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BRANDSTORY FEATURE

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SRQ MAGAZINE

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NOVEMBER 2019

HYATT REGENCY SARASOTA Since its lobby doors opened in 1974 as Sarasota’s first full-service hotel in the downtown area, the Hyatt Sarasota is taking a look back at all it has accomplished

CELEB RATING 45 Y EARS OF COM M UNIT Y PA RN ERS H IP


WELCOMING VISITORS TO SARASOTA FOR 45 YEARS WHEN A GUEST COMES TO EXPERIENCE HYATT

Regency Sarasota’s Resort-style hotel with a dramatic bayside setting and modern amenities, they find the perfect blend of a beautiful waterfront setting, authentic hospitality and the welcoming comforts of home. Beyond the aesthetics of the Hyatt Sarasota, there is an abiding and loyal trail of tenured employees, heartfelt stories between hotel staff and guests, a continued growth of community partners, events held for various local businesses, and the multiple remodels of modern facilities and amenities. Since its lobby doors opened in 1974 as Sarasota’s first full-service hotel in the downtown area, the Hyatt Sarasota is taking a look back at all it has accomplished—from checking guests from all over the world into its 294 guest rooms, to seating and feeding 800 people for a gala in one of the largest ballrooms in the city. And after 45 years of local and global engagement, it’s time to take a look ahead at what is in sight for the next 45 years, with a large scale renovation in the works for 2020. Apart from Hyatt Hotels’

namesake, Hyatt Regency Sarasota continues to exist as its own entity and celebrate the unique legacy it is leaving and leading for the region. “It’s the sense of arrival that really makes you feel like you’re walking into our home,” says Director of Sales & Marketing, Debbie DeVito. “Our people are what set us apart from the rest. You’ll never see anyone without a smile on their face, from our dishwashers to our general manager. There’s really a wonderful sense of home here at the Hyatt.” DeVito is quick to take note that Hyatt Sarasota’s success is largely attributed to as many wonderful clients as wonderful colleagues. Indeed, every job gets tough— with their own set of stresses and challenges—but that’s what’s so great about having a strong team to get by. “I love to come to work everyday, first of all,” says General Manager Marcia Dmochowski Clark. “I walk into this hotel and I see that beautiful view of the Marina, and then I get to interact with our team, which is more like one big family. We help each other get through the rough times as well as celebrate the good times.”

HYAT T REGENCY SARASOTA BRANDSTORY FEATURE

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SRQ MAGAZINE

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NOVEMBER 2019


COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIPS Year after year, the staff gives their time to All Faith’s Food Bank, participates in the SE Guide Dog Walks and hosts the Turkey Trot to benefit ALSO each year—donating food, space and staff support. The hotel also donates a number of gift certificates to help non profits raise funds for their causes. Additionally, every Friday marks “Jeans Day,” when staff wear jeans and donate money to local charities. Currently, they are collecting for the Bahamas Hurricane Dorian Relief Fund. Hyatt Sarasota also takes part in the Chamber of Commerce—working closely with a number of community partners and non profit organizations to host events ranging from 20 guests for a youth group to 800 guests for a corporate function.

THE GLASSER-SCHOENBAUM HUMAN SERVICES CENTER

SUNCOAST CHARITIES FOR CHILDREN At Suncoast Charities for Children, who have had a relationship with Hyatt Sarasota for 35 years— serving as a host hotel and a major sponsor for the Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix Festival since it began in 1985. “They not only provide us room rebates, but have also organized employee fundraisers throughout the year to raise money for Suncoast Charities for Children,” says Executive Director Lucy V. Nicandri. It’s their “continued loyalty as a sponsor,” despite changes in ownership and management staff over the years, that has made a real difference to the organization, she says. “This means so much to our charity and clearly illustrates how much they truly care about giving back to the community and their commitment to corporate values.”

NAACP SARASOTA CHAPTER NAACP Sarasota Chapter has been working with Hyatt Sarasota for over 15 years, partnering on its annual Freedom Fund Dinner, which recognizes local heroes and heroines that make Sarasota the community it is today. Trevor D. Harvey, President of the Sarasota County branch, describes the lifelong friendship that has been developed with NAACP and the hotel. “The Hyatt has opened its doors to us and made us a part of their family,” he says. “Sarp Kaya and this team are the reasons we choose to continue to partner with the Hyatt year in and year out. The hospitality is world class.”

UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA Meanwhile, University of South Florida- Sarasota Manatee (USFSM) has enjoyed a long-standing relationship with the hotel also for 10 years. This past year, the organization increased their engagement with the hotel in the past year—taking advantage of Hyatt’s hospitality professionalism and event space. In June of this year, USFSM reserved the ‘Tropics’ room for a gathering of nearly 40 attendees. “The view was one of the best in Sarasota, the food was exceptional and the service was impeccable,” says Lee Williams, Regional Vice Chancellor for Advancement. “Our guests left with an excellent impression of our organization and the Hyatt’s careful and dedicated attention to detail.” Williams feels the Hyatt has served the university’s interests as more than simply a venue for an event. “They are as concerned as we are with the details, purpose and outcomes of our event,” she says.

And for 10 years, the Glasser-Schoenbaum Human Services Center has also developed a significant relationship. When Mrs. Shoenbaum passed, cookies, an orchid and a card signed by all of the staff were delivered. “They were one of the few people who sent condolences,” recalls CEO and Executive Director Kameron Hodgens, Ph.D. “It meant so much.” For the kind of non-profit Glasser-Schoenbaum is, Hodgens believes the Hyatt is exactly the right fit when it comes to customer service style and feel. “We’re a human services organization, and the Hyatt has that great combination of being really dialed in for locals and showing stellar customer service,” she says. Over the years, she has watched the transformation in the look and feel of their events, with Hyatt stepping it up every time—yet the strength in personalized service continues, including Executive Chef Ryan Ward, who carefully accommodates various dietary needs and mindfully sources locally when possible. “So much about being a non-profit is about wining and dining people, it’s something you have to do,” explains Hodgens. “In this town, it has to be above the bar every time. And that’s what the Hyatt delivers.”


STAYING AWHILE A unique company culture to be proud of. The Hyatt Regency Sarasota’s company culture and relationship with their employees remain different than any other hotel chain. While there are a number of other hotel properties downtown available as options to work for, and an industry such as hospitality where it’s common to have a high turnover rate—with many employees as transient and variable as the guests—the incredible amount of tenured associates that want to make a difference to the lives of their colleagues, guests and community, shows there is something special being retained here. While many guests come and they go, the staff here stays. Many of them note the loyalty, comfort and contentment they feel putting on the same Hyatt Sarasota name tag after so many years. There’s something homey in the waters here. Management puts the security and happiness of their staff as high of a priority as its guests. Internally and externally, people are treated with respect, humanity, integrity and empathy—a tribute to the long list of dedicated and passionate associates with 20 plus years under their belt, and still going strong.

DIRECTOR OF EVENTS, CAROL DANISI has worked for the Hyatt Sarasota for 27 years— starting as the Restaurant Manager, then moving up to Banquet Manager and Convention Services & Catering Manager, before stepping into her role currently. “The history and the culture that she provides to the hotel is a huge asset,” says DeVito. “We have brides that have gotten married here, then come back and have christenings for their children because of her. We have guests call year after year just asking for her. Her personality helps us close business every day. As a single mother, Danisi holds memories dear, such as when her daughter came to work with her for “Take Your Child to Work Day.” A large luncheon happened to be going on that day in the ballroom. The Chef put her right to work in the plate up line—complete with a hat and gloves. Danisi’s daughter helped plate over 300 lunches. After 32 years total with Hyatt, “it pretty much is in my blood,” she exclaims. “The hotel and people that work at my hotel have always been there to celebrate the highs and support me in the lows of my life. My work with the Hyatt is something I always take great pride in and I still enjoy the creativity my job offers me every day.”

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SALES AND EVENTS MANAGER SARP KAYA recalls working at the Hyatt Regency Austin back in the 90s. “When our son was one year old, we took a vacation in Anna Maria Island and fell in love with the area,” he says. “I asked my wife who is self-employed, if she would live here. She (the Boss) said ‘get a job and we will move.” Kaya’s now been with Hyatt for over 22 years, and is currently the property’s Sales and Events Manager, but is really more than that, according to DeVito. “He is the face of our hotel and to the community—people come here because he’s here.” she says. “I guess that makes the Hyatt a part of me,” he says. And the Sarasota resort-style location in particular, he notes, “is like a playground where I come and see the friendliest faces, aka my coworkers.” And while Kaya has had the chance to interact with important political figures who have walked the halls of Hyatt Sarasota—shaking hands with George Bush, Dick Cheney, Julian Castro and many more—for him it’s more about the fun team building traditions like bowling retreats, happy hours, pizza parties, mini golf outings and going on the La Barge after a busy season or busy period.

