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Sunday, Oct 1, 2023

Mints to Marketing, Coffee to Cabbies

Orange County’s hotel and resort properties have spawned an industry of local companies that help with everything from purchasing and Pinterest to mints on the pillow.

Driving the support segment are the same key factors that fuel the core hotel and tourism business here: the powerful draw of the Disneyland Resort; the busy schedule of trade shows and other meetings at the Anaheim Convention Center; and the county’s beaches.

Employment in the support segment is hard to pin down, but the broader category of leisure and hospitality businesses locally employs close to 200,000, nearly one of every seven workers here.

The 50 largest hotels by meeting space in Orange County have about 1.3 million square feet for events and some 20,000 rooms.

That’s a lot of mints.

Or a lot of coffee, depending on what a company can make of the opportunities that come with the territory of tourism.

Amenity Services Inc. in Tustin grabbed a big opportunity awhile ago when it put Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf products in 200,000 guest rooms at Hilton, DoubleTree and Embassy Suites hotels.

Making sure weary travelers could make a cup of Joe in their rooms produced 20 million visual impressions on hotel guests in one year for the Coffee Bean brand, said Sherri Scheck-Merrill, Amenity’s vice president of business and product development.

The company, which has 11 employees locally, secures licensing and arranges for production, then delivers products—such as linens, liquids and paper goods—to about 2,500 hotels in North America. Many of the products are licensed from familiar names—the food products it offers hotels come from a roster of big names such as chef and restaurateur Wolfgang Puck, “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” host Guy Fieri, and “Cake Boss” Bartolo “Buddy” Valastro Jr.

Amenity Services can make sure a hotel customer has linens from Ralph Lauren for its guest rooms.


Newport Beach-based BirchStreet Systems Inc. founder and Chief Executive Sushil Garg calls the company “the largest hospitality purchasing platform.”

Its proprietary software manages back-office buying for a client roster of more than 7,000 properties worldwide.

“We can generally save hotels 10% to 15% on their costs” through group buys facilitated by BirchStreet’s software, Garg said.

OC clients include Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach and Montage Laguna Beach, he said.

Garg said BirchStreet plans to move into other markets that include casinos, airports, convention centers, golf courses, sports venues and healthcare facilities, such as assisted-living communities.

Custom Business Solutions Inc. in Irvine sells an iPad-based point-of-sale system called NorthStar to “a couple hundred hospitality clients and several thousand [stand-alone] restaurants,” said Gary Stotko, vice president of business development and marketing.

“Hospitality is an emerging market for us,” he said.

In December it began to work with Seal Beach-based MagTek Inc., which makes electronic credit and debit card readers, to allow secure payment.


HyperDisk Marketing LLC is a digital marketing agency in Irvine.

Michael Mustafa, vice president of sales and strategic services, said the company handles everything from website design and email marketing to social media programs and pay-per-click advertising for about 70 hospitality clients.

“Digital marketing is taking over the way we communicate with guests,” Mustafa said.

He cited industry figures that show 90% of hospitality customers interact with a property on just four screens: television, laptop, mobile phone or tablet.

Mustafa said one marketing element the company offers is a virtual “social lounge” on a hotel’s website, with blogging and customer interaction coordinated by HyperDisk.

The company has about 50 employees in Irvine. It opened a Hong Kong office about six months ago.

Local clients include Hotel Irvine, Pacific Edge in Laguna Beach, and Hilton Anaheim, where Mustafa worked before he joined HyperDisk last fall.

“95% of our customers are four- and five-star luxury and independent resorts,” he said.


Preferred Hotel Group in Newport Beach is a hotel sales and marketing company with about 650 independent hotel clients worldwide.

Casey Ueberroth, senior vice president of marketing, said the company’s work focuses on “consumer awareness and business-to-business support.”

“We promote the hotels as the best independent, nonbranded hotels globally,” he said.

Preferred conducts member-hotel inspections, runs a loyalty program, books rooms, monitors travel websites for consumer reviews, and brings group business in by sales teams focused on meeting planners and corporate travel agents.

“Our quality assurance offers consumers confidence,” he said, while the business-side work “improves profits … in sales, marketing and distribution.”


All of those support services can keep a back-office humming as sales and marketing fills the lobby.

The only other thing needed is the guest.

Call a cab.

There are 35 approved taxi cab companies in the county, according to the Orange County Taxi Administration Program in Orange.

The largest is Anaheim-based Yellow Cab of Greater Orange County Inc., with 396 taxis; the smallest is Awesome Taxi Cab in Dana Point, with five.

Yellow Cab is owned by Paris-based transportation company Keolis.

Awesome Taxi is a startup that launched in January 2014 and is co-owned by Hasan Safi and Henny Kovacs.

Kovacs said that despite its size and youth, the company landed a contract with the St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort in Dana Point to be one of two companies at the resort’s taxi stand.

Hospitality support’s transportation component is heating up as John Wayne Airport administrators and the Orange County Board of Supervisors develop and discuss regulations for ride-sharing companies, including Uber, and how they’ll be able to work within airport rules.

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