Editorial Board   Guest Author

Mr. Gerstenecker

Robert Gerstenecker

Executive Chef, Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta

Robert Gerstenecker joined Four Seasons in 1989 and worked his way up from part-time carver to executive chef during moves to properties in Toronto, Hong Kong, New York and Palm Beach. "When I hit Atlanta, something happened," he says. "I realized I could have a country experience and still be a part of a big city." That experience is important to Mr. Gerstenecker, who grew up on a working farm in On-tario, Canada, and experienced the transformation of food first hand. "My mother would pull the cream off the top of fresh milk from our cows, make butter with it and feed us the milk," he says. "Growing up on a farm never seemed important to me, but now I realize it's not common to know where food really comes from." Mr. Gerstenecker, who lives on a four-acre farm just north of Atlanta, isn't satisfied to leave the land behind when he comes to work. In 2009 he started a garden on the outdoor terrace of the hotel's fifth floor that produces everything from cauliflower and teardrop tomatoes to mint for mojitos at the hotel bar. "I harvested 300 pounds of basil from the rooftop garden last year," he says. "It was so plentiful, we pureed it with olive oil and froze it." Instead of picking all the basil, he lets some of it flower, which makes the bees in his rooftop apiary very happy. Mr. Gerstenecker uses their honey—more than 800 pounds since 2009—in tea, oatmeal and desserts and various products for the hotel spa. After 25 years in the industry, Mr. Gerstenecker is just as excited about cooking today as the day he baked his first cake with a light bulb. "I'm addicted to the challenge of making sure each guest has an incredible food experience," he says. "Food is ever evolving—you can never be perfect at it, but that doesn't stop me from trying every day." Please visit http://www.fourseasons.com for more information.

Mr. Gerstenecker can be contacted at 844-623-5029 or robert.gerstenecker@fourseasons.com

Coming up in June 2018...

Sales & Marketing: Opinions Matter

Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors manage a complex mix of strategies to attract and convert customers into guests. Part of their expertise includes an awareness of customer behavior during the reservation process, so they can make sure their hotel is favorably positioned. One such trend is the growing popularity of travel review sites. According to one recent survey, 61% of prospective customers consult online reviews in order to validate information about the hotel before making a purchasing decision. Another survey found that the average hotel customer reads between 6-12 reviews across 4-10 properties before making a final decision on where to stay. Similarly, other studies have shown that consumer reviews are a more trusted source of information for prospective customers than other kinds of marketing messaging. In fact, reviews are often considered to be as influential as price regarding whether a customer decides to complete a purchase or not. Plus, travel sites with the most reviews - including recent reviews from satisfied customers and thoughtful responses from staff - were also found to be the most appealing. So having positive reviews on a travel website is essential and can help to increase a hotel's conversion rates dramatically. Of course, there are all kinds of additional marketing strategies for sales and marketing directors to consider - the importance of video and the emergence of live streaming; the implementation of voice search; the proliferation of travel bots; and the development of Instagram as an e-commerce platform. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.