In his 12 years working for Hyatt, Brian Comes, CMP, LES, director of catering/convention services for the Hyatt Regency San Diego, has witnessed the growth of the catering/convention services division from an ancillary service to an integral part of the hotel's operation.
At James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va., Comes saw his career goals come into sharper focus while enrolled in the Hotel/Restaurant Management Program in the College of Business. Hired by Hyatt right out of school, Comes joined the corporate training program the company offers to college recruits. Nine months of training took him through every department of the Hyatt Regency Crystal City in Arlington, Va.
With 25 percent of his Hyatt job spent on revenue-related work, Comes is thankful for his business background because “it is critical to understand the impact our negotiations with clients have on the financial success of the hotel, our ownership and Hyatt corporation.”
After working for Hyatt properties across the United States, Comes chose San Diego as his home base. “The hospitality industry in San Diego is incredible,” he says. “The level of professionalism and the ability for everyone to put aside their competitive juices to showcase our city is remarkable.”
The five years that Comes has spent at the San Diego property have proven eventful. In 1996, the Hyatt was the headquarters for the Republican National Convention Committee and hosted a 1,000-person luncheon for Elizabeth Dole. Two years later, Comes' department hit a home run, catering the San Diego World Series party, held on an aircraft carrier for 2,500 people. That same year the hotel hosted the Super Bowl's NFL Commissioner's Party for 5,000 attendees, in addition to an off-premise, 4,000-person MPI welcome reception. In 2000, Comes was one of the co-chairs for the Special Events Magazine Gala Awards ceremony, held in Hyatt's Manchester Ballroom. “I am grateful to have been a part of such an important industry event,” he says.
Comes' continued interest in career growth is evident in the Learning Environment Specialist (LES) certification he earned. Students of this program are trained to see how adults learn and how the environment affects that level of learning, he says. Exclusive to Hyatt for five years, the program recently became available to meeting planners and other hotel companies through the Professional Convention Management Association.
Not until the last few years has the convention services side been recognized as a key component of the hotel operation, Comes notes. His department now oversees more than 2,000 events a year.
Conventions bring in thousands of people whose companies are spending millions to send them to San Diego, he says, and “it's money wasted if experienced convention service managers aren't involved in every aspect of the event coordination. Every time we host a conference, it is the goal of our entire staff to make it the organization's most successful.”
“It's important to have integrity and surround yourself with good people who have a broad level of experience. You can't hire everyone who's just like you.”
“The time frame for planning events and conventions keeps getting shorter. You can't get a global picture of something if you're just servicing needs rather than helping deliver a successful program.”
FOCUS ON FLEXIBILITY
“The success of a convention can be determined by the flexibility of our staff in meeting each customer's needs. You have to be flexible in the decisions you make every day.”