After starting his career as a chef, Gettysburg Hotel GM Chuck Moran uses a “reverse pyramid” method to empower employees and focus on mentoring opportunities.
GETTYSBURG, Pennsylvania—Leave it to a chef-turned-hotelier to cook up a management style that puts employees at the top of the food chain at a hotel located in the heart of historic America.
Chuck Moran, the GM of The Gettysburg Hotel for the past four years, said he subscribes to a “reverse pyramid” leadership method to bring the most out of the hotel’s 92 employees.
“My philosophy is that when anyone walks to my door for assistance, what’s at my desk doesn’t matter anymore,” Moran said during an interview at the hotel’s One Lincoln restaurant that overlooks the historic borough’s quaint town center.
Moran said he takes the lead from Len Wolman, chairman and CEO of Waterford Hotel Group, which manages the hotel for owner Gettysburg College.
“It really stems from what I learned from Len,” Moran said, who has worked for Waterford for 18 years. “When he walks into one of his hotels and talks to an associate … he looks at you and asks, ‘Do you need anything to be more successful?’” It’s a genuine question, he added.
“He recognizes his success in his company, his business, his hotel … to keep guests coming back, the staff has to be trained well and have the tools to be successful,” he said.
The processes needed for the management style to be successful must be forward-looking—especially when something goes wrong, according to the GM.
“It’s all about ‘why?’” Moran said. “We need to solve problems with an understanding of what happened and not letting it happen again. It’s not about the person, it’s about the error.”
“There are days you’re going to fall short … how you recover from this is more important than the shortcoming,” he added. “Training your staff and making sure there’s an understanding of what really happened and how to make sure it doesn’t get there again is essential.”
Moran celebrated his fourth year as a GM of the Gettysburg Hotel in July. He took the job after overseeing 11 properties in four states for Waterford when he needed to stop traveling to take care of his elderly mother, Naomi. He brought his team-first leadership style with him.
“I’ve always believed in developing the team around you,” Moran said. “Your success is dependent upon on their success.”
Moran joined Waterford in 1999 as food-and-beverage director for a Holiday Inn in New London, Connecticut. He was GM of Octagon Restaurant at the Mystic Marriott Hotel & Spa in Groton, Connecticut, and became GM at a couple of other hotels in the Waterford portfolio before landing in Gettysburg. He served as president of the Connecticut Lodging Association from 2008-2010.
From college student to Navy cook
Moran got his start in the hospitality business when he left Pennsylvania State University after two years and joined the Navy as a cook on a ballistic submarine so he could see the world and learn a skill.
“At end of four years, the captain wanted me to go to officer training school, but I had the urge to be a father, so I got married and went to The Culinary Institute of America on the GI bill,” he said.
He was a chef for 25 years before entering the hotel world.
“I was in my early 40s, and the days of figurehead chefs were gone,” Moran said. “I had my own cooking school and restaurant in Connecticut, but I started looking for another opportunity.”
That led him to Waterford, which hired him as food-and-beverage director for a Holiday Inn in New London, Connecticut. The road eventually led him to the company’s Mystic Marriott Hotel & Spa. He said he immediately felt at home in the hotel industry because of the similarities it has with the restaurant business.
“The two facets that tie the two (industries) together are people are about as intimate as what they eat as where they put their head at night,” Moran said. “The psyche is very similar.”
The GM still maintains his call to cooking.
“I have no issues jumping in the kitchen for a day, a couple of days or a couple of hours,” Moran said. “My team knows that. You pick up the tools and start helping, it’s good for morale.”
Moran said he works closely with Joseph Holmes, the hotel’s executive chef, to create a balanced menu.
“He has an amazing work ethic and is a talented teacher,” he said, adding the hotel’s restaurant specializes in comfort food with a flair. “He bounces ideas off of me, and vice versa. We definitely look at meeting the dietary needs of today—vegetarian and gluten free are big deals.”
The exchange of information and tips is an important aspect to success in cooking and other aspects of life, Moran said.
“At CIA, one thing I learned is that it’s a trade to pass on, not to keep secrets,” he said.
Moran said he’s always been fond of creating soufflés, soups and sauces, and also enjoys utilizing lamb, duck and veal.
“I really enjoy aromatics, the blending of different fragrances,” Moran said.
Moran is a jack-of-all-trades, thanks to his days in the Navy and owning his own business, which allows him to understand a little bit about a lot of things, including plumbing, electrical, HVAC, damage control, crisis control and more, he said.
“When I come onboard with a property like this I could have intelligent dialogue with the systems manager—I don’t know enough to do it myself but I understand the fundamentals,” Moran said.
High-profile property in a unique market
Running a supposedly haunted high-end independent hotel in a small town that was the site of the bloodiest battle in America’s Civil War provides interesting experiences, the GM said.
The hotel often is visited by paranormal seekers because of its reputation as having several haunted rooms.
“We hear things about it … there are stories about a light turning on and off, a door opening and closing, a sense of cooling or warmth,” Moran said, who added that he hasn’t experienced any of those phenomena. He mentioned, though, some of the hotel’s longtime employees have had what could be viewed as paranormal experiences—the movement of items and eerie noises.
“We embrace it,” he said of the attention. “We’ve gotten national exposure—especially around Halloween.
The Gettysburg Hotel has 119 guestrooms and suites in five buildings. The main building’s site dates to 1797 when it served as a stage coach station, lodging facility and bar. The original foundation still exists but the main structure was rebuilt in 1990 after being left in ruins following a 1983 fire. The property’s ballroom is a converted bank building that is 253 years old.
“The opportunity for us is that we’ve got the best location in town,” Moran said. “We have the opportunity to be the very best hospitality lodging facility in Gettysburg. I don’t think you ever arrive. The goal is always to be better.”
The biggest challenge is the labor pool, he said.
“This community is a community of about 5,000 people,” Moran said. “There’s a lot of tourism, so trying to recruit and keep good people is always a challenge. But I never have been one to step in the way of stopping someone from growing and moving on. Best way to keep them is to grow them and develop them.”
The single father of five children, including three step-children, enjoys being outdoors in his spare time. In June, Moran spent five days hiking the Appalachian Trail with his two sons.
He said aiming for self-improvement is his goal every day.
“When you think that you’ve reached that pinnacle of success, it’s time to move on because you’re not worth any more to your team or your staff,” he said. “You always have to be open to improve and grow.”