Frank DeMarco likes to make his customers smile, whether they are guests at the Waterfront Place Hotel or students in his hospitality classes at the College of Business and Economics.
DeMarco is director of operations at the Waterfront Place and coordinator of the College's hospitality and tourism program, and what he likes best is a satisfied guest.
For students, that sometimes means helping them decide what area of the hospitality industry they might like to enter—restaurants, lodging, tourism, among others. With enrollment in the new area of emphasis expected to double by next fall, he will have plenty of opportunity.
"A lot of students don't know what path they want to go into, and it excites me to help steer them into an area in which they will each be happy," DeMarco said. "I've been rather successful, with the help of friends throughout the state, in getting internships for our students. So, when they come back and say 'this is what I want to do,' I feel good about steering them."
DeMarco began his own hospitality career as a manager at Charley's Place Restaurant in McLean, Va. in 1989. He then went to a job as food service manager at Davis and Elkins College, Elkins, W.Va, similar positions at two colleges in Ohio, then back to Elkins as general manager of Sodexho Dining Services at Davis and Elkins from 1997-99.
That's where he began teaching his profession in 2001 as an adjunct faculty member in the school's hospitality management program. In 2007-08 he was executive director of Graceland Inn and Conference Services and assistant professor of hospitality management at Davis and Elkins, and he joined the Waterfront Place Hotel in 2008.
He enjoys working with the public, which certainly comes in handy in the hospitality field.
"The perception of this industry is that we work long, hard hours, sometimes without being appreciated," he commented. "Some of that is true. It is certainly a lot of long hours, and you need to have a great work ethic. But there's also a lot of satisfaction."
That satisfaction, for DeMarco, is "going an extra mile to create a feeling of quality service."
"It's simply a good feeling when you know your guests have had a quality visit and having been being part of the team that made that happen," he said.
Guests are also the staff he supervises. He calls them "internal guests" and they can be rather hard to please. "In our industry, it's a 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a week proposition, and employees are expected to work holidays and weekends," he said. Such a schedule is often a hard sell. "You simply have to be creative and think outside the box to make employees feel appreciated. This takes practical experience."
DeMarco, who earned degree in management in 1989, returned the College of Business and Economics to earn an EMBA in 2004. He tells his hospitality students that his experience and education point to two critical keys for success—think outside the box and go the extra mile for customers.
"Make sure the guest walks out happy," he said. "The biggest thing for those of us in the 'front of the house' is that everyone has to have the right attitude. You are on stage as soon as you walk in the door. We all have mood swings, but when we are out front, we have to be chipper."
DeMarco enjoys traveling, socializing with friends and family, dining out, golfing and announcing youth football games. He has a son, Michael, 20, who is on active duty with the U.S. Navy, and daughters Tennyson, 17, a junior at Elkins High School, and Grace, 9, in the third grade at Jennings Randolph Elementary School.