The Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau (VCB) hosted its 19th annual “Elaine McLaughlin Outstanding Hospitality Service Awards” earlier this fall at the Westin Cape Coral Resort at Marina Village, where bartender Kevin Tully of The Outrigger Beach Resort received the E-Award in the Restaurants category!
Presented by the VCB and News-Press Media Group, the E-Awards are a collaboration with local businesses that encourages customer service to make a positive difference to the tourism industry. Residents and visitors in 2019 wrote a record-breaking total of over 1,000 nominations, to recognize the dedication and generosity of these frontline employees. Nomination criteria includes service satisfaction, leadership, work ethic, job knowledge, performance skills, familiarity with the destination and assistance during an emergency. A steering committee of 9 fellow professionals in the Hospitality Industry select the E-Award winners.
“Never Dreamed I Would Win”
“I never dreamed I would win an E Award,” marveled Kevin, even with several months now to look back on the experience. “To say I was surprised would be an understatement! This was the third time I attended the E-Awards ceremony, as I received previous nominations in 2014 and 2015, and when you listen to them read the nomination forms listing the achievements of the other people, you are awed and humbled to even be there. When they actually announced my name, it was a stunning moment, as I couldn’t believe they chose me, as it seemed everyone else did so much more than me, so it was a humbling experience.”
Kevin is originally from Buffalo, New York, “and all I have to do is say I am from Buffalo and people immediately know why I moved to Southwest Florida 28 years ago! I have been working on Fort Myers Beach now for at least the last 20 years and I absolutely love it. For the past 5-1/2 years, I have been with The Outrigger as a bartender, and I came here from Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille because my great friend, Phil Barron, who just retired last year, asked me to make the move.”
In addition to his bartending responsibilities, Kevin serves on The Outrigger’s Safety Committee. “Our General Manager, Jeanne Bigos, who is terrific, asked me to serve on the Safety Committee and it is pretty cool, as it brings a different aspect to my job and working here. We get together to ensure through a fresh set of eyes that everything on the property is up to code, that lighting is appropriate and stairs are painted yellow so that they stand out, and that everyone is doing their job properly so our employees and guests are in the safest possible conditions. I learned that if you do things right all the time, you generally have a safe work site and work force.”
Best In The Business
Word in the Fort Myers Beach community is that The Outrigger is a dynamic place to work, as it fosters a terrific family atmosphere. “Everyone here is the best in the business, and I don’t know how to put it any better than that,” raved Kevin! “Management treats everyone like a million dollars, they take a real interest in you, are concerned about your well-being, and you can tell they really care about us. It is almost unheard of for a hotel, restaurant, and bar to offer its employees health care coverage that includes things like dental and life insurance, but we have that here and they do a wonderful job for all of us. My coworkers are like family to me and are the absolute best you will find anywhere on this island. When you combine all of those things, The Outrigger is everything that you could ask for.”
While Kevin gladly sings the praises of The Outrigger, he recalled that the move 5-1/2 years ago was not an easy one to make. “I was previously a bartender at Doc Ford’s for 7-1/2 years, and that was a great place to work, as they offer their employees a health care package as well. They do a fantastic job and were wonderful to me, so that made it a tough decision. While I could not be any happier at The Outrigger, I want to put in a good word as well for Doc Ford’s because my time there was outstanding.”
As for bartenders being part psychologists, Kevin does not get that sensation from The Outrigger clientele. “While we have many great regulars, most of our customers are here on vacation, and with The Outrigger right on Fort Myers Beach and in such a beautiful spot, they are almost always in great moods. The hotel as 144 rooms so there are always people here, and because it is a vacation paradise, the crowd turns over almost every week, so you are constantly meeting new and interesting people. I am 51 years old and can honestly say this is the best job of my life!”
They Can Count On Him
“Kevin is such a kind person,” reflected Bigos, the Colorado Southern General Manager who oversees The Outrigger since 1989. “He has an inner strength to care for his locals and regular customers who come in, as they know they can count on him to sometimes entertain them or sometimes just listen and he makes all visitors feel like they are the most important people on Fort Myers Beach. The story about him bringing food to the ailing mother of one of his customers, to save them the time to do other necessary things, speaks volumes about who Kevin is as a human being. Despite being a tremendous person and a real leader, he always makes time for and never overshadows his team partners, as he treats everyone in an incredible fashion!”
Jeanne is not the only one to describe Kevin in glowing terms, as in his nomination, there are words and terms like “A Star,” “exceptional,” “always smiling,” “always positive,” and ‘Our Buddy!’ “Those make me feel pretty good,” he acknowledged, “but a bit uncomfortable. When the E-Award announcement first came out, The Outrigger put it on our Facebook Page and I received congratulations from all around, but I wish my two minutes of fame was over! I am just a lucky guy who works at a great place and while I appreciate the E-Award, everybody here at The Outrigger is an award-winner as well, in addition to the fact that there are so many other bartenders up-&-down Fort Myers Beach who take care of their friends and customers just as well.” If you know a service industry winner like Kevin, E-Awards nominations for 2020 are already underway at www.EAwards.org.
“I want to thank everyone I work with at The Outrigger,” Kevin said in closing. “I don’t want to mention any names as I know I will forget too many people, but they are fantastic to work with and be around, as we are a great team. I must, however, thank Jeanie Feagan, because if it were not for her writing the main nomination, I would not be an E-Award winner!”