Managing the Peninsula Hong Kong
What does it take to run one of Asia’s top hotels?T+L tags along with Rainy Chan, general manager of the Peninsula Hong Kong.
As the sun rises over Victoria Harbour, Rainy Chan whips through the 80-year-old Peninsula Hong Kong on a morning inspection. A trailblazer in the hotel world, Chan worked her way up through the ranks to become the first woman and the first Asian ever to manage this flagship property. And with good reason: she’s a whirlwind of energy, checking on everything from the kitchens and the spa to the rooftop deck, and delivering a cheery “Jo san” (good morning) to every staffer.
After reviewing the overnight logbook—all was, thankfully, quiet—Chan heads to the staff restaurant, Chui Dim, for breakfast with a front-desk agent, the spa manager, and a cashier.
She’s off to the conference room for the meeting of department heads, where the guest relations director delivers a PowerPoint briefing on tonight’s VIP guests—head shots included.
The $1,027-a-night Floating Cloud suite is being prepared for a Korean businessman who has been visiting since the 1970’s. Chan checks on the cleanliness (even kneeling down to look under the bed and on the bathroom floor) and the temperature (he has requested a balmy81 degrees). “I’m a stickler for details,” she says. “If I’m at a restaurant and there’s a crooked painting, I’ll fix it.”
The architects behind the hotel’s 1930’s-style jazz lounge—opening in October—present their plans, and designer Ranee Kok shows some options for the staff uniforms. Chan, who has a keen interest in fashion and has most of her clothes custom made by Hong Kong’s top tailors, wants the sleeves adjusted and the jackets cropped.
She convenes nine senior staff members in the conference room to discuss preparations for the Peninsula’s upcoming 80th-birthday celebration. The search for 80 children—who will dress up as tiny page boys and girls—is going well.
Then it’s down to the basement garage, where she wields an enormous cleaver to slice a 25-pound roasted pig, part of the traditional Bai Sun ceremony to protect the drivers of the hotel’s signature green Rolls-Royce fleet.
Chan tries to sit down for a lunch of har gau (shrimp dumplings) and char siu bao (steamed pork buns) at Spring Moon restaurant, but constantly jumps up to greet guests. “It’s a curse, but I can never relax,” she says.
Switching from English to Cantonese, Chan welcomes new page boys and housekeepers at an orientation in the third-floor training room.
Down in the kitchens, the chef is holding a tasting of new menu items. Chan gives a Mediterranean quiche the thumbs-up, even discussing its price and presentation.
Then she’s off to strategize about Christmas. (It’s never too early.) The 20-foot lobby tree will be decked out in white, gold, and silver.
For the first time all day, Chan gets more than 10 minutes in her neater-than-neat office, complete with a picture of her dog, Bella, dressed up as a Peninsula page. She makes a call to check on a diamond ring for a guest who’s about to propose. “It’s a colorful life—I get to share other people’s special moments.”
Chan slips into the 30th-floor China Clipper lounge, with spectacular harbor views and 1930’s aircraft memorabilia, to check on the preparations for a dinner party being hosted by a VIP guest. She sticks around to make sure the event goes off without a hitch, but forgets to eat.
Back in her office, she orders sweet corn–and-crab soup from room service. “I don’t live the same glamorous life as our guests,” she says.
The page boys swing open the doors of the lobby, and Chan—looking as stylish as she did when she arrived at 7 a.m.—emerges into the cool night, where the staff van is waiting to take her home.