Aloha! Canadian Ron Richter in Hawaii

HONOLULU — Local food sourcing, the Asian market, less environmental impact and the Ohana culture are keys to success for Canadian Ron Richter in his work as Director of F&B at the Sheraton Waikiki.

By RoseMary MacVicar-Elliott 

Ron Richter

Ron Richter

HONOLULU — Local food
sourcing, the Asian market, less environmental impact and the Ohana culture are keys to success for Canadian
Ron Richter in his work as Director of Food and Beverage (F&B) at the
Sheraton Waikiki on Waikiki Beach in Hawaii’s capital city.  

The Canuck oversees F&B for the 1,636-room oceanfront
resort, serving more than 750,000 meals and 1 million guests and locals, including
lounge and bar patrons, annually. The resort’s F&B operations generate more
than $40 million in annual revenue, with the two main restaurants, Kai Market
and the RumFire, accounting for about half of this. Ron took on his role in May
2017, drawing on his F&B experience with The Westin Harbour Castle and
other properties in Canada.

Operating in Hawaii, isolated in the central Pacific Ocean, comes
with unique challenges. “We work hard to use locally sourced ingredients, but
without all of the mainland resources, we do have to ship items in,” Ron said. “While
Hawaiian cuisine is very diverse, lending from the different cultures (including
Portuguese, Chinese and Filipino) that populated the islands during the
plantation eras, it’s brought together by the ingredients we have on island and
creativity in utilizing the available resources. Canada has its Clamato and
Hawaii has its Spam masubi – both are delicious!”

Spam masubi, a block of rice, topped with a slice of grilled
Spam and wrapped with nori, became a local mainstay after World War II when the
canned meat was a staple for the large military contingent in Hawaii.

Complex Approach

The resort’s collaboration with three nearby properties – The Royal Hawaiian, a
Luxury Collection Resort; Moana Surfrider, A Westin Resort & Spa and the
Sheraton Princess Kaiulani – can
benefit sourcing. This approach, for example, adds up to 261,999 kilograms of
fresh pineapple, 46,811 kilograms of fresh papaya and 30,123 pounds of ahi tuna
being sourced annually for the four properties from their home island of Oahu
and other Hawaiian Islands.

Legislation, introduced several years ago to authorize
farmers to become food safety certified distributors to local businesses like
restaurants and hotels, is another benefit. “This
was the first initiative in which Hawaii’s tourism industry stepped up to help
another major industry, agriculture,” said Ron. “Incorporating this bill, using an
abundance of certified home-grown produce, has allowed Sheraton Waikiki’s chefs
to increase the amount of green products in catering menus while maintaining
top-tier restaurant quality offerings for all dining venues within the resort.”

50 per cent Asian Hotel
Market Mix

Canadian hoteliers can learn about tapping into the Asian
market from their Hawaiian counterparts. “It seems for years now in Canadian
hotels we have been preparing for the expected boom in Asian customers and the
Sheraton Waikiki has been riding that wave for some time,” Ron commented. “Our
hotel market mix is over 50 per cent Asian, predominantly from Japan, but with a good
representation from both China and Korea.”

He said that dedicated Sheraton Waikiki sales and marketing
teams understand the nuances of purchases by guests from this part of the world
and often advance sell food and beverage offerings to Asian guests staying at
the property, as well as guests at other Waikiki hotels. The resort’s specialized
Asian guest service teams ensure these visitors feel comfortable and safe during
their stay.

More Going Green

“Green” practices are also important and were incorporated
into F&B operations as part of the $1.4 million upgrade, focusing on meeting
space, in 2017. 

“High efficiency LED lighting was added to the entire 2,415.5
square metre event space and wall-integrated filtered water dispensers were
added in pre-function areas to reduce disposable plastic bottled water usage,”
Ron said. “We also bought high-efficiency induction food-warming systems to
reduce our dependency on disposable sterno, linenless and sustainable
bamboo-based tables for our buffets and, for when required, we sourced a new
linen product that is made 100% from recycled plastic water bottles for our
dining tables.”

What’s Next?

Ron said 2018 will be an exciting year as the Sheraton
Waikiki, one of the newest Marriott International Convention and Resort Network
members, continues its integration into the Marriott organization. “Plans for
food and beverage include a concept shift for our Edge of Waikiki restaurant
and bar and greater identity focus for our already well-known RumFire and Kai
Market restaurant brands.”

He will continue to enjoy the relaxed environment of Hawaii
and the culture of Ohana. “More than
just its literal translation of ‘family’, (Ohana)
is a deeper understanding that we are all a part of something bigger,” he said.
“Perhaps living on an island brings a greater understanding of how your actions
affect others. It is incredible to be a part of the Sheraton Waikiki – and
greater Marriott Ohana – that really
does honour its members, the land and the community we live in.” 

Rum Fire Restaurant

Rum Fire Restaurant

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