Ronen Nissenbaum: Managing Director of Waldorf Astoria New York

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Most recently, Mr. Nissenbaum served as the president and CEO of The Plaza Group including overseeing the Plaza Hotel in New York as well as development of the Plaza hotel brand. Prior to this role, he held extensive leadership positions at properties around the globe including senior executive vice president of operations at Marina Bay Sands Singapore where he opened and managed the largest integrated resort in Southeast Asia. Nissenbaum’s other global hospitality positions include senior management roles with Forte hotels in London and Euro Disney in Paris. Nissenbaum also had a successful 13 year tenure with InterContinental Hotel Group holding various roles from general manager in Tel-Aviv, Berlin, Paris and Atlanta to regional vice president of operations for North America.

His hospitality career began with positions in the front office and food and beverage departments at properties in Belgium, Switzerland and Israel. Ronen earned an executive MBA from the renowned Goizueta Business School at Emory University. Ronen is a graduate of the Swiss Hotel School “Les Roches”. He is also a veteran of the Israeli Air Force and speaks several languages including English, French, German and Hebrew.

How did you get into the hospitality industry?

My uncle was managing famous properties in NYC and the USA and I fell in love with the lifestyle at an early age. My brother was likewise influenced and chose the same industry.

Tell us about Waldorf Astoria. What inspired the idea and what is your vision for the hotel?

The Waldorf Astoria New York is the most amazing, “greatest of them all” legend in the business. The Waldorf Astoria New York brings together New York’s social elite, the world’s leaders, captains of industry, and travelers from every nation for the most memorable occasions and unforgettable events. Who wouldn’t want to work here?

The Waldorf offers me the opportunity to continue affirming its legendary nature while renewing it for the next century. We’re constantly evolving, with a focus on creating one of the world’s best hotels.

What strategic partnerships/marketing strategies have you implemented that have attributed to Waldorf Astoria's success?

From a brand perspective, we have multiple partnerships but there is no doubt that embracing the new-age technologies is imperative in staying relevant to our current and future guests. 

Our innovative culinary program has also attributed to our celebrated reputation. Not only did we create many classics such as Waldorf Salad, Eggs Benedict and Red Velvet Cake, but we’re continuing to lead the charge on culinary achievement. For instance, we installed six beehives and a home-grown garden on the 20th floor rooftop space to provide a roof-to-table experience that furthers the hotel’s mission to offer guests locally-sourced ingredients. Rooftop ingredients and honey are incorporated into our restaurant menus and cocktail recipes, as well as Guerlain Spa services.

What industry trends are you noticing and how do you capitalize on them?

Everything is going digital – from our communication with our guests via social networks, to providing them options that make their life less stressful such as e-check-in. Later this year we’re launching ‘straight to room check-in’ for those who are looking for convenience and speed.

Life Motto?

A few:

Treat people as you wish to be treated.

Pay it forward (do good without any expectation of reciprocity).

Waldorf Astoria's Motto?

The difficult, immediately. The impossible takes a few minutes longer.

Your greatest success as GM of Waldorf Astoria? Most difficult moment – how did you overcome and what did you learn?

Being involved in the single largest hotel asset sale in the world at $1.95 Billion. I learned to understand the brilliance behind such a phenomenal real estate transaction.

Your advice to an aspiring hotelier?

Find out if you are passionate about the industry early-on by working in the business – at any level. Being successful requires great sacrifice but if you love what you do, the difficult becomes fun.

Describe the ideal experience at the Waldorf Astoria.

Experiencing the Waldorf Astoria New York is a “bucket list” item for most of our guests and we must endeavor to exceed those expectations each and every time. 

For the most iconic stay, I’d suggest a visit to the Towers of the Waldorf Astoria New York our luxury ‘hotel within the hotel’ occupying the top 14 floors. With an exclusive entrance steps off Park Avenue, guests will enjoy residential-style apartment suites, a personal concierge and private underground motor court. The Towers has hosted every American president since Herbert Hoover (in the four-bedroom Presidential Suite), was the former Park Ave home to the Duke and Duchess of Windsor (in the majestic Royal Suite), and hosted legendary musician Cole Porter as he wrote most of his famous lyrics – leading to the naming of the Cole Porter Suite, where Frank and Barbara Sinatra later lived.

Finish off the weekend with a meal at the famous Sunday Brunch, offered each weekend in Peacock Alley – the gem of the hotel’s lobby. Gourmet menu items range from cold dishes such as caviar and a seafood bar to hot dishes including made-to-order Eggs Benedict (which originated at the hotel) and numerous carving stations. The array of specialty desserts includes favorites such as Red Velvet Cupcakes (another hotel original) and Baked Alaska with “Top of the Waldorf Rooftop Honey” Ice Cream.

How important are architecture/design to the success of Waldorf Astoria?

It is part of the fabric of our history and legacy. An art deco masterpiece, the hotel design is both elegant and timeless.

How do you motivate your employees?

I work to communicate and inspire with a vision of the future. My goal is to connect with employees through sincere dialogue and treat everyone with respect. We each make up an integral part of the hotel’s legendary “True Waldorf Service.”

If there was one food and drink left on earth, what would you choose?

Chicken (meat and eggs) and water.

What literature is on your bed stand?

Industry, business and market literature. 

Who is your role model - business and personal?

2 business role models:

Past: Steve Porter, President of IHG (where I spent 13 years of my career)

Current: Chris Nassetta, CEO of Hilton.

Both have a unique talent of connecting and motivating people coupled with superior business skills and acumen.

Personal role model is my wife Karen. She is the kindest, most generouYour Imagess and most beautiful human being that I’ve ever known. 

Current passion?

My wife, soul mate and best friend and, of course, our three amazing children.

Favorite travel destination?

For couples: Bora Bora

For a family: Florida (Orlando and the Keys)

What's next for the Waldorf Astoria?

Restoring and reclaiming the title of the best hotel in the world. Truly becoming “the greatest of them all.”