Employees reflect luxury hotel’s spirit of service
By Don Robbins
Halekulani, a luxury hotel on the beach at Waikiki with three award-winning restaurants, embodies its meaning in the Hawaiian language as the “House Befitting Heaven.”
Ulrich Krauer, general manager, explained that Halekulani’s enduring workplace culture and core values are based on four pillars: legacy, culture, quality and service. “We have continued to garner awards and a loyal guest clientele due to the service provided by the Halekulani family,” Krauer emphasized.
As soon as guests step foot on the property, they experience the gracious hospitality of the staff and their aloha spirit.
“Many of our employees have been with the hotel for more than 25 years and truly embrace and embody the Halekulani ethos,” said Krauer.
All employees go through three days of comprehensive training to learn about Halekulani before entering their own department. From there, they learn about their craft of service. Krauer stressed that the hotel has about 800 employees for Halekulani’s 453 rooms — a 2-to-1 ratio that places an emphasis on extremely high service.
One of the hotel’s longtime employees is luggage porter Terrence Yano, who has been at Halekulani for 35 years. He said he loves to make guests’ stay at the luxury resort enjoyable.
“When the guests leave the hotel and they say, ‘I can’t wait to come back,’ you did your job,” Yano emphasized. “I like meeting the guests that come from different areas of the world and sharing stories with each other, developing friendships.”
Shaden Sato, banquet and events chef, has worked at Halekulani for 16 years. “It’s a very friendly, family atmosphere. I’m very fortunate to have a lot of mentors here,” he noted.
Current employment openings at Halekulani include those in banquets, culinary, stewards, engineering, front office, housekeeping, spa and in the hotel’s restaurants.
Halekulani boasts a very long, distinguished history in Waikiki.
Krauer explained that back in 1883, original owner Robert Lewers built a house on what would eventually be the hotel’s main building. The original Halekulani opened in 1907 as a residential hotel, owned by Lewers. It consisted of a beach-front home and five bungalows. At one time, it was called “Hau Tree Hotel.”
In 1917, Juliet and Clifford Kimball bought the hotel, gradually expanding and establishing the property as a stylish resort for wealthy vacationers. The hotel was named Halekulani, the name originally bestowed upon it by area fishermen who were welcomed by the Lewers family when they rested their canoes on the beach.
In the 1930s, they replaced the old Lewers home with a mansion-styled Main Building with a high-pitched hip roof to catch cool trade winds. The roof, known as the “Dickey” roof, is a trademark of noted Hawaii architect C.W. Dickey.
The Norton Clapp family of Seattle purchased Halekulani in 1962 following the Kimballs’ passing. In 1981, the hotel was sold to Mitsui Fudosan America Inc., which formed the Honolulu-based Halekulani Corp. The hotel was then closed, and the aging bungalows demolished. In 1984, the hotel reopened in its current configuration, with the historic Main Building carefully restored.
“We have recently celebrated our centennial anniversary in 2017 as Halekulani. In 2019, we will celebrate 35 years of Mitsui Fudosan’s stewardship of the Halekulani brand. We have kept the gracious hospitality and charm from our original hotel,” Krauer said.
However, Krauer added that they have adapted to changes since the reopening in 1984. For example, Krauer explained that the hotel strives to offer innovative services and programs, including complimentary admission to some of Oahu’s greatest art and cultural venues for guests.
Other notable attractions at Halekulani are three notable restaurants, including the fine-dining La Mer, which offers top-rated French cuisine; the casual Orchids, and the indoor/outdoor gathering spot House Without A Key. Additionally, Halekulani has its own flower shop featuring the Japanese ikebana tradition of flower arranging.
A prized 130-year-old thornless kiawe tree (pictured above), which is fed by an underground freshwater stream, also is located on the grounds of Halekulani.
Krauer emphasized, though, that among Halekulani’s greatest assets are the longtime, loyal employees, who uphold the hotel’s best-in-class service.
Merylin Ganir, a housekeeper at Halekulani for 34 years, said she is pleased to be a part of what makes the experience there so special.
“I like to work here. Our co-workers are very nice, friendly and work together — as a team,” Ganir stressed.
To be a part of the gracious team, check out Halekulani’s job fair Thursday, Aug. 30, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. (See below for more information.)
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LOCATION: 2199 Kalia Road, Honolulu
GENERAL MANAGER: Ulrich Krauer
BENEFITS: Medical, dental, vision, 401(k), and complimentary duty meals.
NOTEWORTHY: A Halekulani Job Fair will be held on the property, Thursday, Aug. 30, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. in the Hotel Ballroom. Job candidates are encouraged to apply online at halekulani.com/jobs-employment before attending the job fair. Parking will be at Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center and validation will be provided.