Above / Hospitality Helps is a new initiative coordinated by Becky Farver Bekkali for the Naperville Convention and Visitors Bureau along with local hotels. This holiday season generous donations collected at participating hotels were distributed via Santa’s helpers, Jason Altenbern and Mike Gronek, to benefit 360 Youth Services Transitional Housing and Hesed House in time for Christmas.

‘Hospitality Helps’ collects items for 360 Youth Services and Hesed House

Just before Christmas, PN was heartened to learn of community outreach extended by local hotels to benefit 360 Youth Services Transitional Housing and Hesed House via a new initiative called Hospitality Helps.

“Hospitality Helps is a group of dedicated individuals from Naperville hotels, restaurants, school districts, local charities and the Naperville Convention and Visitors Bureau,” said Becky Farver Bekkali, Director of Sales for the Naperville Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The mission of Hospitality Helps is to serve the local community and charities through volunteer efforts.

Donated items filled tables in conference room at the Naperville Convention and Visitors Bureau in downtown Naperville.

Elves from local hotels went straight to work.

360 Youth Services and Hesed House benefited from holiday gifts from Naperville’s hospitality industry.

From the beginning of November through December 10, 2017, the Naperville Convention and Visitors Bureau along with eight hotels—Courtyard by Marriott Chicago Naperville, Embassy Suites by Hilton Chicago Naperville, Fairfield Inn and Suites, Hampton Inn Chicago Naperville, Hotel Arista, Hotel Indigo Naperville Riverwalk, Marriott Chicago Naperville, and Red Roof Inn Plus—participated in collecting more than 250 new items.

Items included toys, scarfs, hats, tube socks, wallets, belts, gift cards, cleaning supplies, pillows and many more practical household necessities that truly will help the residents currently living at Hesed House in Aurora and 360 Youth Services Transitional Housing.

“This was our first year conducting the drive, and the number of items collected is truly heartwarming,” said Bekkali.  “It’s no surprise since everyone in the hospitality industry has a professional passion for caring for others. That same compassion shines through when caring for those in need through our volunteer efforts.”

Thanks for heads in beds!

Naperville boasts a wide array of overnight accommodations with 19 lodging choices. Whether luxurious full-service, comfortable-select service, roomy suites, extended-stay facilities or an historic bed and breakfast, the city provides locations to stay for business meetings, family gatherings, weekend getaways, special festivals, concerts and sporting activities. Local residents also are known to find temporary accommodations when having interior upgrades or floors refinished in their homes!

The last day of the year presents a great opportunity to express gratitude to everyone in the hospitality industry, the myriad folks who will be working to serve revelers on New Year’s Eve and throughout the coming year.

The economic importance of the hospitality and tourism industry —restaurants, hotels and entertainment venues— is well established in destinations throughout the world, including right here Naperville, Illinois.

It’s easy to take its hometown impact for granted. Hospitality embraces a wide range of activities. As we see it, hospitality is much more than providing food, drink and accommodations in any local culture that welcomes folks to live, work and play. Revenues from food and beverages taxes as well as hotel/motel taxes help boost and market the local economy. Think about it.

A few New Year’s Eve notes on local hospitality

While appreciation for the arts and local culture dates back to Naperville’s early beginnings and trading posts, for the sake of this story, recognize the early establishment of a few cultural amenities that still have a presence in town. For instance, consider the Naperville Municipal Band has been around since 1859, North Central College was relocated from Plainfield in 1870, Nichols Library first opened in 1898 and Pfeiffer Hall followed in 1926. Though the city began to support a few hotels as the corporate corridor grew, the hospitality industry took off steadily after a full-service hotel, the Holiday Inn (now the Marriott), came to town to offer superior service and genuine value.

And since the mid-1990s, Naperville has grown into a happening destination welcoming visitors to popular attractions such as performing arts venues and art galleries at North Central College, the Riverwalk, Naper Settlement and the DuPage Children’s Museum as well as 19 hotels and more than 260 restaurants.

A tip on gratuities and reservations

Remember to tip servers (who share tips with bussers and food runners), bartenders and valets – 20 percent is customary. A little extra gratuity for pleasurable service on any holiday is appreciated, especially at a busy establishment.

