Rising To The Occasion

Among the participants at the Hawai‘i Hotel & Restaurant Show will be (from left) Jean-Paul Gedeon, John Elkjer, Ted Davenport and John Erickson.

Industry experts are coming up big with new products and opportunities at this year’s Hawai‘i Hotel & Restaurant Show.

If asked to describe Hawai‘i in only a few words, most people would likely mention the sun, sea, surf and aloha spirit. But Mufi Hannemann, president and CEO of Hawai‘i Lodging & Tourism Association, wants to add one more word to the list.

A range of robots will be unveiled at this year’s show, all capable of performing functions such as bussing tables. PHOTO COURTESY USA ROBOTICS SERVICES

“We’re a great place to not only come and vacation, but to do business, too,” he says.

One way he hopes to put the state on the map is through the upcoming Hawai‘i Hotel & Restaurant Show, slated for 9 a.m.-5 p.m. March 22-23 at Hawai‘i Convention Center. Now in its third year, the highly anticipated trade show hosts experts in the hospitality industry who will exhibit the latest and greatest in their respective fields.

“We want to demonstrate that Hawai‘i can be a major place to host a show of this kind because usually you have to go to the mainland or Asia,” says Hannemann. “This is our attempt at being the premier hospitality and restaurant trade show in the Pacific region.”

A partnership between HLTA, Hawai‘i Restaurant Association and Star Events, a division of O‘ahu Publications Inc., the two-day event not only boasts nearly a hundred vendors, but educational seminars covering topics such as sustainability, water conservation and occupational safety from city and state officials, too. Meanwhile, a silent auction — featuring items like tickets to professional football games, airfare, hotel stays and more — will also be in full swing, with the funds going toward HLTA’s popular scholarship program.

Jean-Paul Gedeon, CEO and co-founder of JPG Hawai‘i (see more on page 5), recalls the buzzing energy he felt in the room at previous shows.

“I love seeing people in the industry because all of our business is built on relationships,” shares the Hawai‘i Kai native. “We’ll get to see our friends, clients and even our competitors.

“I love when people roll up and show up their best because that’s when you get to learn the most about everyone, and, at the same time, we get to show off what we’re doing.”

“Everyone in our industry is busy,” echos Jason Wong, regional president of Sysco Hawai‘i, a sponsor of the event. “The show gives the operators time to really step back and take a moment to look at new innovations, products and technologies that can really help grow their businesses. Taking time to work on the business is something that we all want to do but getting to do that doesn’t always happen. This show is the perfect opportunity to do it.”

Mike Rompel, franchise owner and pizza maker at Domino’s Hawai‘i, another event sponsor, adds, “Domino’s Hawai‘i always supports the Hawai‘i Hotel & Restaurant Show, as it is our one show a year that helps us connect with innovation and vendors specifically for our industry. The show allows us to provide lunch for our peers and give fist bumps to all of those that overcame the incredible challenges of the past year.”

This year’s event will feature a number of leaders in the sustainability, innovation and promotion spheres. Here’s a look at four of these local business owners and what their representatives have to say about the upcoming Hawai‘i Hotel & Restaurant Show.

Pre-registration for attendees is now open!

Pre-register Now

By registering in advance, attendees can avoid on-site registration lines and save valuable time that can be better-spent networking, learning, and exploring the latest trends and innovations in the hospitality industry. With over 300 vendors and exhibitors showcasing their products and services, this year’s trade show promises to be the biggest and best yet.

Don’t miss out on this exciting opportunity to connect with industry leaders and peers. Secure your spot today by pre-registering online

The Hawai‘i Hotel & Restaurant Show is for professionals and students in the lodging, travel, hospitality and food service industries including those employed by hotels, restaurants and related service companies. Admission is free but attendees must pre-register online and be approved prior to arrival.

Convention Center parking rates apply.

For booth information, to pre-register or for more information, visit

Call Star Events at (808) 529-4850 with any questions or for additional assistance.

USA Robotics Services

Ted Davenport

Over the past few years, local restaurants have faced challenges not even a pro like Ted Davenport could’ve prepared for. And because he’s not the type to sit around and wait for the problem to fix itself, the veteran restaurant franchisee took it upon himself to learn more about what options are out there. Through his research, he discovered hospitality robots and what they could do for his eateries and the industry as a whole.

“A company called Kennon has robots that I really like and saw in some of the restaurants throughout Asia,” says Davenport, who is the franchisor for Subway in Hawai‘i as well as a franchisee for Ruby Tuesdays and Gyu-Kaku. “We started talking and they asked if I could help them out with distribution.”

As a partner of USA Robotics Services, Davenport wants to make something clear: The robots aren’t here to replace people, contrary to popular belief.

“I installed the robots to see how the employees and management would feel about them — and they love them. They even have names for them,” he says, smiling. “It takes the hard work of a waiter carrying food and cleaning a table. If you look at the time it takes to run to the kitchen and come back, the waiter could be out there with the customer. My goal is to increase customer service, not get rid of employees.”

