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Central BBQ plans expansion to cities east and west



Collierville or Germantown will be the first new destination for the Central BBQ chain as it takes its style of smoked pork outside Memphis to cities throughout the Southeast.

Memphis conglomerate Kemmons Wilson Companies said Monday it has invested in Central and will guide the expansion to cities between Dallas and Knoxville.

“We want to grow slowly, focus on quality and make sure the new stores are representative of what has been done in Memphis,” said Kemmons Wilson senior executive Webb Wilson.

Regarded in Memphis as a business success story, the restaurant chain emerged out of Central Smokers, a small team of soccer enthusiasts competing in the Memphis in May International World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest.

Craig Blondis and Roger Sapp opened the first Central BBQ in Midtown in 2002 in a former fastfood restaurant. Since then, Central has opened two other sites, also in relatively inexpensive buildings in the city, and has made a reputation as a popular brand of Memphis barbecue.

“Something I always wanted to do was grow outside this market, but I’m just too busy,” said Blondis, who was preparing Monday to compete with the Central Smokers’ team in this year’s Memphis in May barbecue contest.

Kemmons Wilson will finance the expansion and own a majority stake in the new restaurants, Blondis said, while the ownership structure of the existing business remains intact. Besides the three restaurants, Central operates a catering business, a food truck and has about 130 employees.

“They’re going to do everything on their dime, but Craig and I are going to supervise, to keep the quality and the character we want," Sapp said.

“Craig and I will not open another Central. We’ll keep the three we have, but the rest of them will be (Kemmons Wilson).”

Central will branch first into Collierville or Germantown, Blondis said. A site has not been chosen in either suburb.

Central joins a number of restaurant companies branching out of the city. The barbecue restaurants Corky’s and Rendezvous ship food nationwide and the chains based here include Gus’s fried chicken, Lenny’s sandwiches and Lyfe Kitchen healthy fast food.

Kemmons Wilson Companies, a 4,000-employee firm founded in 1948, traces to the late Kemmons Wilson of Holiday Inn fame. In 2014, four of his grandsons were named principal leaders of the firm. They are Webb Wilson, Spence Wilson Jr., Kemmons Wilson III and McLean Wilson.

Kemmons Wilson founded Holiday Inn in Memphis in 1952. The hotel company was the city's largest Fortune 500 corporation when it was sold and moved to Atlanta in 1991.

Kemmons Wilson Companies operates in the aviation, financial services, hotels, insurance, real estate and time-share housing industries.

Central Station Hotel to offer authentic Memphis experience

Central Station Hotel


The historic Central Station building will soon become a hotel like none other, says the grandson of the man who revolutionized the hotel industry 65 years ago.

Interior demolition is to start within two months and construction be finished by summer 2018 on Central Station Hotel in Downtown's South Main District.

The hotel will have a lobby, bar, ballroom, guest rooms, restaurant and retail, all stamped with the rich character of a 103-year-old train station.

But the redevelopment will feature a still-secret sauce – something "experiential'' – being cooked up by McLean Wilson and the same think tank he worked with for seven years to create the Crosstown Concourse "vertical urban village'' redevelopment four miles away.

Those men – Wilson, his Concourse co-leader Todd Richardson and Crosstown Art's Chris Miner – don't so much develop buildings as ideas.

"We want this to be an extremely special experience,'' Wilson said of what will formally be called Central Station Hotel, Curio Collection by Hilton.

The 39-year-old grandson of the late Holiday Inn founder, Kemmons Wilson, is one of the third-generation principals of Kemmons Wilson Companies.

He joined with developers Henry Turley and Archie Willis in a $55 million redevelopment of Memphis Area Transit Authority's Central Station.

Turley and Willis have built apartments on the former rail yard. Malco Theatres will convert the adjacent Powerhouse building into a multi-screen theater. And Wilson will:

– Convert the apartment tower into 124 hotel rooms offering large windows and sweeping views;

– Renovate the ballroom with improved acoustics and new paint;

– Convert the station's waiting area into a large bar that aspires to be the "living room'' for the South Main Historic District;

– Transform the existing Amtrak lobby and ticketing space into the hotel lobby;

– Create a new, state-of-the-art Amtrak lobby a few feet away where Memphis Police once had a substation;

– Change ground-floor meeting areas and offices along South Main and G.E. Patterson into a 3,500-square-foot restaurant and 6,000 square feet of retail that will likely include a coffee shop;

– And make the outside train platform – between the train tracks and lobbies – a better first impression for travelers by replacing much of the concrete with landscaping and a patio.

