For more than 130 years, the Athenaeum Hotel has been a model of elegant tradition and service for Chautauqua Institution. Rooted in rich history and boasting an impressive roster of visitors throughout the decades, the success of the Athenaeum is like a mirror to that of the Institution; they depend on one another. Though traditions have made the Athenaeum what it is today, General Manager Bruce Stanton feels the hotel must let go of some of these older practices in order to maintain a standard of excellence.
Stanton, the final speaker of the Chautauqua Speakers lecture series sponsored by the Chautauqua Women’s Club, will discuss some of the Athenaeum’s upcoming and ongoing modifications 9:15 a.m. Thursday at the Women’s Club house.
This is Stanton’s 10th season as general manager of the Athenaeum and his 20th overall at the hotel; he was the director of food and beverage services prior to his current position. Even in the brief time he has worked in Chautauqua — compared to the hotel’s long history, that is — Stanton has noticed significant changes in hotel guest behavior: shorter stays, more guests eating away from the hotel and a new desire for luxury accommodations.
“We need to evolve into a hotel that can serve today’s Chautauqua experience,” Stanton said.
The hotel is currently on an American dining plan, which includes three meals a day with room fare. Stanton hopes that by next season, the hotel will be on a European plan, which includes just breakfast and the option of having lunch or dinner for an additional daily fee. Stanton said transitioning to a new meal plan will decrease the price of rooms with the hope of increasing the number of hotel guests throughout the season.
“Our ultimate objective is to bring more people to Chautauqua,” Stanton said, “and lowering the room rates will allow us to do that.”
Stanton will also discuss room renovations. In the past five years, 30 percent of the guest rooms in the main building have been upgraded, he said. Stanton hopes that all of the guest rooms will be completely renovated by 2020.
Finally, Stanton hopes to touch upon how staff service is changing. The hotel employs more than 350 summer employees, yet has only nine year-round staff members. There is a learning curve that comes with season employment, Stanton said, and he hopes to “become more consistent” with service and to improve customer satisfaction in the future.