2009 Class Includes Best Western Founder, Pappas Brothers
HOUSTON, August 11, 2009 — The Hospitality Industry Hall of Honor will soon induct a 2009 class that includes the founder of The World's Largest Hotel Chain® and a trio of brothers who turned the family business into a regional dining juggernaut and became the face of the booming Houston restaurant market.
M.K. Guertin (1891-1970), founder of Best Western, and the Pappas brothers—Harris, Chris and Greg—will take their place alongside hospitality's all-time greats at the annual induction ceremony slated for Wednesday, Oct. 14, at the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management at the University of Houston. Since 1996, Hilton College has been home to the Hospitality Industry Hall of Honor, which recognizes excellence in hospitality leadership.
David Kong, president and CEO of Best Western International, will accept the honor on Guertin's behalf. Harris and Chris Pappas will accept on behalf of their brother, Greg, who died in 1995.
"The Hospitality Industry Hall of Honor provides a vehicle for all of us to celebrate 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 Hilton College and the managing director of the Hospitality Industry Hall of Honor. "It also provides the College with national and international exposure and an opportunity for students to establish relationships with industry leaders."
The event has grown from its inception as an intimate 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.
"One of the unique aspects 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 Hilton College. "And this year it's especially exciting because we're able to honor the Pappas brothers who have been such valuable partners and supporters of the College through the years. They are truly part of the Hilton College family and it will be a real pleasure to see them take their deserved place among hospitality's greatest names."
Members of the Hall of Honor Board of Overseers, including representatives of the American Hotel & Lodging Association, the National Restaurant Association, the Travel Industry Association of America, the International Hotel and Restaurant Association and the American Gaming Association, nominate and elect each year's new inductees into the Hospitality Industry Hall of Honor in the fall.
M.K. Guertin, who was born in the town of Liberty near Houston, developed a revolutionary branding concept that has allowed Best Western to become The World's Largest Hotel Chain®, with more than 4,000 hotels in 80 countries and territories. His business model— providing marketing and supply-side support while giving owners maximum flexibility to address local demand—has become the standard in the hospitality industry. But when Guertin founded Best Western in 1946, it was a new concept that took the industry by storm. As David Kong, president and CEO of the company, said, "It transformed hoteliers from competitors to collaborators."
Kong, who will be on hand in October to accept the honors for Guertin, said he is truly grateful for the opportunity. "It's a tremendous honor to helm the organization that M.K. Guertin founded more than 60 years ago, and to preside over his induction to the Hospitality Hall of Honor," Kong said. "M.K. understood that, while product is important, the essence of hospitality lies in the service experience. As a result, Best Western hotels today still have that important family-run feel, and our owner-operators have a major voice in the direction of the brand."
Kong said he is also excited about interacting with students at the industry Think Tank sessions.
"The hospitality business has changed dramatically during the last 10 years, a period which has given consumers the ability to check quality and price with unprecedented ease," Kong said. "Add the trials and tribulations of a down economy and it's easy to see that, more than ever, hotel brands need to be at the top of their game. I enjoy interacting with tomorrow's hospitality leaders because it gives me insight into how the industry will continue to adapt, while at the same time reinforcing that a warm welcome and a clean, comfortable bed will always be the heart of our business."
H.D. Pappas emigrated from Greece at the turn of the century, and made his way to Dallas, opening restaurants along the way. His sons, Jim, Pete, Tom and George, founded Pappas Refrigeration in Houston, a regional restaurant equipment supplier. They opened their first restaurant—the Dot Coffee Shop—in 1967 and never looked back. Jim's sons, Harris, Chris and Greg, came on board after college. The brothers went on to build the family business into one of the most respected names in the restaurant industry.
Today, Pappas Restaurants operates eight successful brands – Pappas Seafood House, Pappasito's Cantina, Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen, Pappas Bar-B-Q, Pappas Bros. Steakhouse, Pappas Grill Steakhouse, Pappas Burger, Yia Yia Mary's Pappas Greek Kitchen, plus the original Dot Coffee Shop. All told, this privately owned company operates nearly 100 restaurants in seven states, not to mention a very successful catering business in the Houston, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio markets. Harris and Chris Pappas also serve as president and CEO, respectively, of Luby's Inc., which operates more than 120 restaurants in five states, serving up southern cuisine in a cafeteria setting. The brothers became majority shareholders in the company in 2001.
Harris Pappas, the president of Pappas Restaurants, said he is not only thrilled to join this elite group of hospitality legends, but he is also excited to return to Hilton College, which he said has produced some of the company's finest employees.
"Just being recognized with current and previous Hospitality Hall of Honor inductees is incredible," Harris said. "The hospitality industry as a whole greatly benefits from an institution of this caliber. In addition to a great education, Hilton College students also receive real-world experience. As long as Hilton College continues to produce top-notch students in the area of hospitality, quality-driven companies like Pappas will continue to benefit. We have had the privilege of working with Hilton College graduates over the years, and have watched many work their way up to leadership positions in our organization. Others have used their experience as a step toward achieving success in fields and careers outside the hospitality industry."
CEO Chris Pappas, who is a member of the Dean's Advisory Board at Hilton College and an Honorary Alumnus ('94), said he and Harris are especially proud to accept the honor for their late brother, Greg. At the time of his death, Greg was vice president of construction and design, using his talent for architecture and mechanical engineering to design first-rate visual concepts for each Pappas restaurant.
"For Harris and me, this is especially meaningful as our brother, Greg, is being honored as well," Chris said. "Greg, Harris and I never set out to achieve recognition as great hospitality leaders when we began this journey. We simply wanted guests to enjoy our cooking in a fun, festive atmosphere with consistently outstanding service and an abundance of value. We also have to recognize the many wonderful employees we've been fortunate enough to work with over the years. Those employees made our success and this honor possible by lending their talents to the organization and supporting our vision for the Pappas brand."
The 14th annual Hospitality Industry Hall of Honor is slated for October 14. The reception begins at 6 p.m., followed by the induction ceremony and dinner at 7 p.m. Think Tank sessions run October 13 and 14. For more information on both, or for ticket information, contact Shelley Clark at 713-743-3284 or firstname.lastname@example.org.