Whenever you make several advance reservations while deciding which restaurant for your group, kindly remember always to cancel the reservations you choose not to use.

Heavy-heart message…

Heaven on Seven recently announced it will close its doors after its 15th annual New Year’s Eve celebration on Dec. 31, 2017. Thanks to owners Chef Jimmy Bannos and friends for more than 14 years of wonderful memories and great tastes of New Orleans right in the heart of downtown Naperville. Mardi Gras ala Heaven on Seven will be forever missed along Main Street. 

Located at 224 S. Main Street, Heaven on Seven will close at the end of New Year’s Eve.

Make no mistake, when any restaurant provides a niche for more than 10 years, that’s quite an accomplishment, especially when so many restaurateurs desire to be in downtown Naperville. Today staff shortages as well as competition for bartenders, servers and kitchen help add to the challenges of keeping eateries running with thin margins as rents increase.

General Manager Russ Hillard, left, and the 2014 service staff at Heaven on Seven bask in the success of Mardi Gras decorations. Hillard served as GM for 10-plus years.

And while continuing to think about Heaven on Seven, we’re remembering many frigid January nights after hours, observing the staff having fun decorating in gold, green and purple for six weeks of Lent before Fat Tuesday. Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Thanks for supporting the local hospitality industry. Bon appetit!

For more variety, check out Dine Naperville where you’ll find the city’s long list of more than 260 eateries.

New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day

It’s no surprise that New Year’s Eve is among the most celebrated days and nights when folks go all out to celebrate the end the year with great anticipation while employees in the hospitality industry aim to satisfy guests with unforgettable experiences to ensure guests return for repeat visits during the coming year.

Whenever possible, let hospitality staff know you appreciate that they’re working to provide great service for a good time on the holiday.

What’s more, take note of folks who work at service stations and convenience stores so you can travel, if needed, to be with family and friends.

And, of course, consider public safety and first responders on the job tonight, tomorrow and every day to assist when needed in case of an emergency.

Celebrate Safely! Area and state police departments will be adding extra patrols New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Buckle up. Don’t forget to plan ahead for all your transportation needs. Taxis and limos will be at a premium.

Happy New Year! 

Do you know couples that became engaged at Christmas or New Year’s?

Naper Settlement will host its annual Wedding Showcase from 10AM to 3PM on Sat., Jan. 6, where many wedding planners, consultants, venues and special services will be on display for brides and grooms as well as their parents to begin planning.

Meson Sabika aglow in the snow.

Check out Meson Sabika, Hotel Arista and CityGate Grille among many local vendors that offer spaces for weddings, receptions, rehearsal dinners and bridal showers.

Admission to the Wedding Showcase is free of charge. Naper Settlement is located at 523 S. Webster St. at Aurora Ave.

Look toward 2018 Restaurant Week, Jan. 26-Feb. 8

Naperville 2018 Restaurant Week is slated for Jan. 26 through Feb 8.

Soon the tables will be set, special menus will be planned and service staffers at participating restaurants will be eager for culinary enthusiasts to dine out, sampling some of the best tastes in town.

Furthermore, from the hostess who seats you to the server, bartender and bus boy, each one relies on your support (and your tips!) at their business so they can earn a living as well.

Employees in the hospitality industry also shop in stores, and spend money locally at gas stations.

Plus, locally-owned businesses tend to spend more of their dollars locally on services they need. Additionally, the sales tax and real estate taxes businesses pay help local units of government. All considered, the local hospitality industry contributes greatly to the quality of life in this community.

For more events and entertainment, some free of charge, check out the last day of the year on the December Events Calendar.

Thanks for reading how hospitality helps…

Thanks, too, for shopping, dining, entertaining and supporting fundraising benefits locally whenever possible. The Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce and your independent business community appreciate your support of local enterprises. A thriving local economy benefits all local residents.

This community is blessed to begin 2018 with many months of planned activities at local hotels where special events create opportunities to give in support of local unmet needs.

For a listing of more than 260 local eateries, sure to whet any appetite, visit www.dinenaperville.com.

For a list of Naperville hotels, check out www.visitnaperville.com.

—PN