Unsung hospitality hero George Hawkins

Back of the house or support staff are truly the unsung heroes of the hospitality industry, who put a lot of sweat into ensuring business success. George Hawkins was one of those people.

George Hawkins at his retirement party in 2011

George Hawkins at his retirement party in 2011

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By Tony Elenis, president and CEO, ORHMA

The hospitality industry is about people. Some of us call them guests and some of us call them customers. The hospitality industry is also about the people who apply their passion and skill to doing good for those guests and customers. This applies to industry leadership, many of whom win awards and accreditation in the archives of legacy. Others are front of the house, who are seen and excel in customer service whether serving a table or pouring a drink. Customers see them, talk to them and love them.

Yet others are categorized as back of the house or support staff. These are truly the unsung heroes of the hospitality industry, who put a lot of sweat into ensuring business success.  Yet their role is not tangibly seen and unfortunately many times not measured or even mentioned.

In the early 1990s, I managed the Holiday Inn Sarnia, a hotel which was driven by a service culture stemming out of employee empowerment and team work. There was one unsung hero working there by the name of George Hawkins. George was a long-term dishwasher, who never missed a day of work, and also took so much tender loving care in his day to day job of keeping his dishes and pots clean—but this can be looked upon as a job expectation.

I recall many days when George showed up when called upon to support peak demand Saturday banquet shifts. George was there participating in the traditional banquet food preparation line when assistance was required and yes, George came back to work the Sunday early morning shift. George, who rode his bike to work, had simplistic needs.  I vividly recall a company longevity awards dinner held at a Toronto hotel where George, dressed up in his tight suit, went up to accept his award and was truly “tickled pink.”  He was humble, but he was so proud and pleased with the recognition. I can still see that face today.

George is a representative of all the many unsung heroes working in Ontario's [and Canada's] hospitality industry. There are many of them. George Hawkins passed away peacefully the morning of May 26th, 2014 following 39 years of working at the Holiday Inn Sarnia.

George we all thank you!