Hyatt Regency Orlando
(December 2019) – More than three decades ago, communications major Brian Comes left his speech class at James Madison University and made a beeline for the course catalog. “After that one class, I realized there was no way I was going to be a communications major,” Comes laughed. “I remember that day I went back to my dorm and flipped through the book. I saw ‘hospitality management’ and figured I’d give it a try.”
Hospitality wasn’t uncharted territory for him. He had previously been a busboy for a few years — and, he recalled, with more success than with speech class. There were so many things he liked about the profession even then. “Every day is different. Every guest you meet, every customer you serve is different. Everyone has a story you get to hear about, so no two days are ever alike.”
But variety for Comes works best when paired with consistency. Now the area vice president at Hyatt Regency Orlando, he has been with the company more than 31 years in roles all over the country. As director of catering at the Grand Hyatt in San Diego, he was an integral part of a project that doubled the hotel’s 750 guestrooms to 1,500 in two years. On Orlando’s International Drive, he oversaw the 2013 transition of the 1,600-room Peabody Hotel to the Hyatt Regency Orlando, where the operation retained 95% of its employees and has promoted more than 80 people into management.
Throughout it, all, one thing has remained the same. “We have a purpose that I think our teams really take to heart,” Comes said. “We live this idea of taking care of our employees and helping them realize the impact they have on our guests. What each and every person does here matters.”
Since moving to Central Florida in 2013, Comes has taken an active role in the community that has already left an impression. He serves as secretary on the Visit Orlando board, vice chair of the International Drive Resort Area Chamber of Commerce, and vice chair of the Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association. He helped create the Orange County Application Review Committee, which allocates tourist development tax dollars to nonprofits in the area, both for the health of the local community and for increased visitation. His work on every board and committee has given Comes a unique insight into Central Florida’s strengths.
“It’s very encouraging to see firsthand the impact Visit Orlando has on the community,” Comes said. “I’ve been here only six years, but I see how we keep evolving, creating a sense of excitement and providing new experiences. Hyatt Regency Orlando is a large group hotel connected to the convention center focused on making memorable experiences for our visitors. The return on investment for the groups that visit Orlando is important to our continued success.
“Visit Orlando has created and spread that message. This is a destination that works collaboratively for the best interest of the community. There’s no denying that we’re competitive, but we know we can’t do it alone.”
The same is true of his work within his own company. With more than 1,000 full-time employees at the property and many more at hotels he oversees in both Florida and Georgia, Comes has made it a point to never lose sight of what first drew him to the industry and Hyatt: the people.
“I’ve worked all across the country with talented teams,” he said. “My role is easy, it really is: just support and listen to employees and guests, and keep people working. We want to stay successful for them. We want to grow their opportunities, improve their quality of life and improve our community.”