Grand Hyatt takes time to celebrate local smiles

PO‘IPU — There were smiles everywhere, Wednesday.

Doug Sears, general manager for the Grand Hyatt Regency Kaua‘i Resort and Spa, made it a point to greet each of the 960 smiles that entered the door, and at one point, took a break to enjoy lunch with John Planas of the resort’s culinary department.

“The tuna is great,” Sears said as he greeted more of the resort’s employees who flowed through the doors of the Grand Ballroom.

Tano Taitano, the resort’s director of human resources, had exchanged his normal attire for the white chef’s coat as he mingled among the tables between grilling steaks and ahi.

“We try and keep it local,” Taitano, who is one of the leaders of the Mahalo Day, said. “We try to do one every quarter, scheduling these Mahalo Day celebrations between the peak times. But it seems like it’s peak time all the time.”

Arleen Yoshimori of the Banquets department was enjoying the food and fellowship, making it a point to come on her time off.

For other employees of the Po‘ipu resort, Mahalo Day meant an extended lunch hour so they could enjoy some of the food prepared by the resorts’ culinary department and served up by the different department heads.

Aunty Stella Burgess, a longtime advocate for perpetuating the local culture at the resort, said they open the doors at 10 a.m. and keep everything going until at least 7 p.m. so everyone has an opportunity to enjoy the hospitality and festivities.

Sears, in addition to greeting employees, spent the greater part of his day emcee-ing the event, taking his turn at pulling lucky number tickets and presenting employees with their prizes.

“It’s good that we take a moment to thank the team for their legendary service,” Taitano said while taking an employee’s selection of steaks for a more custom broil.

Taitano said it’s each of the 960 employees the resort has that contributes to the overall success and customer satisfaction.

This quarter’s theme “Your Smiles Make A Difference” was most appropriate as smiles abounded in the room filled with employees who occasionally broke into pockets of laughter as they relished memories of working together, or kidding the recipient of a door prize.

He said that in addition to the Mahalo Day celebration, the resort hosts a monthly luncheon — Napua Hanohano Pa‘a — where 14 people each month are honored for their outstanding service.

“The great thing about Napua Hanohano Pa‘a is not just the honorees being served a great lunch, but listening to their nominees talk about what it is about their selection that makes them great,” Taitano said.

As employees rotated through the buffet, a video about their accomplishments within the resort and extending out into the community filled the room decorated with special “mahalo” and appreciation banners.

“I have to eat,” Sears said while waiting for a piece of grilled ahi from Executive Chef Lawrence Eells. “This is making me too hungry.”

Matt Humphreys joined Taitano at the grills to replenish a tray of steaks that was quickly emptied by hungry employees.

“Our executives are either cooking or scooping ice cream,” Taitano said. “It’s only positive when we celebrate like this.”

In return, the employees gave “the chef extraordinaire” even more smiles.

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