The Renaissance Arlington Capital View Hotel may seem like an unusual place to find a homemade meal from Thailand awaiting guests and staff members.
You can credit Narong Muangchan, described by hotel management as the “heart and soul of the banquet kitchen – the ‘ace in the hole’ for the many cultural menus prepared for events.”
Muangchan was among more than 80 front-line workers across venues in Arlington honored March 28 at the Arlington Chamber of Commerce’s 13th annual Hospitality Awards.
Arlington benefits from the most tourism and business-travel spending among all Virginia localities, and workers at area hotels and restaurants “are crucial in continuing the success of the industry,” said Kate Roche, president of the business organization, at the breakfast ceremony.
Many of the stories touch at the heartstrings. Consider the tale of Fayssal Samaka of the Ritz-Carlton, Pentagon City.
As he was checking in a family, Samaka overheard that the father was recovering from cancer treatment. He sprung into action, arranged for the family to stay in the hotel’s presidential suite and made sure they got a special tour of the local area.
Unfortunately, that story did not have a happy ending, as the father died a few months after the visit. But the family told the Ritz-Carlton’s general manager that, because of the generosity and sensitivity of Samaka, his last trip was a very special one – and they planned to come back to the hotel every year on vacation.
Then there was the matter of postage that helped Maria Suyat of the Hyatt Regency Crystal City at Reagan National Airport qualify as a 2017 Hospitality Superstar.
A guest coming from Italy let the hotel know that he would need some stamps. Seven hundred, to be exact.
Suyat took it upon herself to phone up five different local post offices to ensure they had enough supply on hand, then arranged for a fellow employee to transport the guest to all the different locations to purchase them.
The guest “was stunned by the care she provided for this unique request,” hotel officials said in their nomination.
Then there are the tales of working behind the scenes to ensure customers have a seamless experience.
Komi Assogba of the Crowne Plaza Washington National Airport gave up a weekend to make sure renovation to the hotel’s coffee shop was completed on a Monday morning, when hotel guests would be expecting it.
“Who needs Superman when you have him?” Assogba’s manager said in the nomination.
Special requests seem to be a fact of daily life in the hospitality business. Among those who never flinches is Henri Rabezanahary of the Residence Inn by Marriott Arlington Ballston.
A family of four staying at the hotel all were vegetarians, and found the options at the breakfast buffet limited for their dietary needs. Rabezanahary made several trips to a grocery store during the course of their stay, picking up vegetarian food to ensure the family always had something that filled them up and tickled their palates.
In addition to the Hospitality Superstars, the ceremony included the induction of 12 individuals into the Bob Klein Legendary Service Award pantheon – presented only to those with more than a quarter-century of exemplary service in front-line roles in the Arlington hospitality industry.
Twenty-five years is just the starting point of those honored; two recipients, Philip Chao of the Holiday Inn Rosslyn and Ping Sangthong of the Crowne Plaza Washington National Airport were saluted for more than four decades on the job, with Ching Chao of the Holiday Inn Rosslyn, JoAnn Jansen of the Holiday Inn National Airport/Crystal City and Tommy Ellis of the Hyatt Regency Crystal City at Reagan National Airport all having logged more than 35 years.
Others presented with the Bob Klein award – named to honor a late general manager of the Holiday Inn National Airport/Crystal City who was instrumental in establishing the Hospitality Awards, included:
Ofelia Lopez of the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Washington D.C.-Crystal City; Derrick Gaston of the Crystal Gateway Marriott; Jose De La Cruz of the Crystal City Marriott at Reagan National Airport; Marina Rodriguez of the Crystal Gateway Marriott; Ana Quintanilla of the Holiday Inn Rosslyn; Michael Lee of the Renaissance Arlington Capital View Hotel; and Mary Fon of the Holiday Inn Rosslyn.