, equipment, and product are in place for upcoming events and lodging needs, and keeping an eye on daily financials to ensure A/R and A/P is working the way it should.
2. Why did you choose this career/industry?
The hospitality industry is unique and wonderful largely due to the high degree of personal engagement with guests that is required while also offering a challenging environment in which one gets to be creative in both the ‘right brain’ (design, menu creation) and ‘left brain’ (finance, property management) skills.
3. What was your first job in the industry?
My first official job was at age 14 as a dishwasher/busser at The Red Fox Inn in Fishkill, NY. Within weeks, I was cooking and serving tables and continued working in some restaurant or hotel capacity for most of my life.
4. Briefly describe your career path and how you got to where you are today.
My first deep dive into the hotel world came with Swank Audio Visuals in St. Louis, MO. There, I was able to learn how the many departments of the hotel come together to put on major events, and do it on a daily basis. Imagine a Broadway production where the music and scenery changed every show, and add food and lodging to the mix--this is the magic that happens every day (sometimes more than once a day!) in a hotel with a restaurant and event space. The people that taught me how to anticipate guest needs, leverage a team, and find ways to sell a better experience formed me into an effective manager and leader. The time I spent working in chain restaurants gave me a deep appreciation for the urgency that comes with feeding people well, and mentors such as Deb Siewing at Starbucks helped me refine my human resource and customer service skills. My financial services experience provided the opportunity to travel extensively and see the hospitality world from the guest’s point of view, something that helps me guide my team with great insight.
5. What is your favorite part of your job?
In my career, I am most proud of the people who I have helped become successful. One of the joys of the hotel world is the ability to start in an entry-level position and progress (often quickly!) to upper level management, and it almost always happens because of a strong leader who trusts you to take on more than you thought you could.
6. What is the most challenging part of your job?
Not letting the constant pressure of daily operations take away from strategic activities. There will always be work that needs to get done, and business development—getting into the community, finding new opportunities, and installing systems, processes, and policies to grow the business--must be a priority!
7. What advice would you give to students interested in pursuing a career in hospitality?
Keep developing yourself as much as your business, because you will ultimately be the limiting factor for your enterprise. Read books (crazy idea, right?), magazines, and stay involved in your community. Stay healthy, as hospitality leadership requires a lot of energy and is truly a physically demanding career. And above all, be kind to others. It’s good for your spiritual and mental health and also good business sense—for as many people who work in hospitality, paths will cross in the future, and taking care of others will eventually be rewarding.
8. What achievement are you most proud of?
Making the move to fully (re)immerse myself into hospitality by leaving what was a lucrative career in financial services. Without the support of my wife Jenna and the confidence in my business partners, I’d likely be doing something that I was challenged to find peace-of-mind in. In the hotel, as stressful as it can be, I know that what we’re offering to guests is valuable and necessary.
9. What do you like to do when you’re not at work?
My wife and I travel as much as we can, mostly to see family and friends. Our Tibetan Spaniel, “Ruby”, is our group’s Director of Pet Relations, and goes with us whenever possible.
10. Favorite thing to make (or eat)?
Even though I’m not a formally trained chef, I do pretty well in the kitchen, having learned how to cook from my grandmothers. While it may not be the fanciest recipe, Grandma Behrens’ traditional Sauerbraten yields some of the best results.
PA ProStart Blog
The PA ProStart Blog is for Pennsylvania students and teachers of the ProStart Program- a nationwide, two-level high school career and technical education program that teaches culinary arts and restaurant fundamentals.