Guests laud him, team members applaud him but only a few really know the immensely inspiring story behind Kerone Samuels’ hospitality glory. His tenacity, disposition and laser-focused view indicate that he is of such ilk that he could have chiseled success from any brick.
Samuels is the Director of Guest Services at the world-renowned, luxury-included resort, Sandals South Coast in Westmoreland. In his role, he is directly responsible for anticipating and resolving guest issues in a timely manner. He also creates and monitors guest engagement strategies on the resort.
“My aim is to ensure that every single guest that vacations with us, leaves feeling that they have had the experience of a lifetime,” he said.
He has been doing a phenomenal job in his capacity, exceeding the expectations of guests, leaders, colleagues and team members alike. This is undeniable as he is the reigning Manager of the Year at the resort.
Samuels is definitely winning right now but his journey to the top wasn’t as smooth as some would imagine. It started 16 years ago when he was hired at Sandals South Coast as a contract worker, setting up candlelight dinners on the beach.
“This was back in 2005. I used to come in everyday just for candlelight dinners. I would do the setup, pick up the food from the kitchen and I would also do the serving,” Samuels shared.
He did this for about a year all the while receiving rave reviews from guests on Trip Advisor, the ‘word of mouth’ of travel. The positive feedback about Samuels was so much that the Food and Beverage Director at the resort at that time, Ricky DuQuesnay, caught wind.
“He came to me one evening and told me that I was doing very well and he would be more than happy to hire me to work for the resort full time as a server in one of the restaurants,” shared Samuels.
Delighted at the offer, Samuels gladly accepted.
“I was now working as a server inside Eleanor’s. At the time, Eleanor’s was the top restaurant on the resort, much sought after by all guests. You had to be a top tier server to work inside that restaurant. The fact that I was stationed there was a big deal for me,” he said, beaming with pride.
After being in the role for a few months, advancement beckoned. This time, he was offered the role of a sommelier, where he would specialize in all aspects of wine service from wine tastings and pairing to the sale and delivery.
But the Petersville, Westmoreland native had a slight dilemma. He had applied to work on a cruise ship some years prior and just as he received word of a promotion to sommelier at the resort; he got the acceptance he had pursued from the cruise line.
“Where I am from, leaving the community to work on a cruise ship is seen as a major step forward. Back in the day, most of the young men aspired to do that. My cousin was also going away to work on the ship so it was a tough decision for me,” he shared.
He revealed that at the time, his girlfriend was pregnant and that made his decision even more difficult as he wanted what was best for his child.
“After a few days of deliberating, I eventually decided to remain with Sandals. I made myself a promise that I would work hard, make my way up the ladder and be present for my son’s birth and in his life,” added Samuels.
That decision worked favourably for Samuels as after occupying his new sommelier role for two years, he made another upward move in the company – this time, to a restaurant supervisor.
“I was doing really well as a sommelier. Guests who were in that same profession would brag about me to my bosses and on Trip Advisor about my vast knowledge of wines. They often commended me for my hospitality. That role helped to prepare and push me into my promotion to restaurant supervisor which I did for maybe a year or so,” he explained.
For Samuels, there is no truth to the adage that opportunity knocks but once because the door to his growth was constantly pounded on by his Sandals leaders.
“After being a restaurant supervisor, I was promoted to restaurant manager. By this time, I was extremely versed in the operations as I had worked in every single restaurant on the resort,” Samuels explained.
He subsequently moved from restaurant manager to night manager, which saw him overseeing the entire operation at nights. He stayed in that role for four years until he was handpicked to be the resort’s Director of Guest Services in late 2018. Samuels shared that his Sandals journey has been one of constant growth, hard work and perseverance.
“I am so pleased with where I am today. Sometimes when I look back, I smile to myself just remembering where I started, how I persevered, the number of opportunities presented to me in this company and seeing my growth. I had no clue when I used to set up those candlelight dinners, years ago that I would be in the position I am now,” a smiling Samuels shared.
Though he expressed that he has had his fair share of challenges, he admitted that the wins surpass them all.
“There is no perfect situation. We have all had bad days, days when you feel as though you want to give up but I can confidently say that I’ve seen more ups than downs and I have no regrets about how my Sandals journey started and the way it is going,” he explained.
Why would he have regrets? It was an exciting January night in 2020 when he received what he considers the biggest win of his hospitality career.
The conference room at Sandals South Coast was the scene, filled to capacity with team members and managers who were waiting with bated breath to hear who would walk away as the resort’s Manager of the Year. He recalled hearing faint utterances.
“I could hear people in the audience around me mumbling and saying, ‘Kerone Samuels, Kerone Samuels’ but I wasn’t too sure. I knew I worked hard but I didn’t want to get my hopes up because we had an excellent crop of managers,” he said.
The announcement was finally made and Samuels was in fact the Manager of the Year.
“I received a standing ovation. People were screaming, cheering and clapping. They were all happy for me and I was truly elated. The award coupled with my many growth opportunities and promotions within Sandals are testaments to my hard work,” he said.
General Manager, Adrian Whitehead shared that Samuels’ journey has been inspirational.
“Kerone is a true Sandals success story. He exudes an extra-ordinary fervor for customer service and he continues to be a shining example of what it means to uphold the values, standards and tenets that Sandals was built on. He is not a man of many words but his work speaks for him and it speaks loudly because he always gets the job done,” he shared.
Samuels has no plans to slow down and he believes that he has much further to go.
“In a few years, I see myself becoming an operations manager. I know it is possible because Sandals thrives on promoting their employees as has been evident throughout my entire journey and I know once I continue to show that I am capable then it will happen,” he said.