At the Hawai‘i Hotel & Restaurant Show, attendees can expect to see a wide range of friendly robots that are capable of doing everything from bussing tables and singing happy birthday to delivering room service and vacuuming large surface areas.

“The employees — I always call the robots employees — are doing the jobs that people don’t want to do. And they don’t call in sick either,” Davenport says with a laugh.

JPG Hawai‘i

Jean-Paul Gedeon

Jean-Paul Gedeon credits five magical words to his success: “What else do you need?”

Starting out as a teenager printing Tshirts and stickers in his kitchen, Gedeon would ask clients if they needed help with anything beyond his expertise and, if feasible, he happily would oblige. Fast-forward 23 years later and his method seemed to have worked. Gedeon, along with his brothers Joe, Mark and Branden, own and operate a bustling business with a client list that includes gas stations, grocery and convenience stores, shopping centers and more.

In its current form, JPG Hawai‘i is a full-service graphic design, printing and installation company based in Kaka‘ako. On top of that, the biz launched two more divisions: JPG Media, which offers out-of-home advertising across a digital screen network, and JPG Facility Services Hawai‘i, which provides packages for companies looking to upgrade their space.

PG Hawai‘i remains a driving force in the graphic design, printing and installation industry in the islands. PHOTO COURTESY JPG HAWAI‘I

“It’s the next evolution of what we’ve done,” says Gedeon. “We’ve created the foundation of our print services and graphics installations services, like wall wraps, signage and all that, but building on top of that extra value is the other components.”

Gedeon, a proud Kaiser High School grad, detests the opinion that family and business shouldn’t mix. In fact, he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“My brothers are capable; they have unique abilities and they’re super talented, and working with people who have skin in the game and trust is a dream come true to us,” Gedeon shares, adding that the Waikīkī Rotary Club dubbed them the “Gedeon Golden Boys” more than 20 years ago.

“I don’t see anyone else I want to be a business partner with. As long as we stay straight about our business and relationship together, then the sky’s the limit.”

Sustainable Island Products

John Elkjer

Long before any official ban on single-use plastics, John Elkjer was an advocate for more sustainable methods in local restaurants and hotels.

“We always felt it wasn’t about us.

It’s about a bigger thing.

It’s more about what we do for our fellow man and what we do for the future,” says Elkjer, who purchased the business in 2015.

Hawai‘i Island-based Sustainable Island Products is a family-run statewide distributor of eco-friendly, compostable and recyclable alternatives to everyday single-use items, including cups, deli containers, cutlery, plates, office paper, green janitorial supplies and more.

Most of the items are made from agricultural byproducts, like the agave straws, which are made using materials from the tequila-making process. But don’t worry, these aren’t the type of straws that disintegrate within five minutes of sitting in liquid; Elkjer and his team thoroughly vet everything they sell to ensure optimal performance.

Eco-friendly, recyclable items are always on the menu at Sustainable Island Products. PHOTO COURTESY SUSTAINABLE ISLAND PRODUCTS

The biz serves all islands and is eager to work with everyone from grocers and farmers to chefs and event planners, and everyone in between.

“I think people are more engaged now than ever when looking at what plastics they have in their lives. They’re thinking, ‘Do I really need that? Can I do that differently?’” says Elkjer. “And if we all think that way, we’ll be able to reduce our plastic footprint, and the more we reduce it, the better off we all are.”

At the Hawai‘i Hotel & Restaurant Show, Elkjer looks forward to meeting and creating relationships with potential clients — that’s one of his favorite parts of the gig.

“Everybody has an opportunity to make an impact on others, whether it’s your children, grandchildren or the community you live in,” he says. “We just felt that we could make a change in an industry that was heavily entrenched in petroleum-based products. At a point in time, I wondered if we were crazy, but it seems to have worked out.”

Island Distributing

John Erickson

Thanks to the hard work of 350 employees, Island Distributing (previously known as Paradise Beverages) delivers a whopping 9 million cases to more than 2,400 customers every year.

“Our business began over 40 years ago and was recently acquired by Reyes Beverage Group,” shares general manager John Erickson. “Our strength lies within our great local team and our amazing portfolio, which includes brands from national/worldwide suppliers like Molson Coors, Heineken, Constellation, Boston Beer Co. and Diageo, as well as many truly local brands like Maui Brewing Co., Ola Brew, Waikīkī Brewing Co., Aloha Beer Co. and others.”

Though the company is part of a national network, its employees live, work and play in Hawai‘i, and the people, Erickson says, are what makes this industry what it is.

“At both Island Distributing and Reyes Beverage Group, our people are the heart of our business and our voice in the community, which is why we are deeply committed to supporting several local charitable groups throughout the years through donations and sponsorships,” he shares. “We are also proud to support local manufacturing in our brand portfolio through our local brewer partners and are focused on ensuring our network provides Hawaiian brewers with continued growth opportunities.”

At the Hawai‘i Hotel & Restaurant Show, attendees will find a blend of locally brewed beers and national brands that cater to the taste buds of residents and visitors alike.

“They’ll also be able to meet members of the Island Distributing team and learn more about how we connect customers, consumers and brands every day, everywhere we operate.”