But what unites these men is a commitment to guest satisfaction and a mastery of their industry. Sir Rocco Forte, chairman of the Rocco Forte Collection; Steve Rushmore, chairman and founder of HVS; and S. Truett Cathy, founder and chairman of Chick-fil-A Inc., will take their place among other giants of hospitality at an induction ceremony at the Hilton University of Houston Hotel on Oct. 15. Since 1996, the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management has recognized excellence in leadership with its annual Hospitality Hall of Honor.
In becoming members of this elite group, Forte, Rushmore and Cathy join 43 previous inductees who represent the pinnacle of the hospitality industry. Their portraits line the halls of the Hilton College, gazing down upon students at one of the top-ranked hospitality programs in the world who hope to one day make their own indelible mark on the industry. Past inductees include such industry luminaries as J.W. Marriott, Ray Kroc, Howard Johnson, the Gallo brothers, Howard Schultz of Starbucks, Walt Disney and Conrad N. Hilton, as well has his sons, Barron and Eric Hilton.
"The Hospitality Hall of Honor provides a vehicle for all of us to remember the icons of our industry, and to allow our memories of them and their accomplishments to live on," said Thomas W. Lattin, a professor at the Hilton College and the managing director of the Hospitality Hall of Honor. "It also provides the College with national and international exposure and an opportunity to establish relationships with industry leaders."
The event has grown from its inception as a gala dinner and induction ceremony into a week-long affair featuring "Think Tank" sessions and roundtable discussions with Hall of Honor members, allowing students the chance to interact with industry heavyweights. These sessions serve not only as excellent networking opportunities, but also as extensions of classroom learning and as springboards for new ideas and fresh perspectives. The event, which is managed by a student board of directors, also includes an industry luncheon and a reunion dinner for former inductees.
"I think the unique aspect of Hall of Honor is that it brings a number of the top leaders from the various sectors of the industry together, in one place, to have a dialogue with our students," said John Bowen, dean of the Hilton College. "The other exciting thing is that our students are running the event. That gives them a lot of opportunities."
Students will no doubt be clamoring to pick the brains of this year's class of distinguished honorees. Cathy has not only created and managed one of the most successful quick-service restaurants in the nation, but he has also cultivated a revolutionary ethos for a Fortune 500 company-bedrock Christian values and commitment to building the character of employees.
Cathy opened his first restaurant, The Dwarf Grill in Atlanta, with his brother in 1946. After he opened his first Chick-fil-A in 1967, the chain exploded, originally confined to food courts in shopping malls but eventually branching off into stand-alone restaurants. Today, there are more than 1,380 Chick-fil-A restaurants, and Cathy has presided over a truly remarkable record -40 consecutive years of annual sales growth.
Cathy attributes the success of Chick-fil-A not to a secret business model or even the restaurant's signature fried fare- the power is in the people. Cathy has ensured that Chick-fil-A employs high caliber, friendly people who genuinely enjoy making guests feel welcome, rather than simply doing their job to earn a paycheck. An example, he said, is the company's eschewing of the traditional "thank you" for the more personal "my pleasure."
"It's the people who make a difference," Cathy said. "A business doesn't succeed or fail. People do. You want smiling faces, polite treatment. Treat others like you want to be treated. Courtesy is cheap, but it pays big dividends."
Forte will have the honor of seeing his portrait take pride of place near that of his father, the late Lord Charles Forte, one of the first inductees into the Hall of Honor and also a master hotelier. But the son has not rested on the achievements of the father. Sir Rocco has carved out a legacy of his own as a brilliant entrepreneur and hotelier par excellence. He has purchased venerable hotels in top European cities and injected them with a shot of modernity, a heightened elegance and luxury and a flavor that is unique to each location, capturing the distinct local character.
Among the jewels in Forte's crown are the Balmoral in Edinburgh, Scotland, Le Richemond in Geneva, the Hotel Astoria in St. Petersburg, Russia, the Charles Hotel in Munich, Germany, and the Brown Hotel in London. He plans to expand his shimmering collection with hotels planned for Prague, Morocco, Sicily and the United Arab Emirates. All of his hotels have attained the highest luxury ratings and feature restaurants with world-class haute cuisine, and many bear the signature of master designer Olga Polizzi-who happens to be Sir Rocco's sister.
Rushmore marks a new kind of entry into the Hall of Honor-a corporate consultant. His company, HVS, has provided consultation to more than 12,000 hotels and boasts expertise in dozens of management disciplines. HVS is also the leading source of data and investment information in the industry. Rushmore said he is excited to build a relationship with the Hilton College, which he said will pay big dividends for both his company and students looking for careers in hotel consultancy.
"This is a really humbling experience, a real honor to be named with some of the true greats of the hospitality industry," Rushmore said. "And, because we need more good people every year, I'm excited about building a relationship with the Hilton College. Personally interacting with students during the Hospitality Hall of Honor activities is a win-win because I get to meet future employees and they get an opportunity in the consulting field that students from other schools don't get."
The 13th annual Hospitality Hall of Honor is slated for Oct. 15. The reception begins at 6 p.m., followed by the induction ceremony and dinner at 7 p.m. Think Tank sessions run Oct. 14 and 15. For more information on both, or for ticket information, contact Robin Wagner at 713-743-2487 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on the UH Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management and the Hospitality Hall of Honor, visit our website at: www.hrm.uh.edu/hhoh
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