Hospitality industry names WAVE winners


Experience Grand Rapids President Doug Small surprises two diners with a gift certificate for Restaurant Week GR. Photo via

The area’s hospitality industry has named its most-outstanding professionals of the year.

Experience Grand Rapids and the Kent County Lodging Association have recognized eight hospitality employees in Kent County with their Way Above Visitor Expectations awards.

This is the sixth year in a row that the WAVE awards have been given out to local hospitality employees for providing outstanding service.

Guests and employers nominated more than 55 individuals in eight categories between April and October.

A judging panel evaluated and selected the winners based on the individual’s attitude, attentiveness, performance, knowledge and consistency within the local hospitality industry.

WAVE 2013 winners

Restaurants/Breweries: Ben Schultz, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse

Lodging 150+ Rooms: Ian Kirkwood, CTA, Country Inn & Suites East Beltline

Lodging Less than 150 Rooms: Kevin Trasky, SpringHill Suites North

Nightlife: Laura Buffum, Pearl Street Lounge

Transportation: Linda Dochod, Classic Carriage LLC

Retail & Service: Leonne VanDevelde, Ferris Coffee & Nut Co.

Attractions/Events: Gabriel Rains, Founders Brewing Co.

Volunteer in Hospitality: Ryan Foerch, GrandCon volunteer coordinator

Hospitality celebration

The winners will be formally recognized at the Impacting Hospitality Celebration on Nov. 21, at the Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer & Food Festival at DeVos Place.

Experience Grand Rapids will also recognize its Hometown Champions at the ceremony for their help in bringing conventions to Grand Rapids.

"We are so grateful to the hospitality industry for their continued dedication to providing the guests to our city the best experience possible,” said Doug Small, Experience Grand Rapids president. “The Impacting Hospitality Celebration allows us to display our gratitude and sincere appreciation, by acknowledging the many service providers and Hometown Champs that have each gone above and beyond to provide exceptional service, create memorable experiences and bring new convention business to Grand Rapids.”

Regional reps

The eight winners will also be nominated in their respective categories for the statewide Stars of the Industry Awards.

The state winners will be announced at the 2013 Pure Michigan Governor’s Conference. Hosted by Michigan Lodging & Tourism Association and Travel Michigan, the conference is the annual industry gathering of tourism and lodging leaders.

Nominations for the 2014 WAVE Awards will open in April and run through October. 

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