SRQ MAGAZINE

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NOVEMBER 2019


THE GUEST EXPERIENCE Authentic Hospitality from the ground up. “WHAT INSPIRES ME AS A GENERAL MANAGER

BANQUET MANAGER CAPTAIN PAM POE agrees, “Hyatt is all about family time and caring for each other,” she says. “Hyatt means stability to me.” 42 years ago, Poe moved from Michigan to Florida with her parents after graduation, and went out looking for a job. She saw the Hyatt sign on the side of the building. The way the company values guest and treats everyone with dignity and respect she says is what’s kept her for over four decades. Not to mention the opportunities to meet stars like Chuck Norris, Don Johnson, Jay Leno and Michael Jordan. For Banquet Houseman Chris Martin, he started at Hyatt Sarasota in 2008. “I was told there was a job opportunity in the set up department by my friend that worked as the Dockmaster,” he says. Since then, he has been awarded Employee of the Year and sent to Hawaii as reward for anticipating the needs of the guests, and putting them first and foremost.

everyday is the opportunity to create an experience—make people feel good and really be happy to be here,” says Clark. “For me, it’s creating those special moments.” Those special moments for Clark include seeing the smile on a child’s face when the front desk gives them a stuffed animal when they’re checking in, or when the team surprises guests because they know it’s their birthday and they have something in the room waiting for them. “We spend a lot of time here together and to create that experience, it takes a lot of synergy.” Hyatt Sarasota has a way of empowering its staff to provide authentic hospitality by simply being themselves and bringing their whole selves to work. Ultimately, this has made all the difference in the lives of the guests they come in contact with everyday. It’s the people and culture that make guests feel right at home. “Our guests love us because we always put them first, and in return, they continue to come back year after year,” says Chris Martin. “The Hyatt is different because we are a big family—if you come to visit, you become part of our extended family as well.” And for guests, there’s a genuine pleasure in seeing the same staff there when they come back again after their last stay, however many weeks or years ago. “I have made so many friendships over the years,” says Poe. “I feel like I have small families all over the world.” While Danisi has been with the Hyatt for many years, she’s also worked for other hotel companies prior, and is steadfast in the way Hyatt differs from other hotel chains. “We empower our associates to make decisions to benefit our guests without searching for approval or worrying about being reprimanded,” she says. “We truly listen and respond with compassion to both our guests and associates—offering solutions to improve any situation or action.” From concierge, valet attendant, barista, housekeeper and accounting, “Everyone truly cares about each of our guests’ experiences and each other,” says Danisi. “A beautiful location means nothing if you don’t have a staff that takes pride in what they do and how it affects our guests and co-workers.”


LOOKING TO THE FUTURE Gearing up for a 2020 renovation of the interior spaces.

Le: Bar elevation design and a concept board for the foyer color palee, materials and fi nishes.

SINCE HYATT SARASOTA BUILT ITS ROOTS IN THE EARLY 70S, the building and brand have undergone several major renovations to stay at the forefront of comfort, technology and design by continually looking toward the future. Coming 2020, Hyatt Sarasota will undergo another exciting renovation, which includes a complete overhaul to update its longstanding infrastructure and implement more modern furnishings. “It’s exciting and I can’t wait to restore the hotel to the stature that it deserves,” says General Manager Marcia Dmochowski Clark. Since taking the helm as general manager two and a half years ago, Clark is amazed that anywhere she goes, and mentions her position, someone somehow has an affiliation—either they had their high school prom there, got married there, vacationed there, had a family reunion or business luncheon there. “So they have a sense of ownership,” she says. “It’s such an icon in the community.” For Debbie DeVito, the upcoming renovation is especially exciting for the sales department. “It gives us a fresh new start, something to sell, something to look forward to,” she says, “And really, just to repeat our history and set us apart from the rest of Sarasota.” A great deal of coordination and communication is going into it already, with not only the general contractors to control the trades, but also internally amongst the various departments, to minimize any disruption to the guests. “That’s key,” Clark says. Floor by floor, guest rooms will receive a complete makeover of a fresh look, bathrooms will be converted from tubs to shower stalls, meeting room spaces will be expanded and the entire hotel will go from carpet to cool tile floors. Plans to enhance more water views throughout the property are also in the works, including a total change to the lobby. It will still have that same open feel, but now, a bar will be put in with windows behind it for a wonderful view of the water while sitting with cocktails. “Because that’s what Florida’s all about, right?” says Clark. The lobby will also gain a market, where people can enjoy the convenience of being able to go in and grab a bottle of wine or a sandwich on their way to the beach or out to Ca’ d’Zan. Additionally, they plan to create more sense of community—more than there already is. Though there is plenty of gathering space in the lobby, the remodel will create more intimate spaces so people can relax and have conversations “as if they’re in their own living room,” says Clark. “The community gives so much to the hotel, and in turn, we want to give back to the community, because we appreciate being apart of it.”

1000 Boulevard of the Arts, Sarasota, 941-953-1234, hya.com, @hyasarasota

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SRQ Magazine | BRANDSTORY: The Hyatt Regency Sarasota, November 2019