March 31, 2015

Tourism and Entertainment

Trendsetters - June 2006

Mike Vogel | 6/1/2006

Home at Hyatt - Pat Engfer

Pat Engfer
Hyatt Regency Orlando International Airport
General Manager

Early in college:
Wanted to be a physical therapist until "I met Mr. Chemistry."
Advice: "Hire for attitude and train for skills."
Children: Matt, a UF rising junior, and Michelle, a rising high school junior.
Staff should remember: "If we have no guests, we have no jobs. The customer is everything. There are 120,000 hotel rooms in Orlando. Anybody can find a bed. They come back because of our employees."
In high school: Waitress and worked in a bookstore. "I always did service industry. I like people. People in the hospitality business have to have a certain personality."

Whether staying at a Hyatt in Hawaii or a bed-and-breakfast in Europe, Pat Engfer tries to be an understanding guest. "I never throw stones, living in a glass house."

Engfer's glass house is the Hyatt Regency at Orlando International Airport, where she's been the general manager since it opened in 1992. Women GMs at major hotels are rare, but Engfer's been a general manager for the last 20 of her 29 years with Hyatt.

Raised in New Jersey and Illinois, Engfer started her career as a summer-hire recreation manager at the Hyatt on Hilton Head Island, S.C. From there, she went on the management development track and learned housekeeping, the front desk and the other departments. "It's a very equalizing industry," she says. "You can't run a hotel if you don't know how to run housekeeping."

She followed the itinerant career of a hotel manager through a dozen Hyatts before coming to the airport-owned Orlando Hyatt. In opening a hotel, "it really becomes your own," says Engfer. "Our business is constantly evolving. We have to be thinking about how we're going to wow the customer and how we're going to be the employer of choice."

Staying so long in Orlando has allowed Engfer, 51, and her husband, Don, a senior vice president at Tishman Hotel, which owns the Walt Disney World Dolphin, Swan and Hilton hotels, to give their two children a stable location. "I'm balancing a personal life and work life," she says.

And on vacation, she's sensitive. "On any day an employee can be fabulous or not, a hotel can be outstanding or not." Rather than dwell on flaws, Engfer instead appreciates great service when she sees it -- and makes sure to write a note to the GM about it.

Tags: Dining & Travel, Trendsetters, Around Florida

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