Hyatt Regency Chicago

Hyatt Regency Chicago exterior

Hyatt Regency Chicago is completing a major seven-year-long renovation

that updated the property to meet its guests' needs.

By Janice Hoppe-Spiers

Hyatt Regency Chicago is the Hyatt’s flagship location. It is not only the largest hotel in Chicago, but the brand’s largest hotel in the world with more than 2,000 rooms. “It is a hotel that is the envy of all the people of our company to work,” General Manager Patrick Donelly says. “So many managers who have come to work here and left for promotions realize what a great hotel it is and strive to come back.”

The Chicago-based hotel offers a chic, downtown retreat located near the Magnificent Mile and iconic destinations, such as Millennium Park and Navy Pier. Hyatt Regency Chicago operates guestrooms in two different towers – the west which was constructed in 1974 and the east in 1980. Hyatt Regency ChicagoThe towers are connected by an above-ground skyway and underground concourse.

With more than 1,300 employees, Hyatt Regency Chicago ensures it has the right people and resources to stay relevant in an ever-changing industry. “The ownership has allowed us to move with trends by building restaurants, updating bars and new philosophies,” Donelly says. “That’s a huge part of what makes us relevant in the city. We are an iconic hotel for Hyatt and used for training and testing programs. If a program doesn’t work in a large hotel it won’t work in small hotel, and if it does work in a large hotel it better work in a small hotel.”

Making a Mark

For the past seven years, Hyatt Regency Chicago has undergone a $168 million renovation that enhanced the entire property while the hotel remained in operation. “What I was most proud of was that the displacement of guests and complaints were zero,” Donelly attests. “We had jackhammers digging up the front desk and lobby and closed the east tower lobby, but the feedback was so positive because we allowed our guests to be part of it and see what was happening. We used glass walls to block the work zones so our guests could see what they were doing.”

The three-phase project broke ground in 2010 with a complete overhaul of the guestrooms in the west tower. The phase was completed in 16 weeks. Phase two included the renovation of all guestrooms in the east tower and was completed in 14 weeks in 2011.

Phase three included a complete renovation of the east tower lobby, as well as meeting and event space, and dining outlets. During this phase, the main lobby was closed for about three months to completely renovate and guests checked in at the west tower. “We had been doing piecemeal renovations every year, and when I got here a number of years ago, I was afforded the opportunity to do a complete refresh by ownership,” Donelly says. “Every GM tries to put their stamp on a property and I wanted the hotel to blend together nicely. As you moved through the hotel, you had brass, stainless steel and tile and woodwork. We really wanted it to be one and now when you walk through it looks like a new hotel.”

Social Scene

The hotel is probably most well known for BIG Bar, an upscale, mezzanine-level lounge that offers unparalleled floor-to-ceiling views of the city. “We completely remodeled BIG Bar to make it more accessible and guest friendly,” Donelly notes.

Hyatt Regency BARHyatt Regency Chicago added more social areas to the property during the renovations. Before there were about 20 seats between the east and west tower, but now the hotel has 250 seats in common areas with power stations and Wi-Fi to attract guests. “We have seen an increase in the female traveler and they typically come in, go workout and grab something to eat in their room,” Donelly says. “We built the Living Room that offers small plates and seasonal fare along with a full bar menu to change that. We created this space in the hotel so all individuals could feel comfortable sitting down in a safe and enjoyable atmosphere. They can watch TV or have a drink and sit by the fireplace. This has been well received by the individual traveler as it gets them out of their room so they are able to enjoy all the hotel has to offer.”

In addition to the Living Room and BIG Bar, Hyatt Regency Chicago also features American Craft Kitchen & Bar, Market Chicago for on-the-go dining and Stetsons Modern Steak + Sushi. “The next thing with foodservice is closing our traditional room service,” Donelly notes. “More people are choosing different methods to dine, so we are looking to stay ahead. We will be offering limited to-go food with the option of delivery to the guest room.”

Hyatt Regency Chicago will continue to focus on staying an industry leader in innovation and develop a strategic plan to meet its guests’ needs moving forward. “We try to stay relevant because if you don’t you disappear quickly,” Donelly says. “What’s the next big thing? We are deciding that now and the next 18 months will shake that out.”

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