If those comprise the project's cake, Wilson is not ready to reveal the icing.

"There's a lot to come,'' he said. "There's something I probably can't be forthcoming with... But you can have the same expectations of self-discovery and unique experiences here in this hotel similar to what you experience at Crosstown Concourse.''

Crosstown Concourse will formally open in August. The aspiration for the multi-use, 1.5-million-square-foot building is for art to be a catalyst in having all the tenants engaging with each other and building a sense of community than simply co-existing.

In tackling the Central Station Hotel project, Wilson said he, Richardson and Miner as well as project consultant Tony Bologna sought the answers to three questions:

How would someone walking into Central Station Hotel know they are in Memphis? How would they know they are on South Main? And how would they know they are at Central Station Hotel?

"And so we needed to solve for those elements, and it took us a while for us to know some of the answers to those questions.''

More broadly, many of the big hotel brands like Hilton have started boutique-hotel lines like Curio in responding to those travelers who seek more of an authentic, neighborhood experience rather than what a big hotel brand might prescribe, Wilson said.

"And that is to allow the developer to curate an experience,'' he said. "... What is exciting about this building and its conversion to a hotel is being part of the South Main story and being able to leverage that and allow for the people visiting here to walk out the front door and go to the Arcade for breakfast and to have the experience at Earnestine & Hazel's and walk a block to the (National) Civil Rights Museum or to meander through the farmer's market or have a meal at Central BBQ.''

Central Station Hotel will seek to represent "aspects of Memphis in totality,'' Wilson said. "Take music for instance. There's obviously Graceland and Beale Street and the wonderful, many things in Memphis that showcase the history of music.

"But I don't know that there's really a place that showcases everything from the old to the new and everything in between,'' Wilson said. "That's one small piece of making sure that the Memphis story just isn't about Beale Street Music and Graceland music. It's about a lot of the influence of a lot of different musicians and people working in the music industry.''

Asked what he thought his grandfather would think of the Central Station Hotel project, Wilson responded, "I think he would be thrilled because he loved Memphis. I think he would say this is really complicated and 'Aren't there easier ways to have a hotel asset on South Main?' But I think ultimately he would be very proud of just the commitment and dedication to the city and making it a better place for all of us.''

It wasn't until he was a sophomore at the University of Virginia when Wilson fully grasped the role Kemmons Wilson played in business.

"I had a class. It was a leadership class,'' McLean said. "My grandfather was Chapter 7.''

Train travel gets a reboot with a boutique hotel serving an active rail line in Memphis


Planning a trip? A planned 135-room boutique hotel will serve residents of Downtown Memphis as well as travelers along the Amtrak line which stretches from New Orleans to Chicago.

The $55 million redevelopment of historic Central Station and the surrounding area on South Main moves forward with new details about the planned boutique hotel announced.

In early March, hotel developer Kemmons Wilson Company filed for land use approvals to operate a hotel on the site.

Click here to read the rest of the story on

We just broke ground at the FedExFamilyHouse expansion site!


Today, our dream is becoming a reality. Thanks to generous people like you, we broke ground on an expansion to FedExFamilyHouse. The project will triple the size of the house and ensures that we'll be able to serve every family who needs us.

View additional photos from the groundbreaking ceremony.

We believe that no family should have to worry about housing when their child is critically ill. For every family who gets a room at FedExFamilyHouse, there are at least four more families who are waiting. At least 30 families each month are sent to hotels because there is no room.

We've raised 60 percent of the funds needed to build this expansion. We still need help from people like you to help the house grow. Every gift will make a difference for families who children are receiving care at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital. Will you give today to help us meet our goal?

On behalf of our families, thank you for your support.


Meri Armour
President and CEO
Le Bonheur Children's Hospital

FedExFamilyHouse expansion to break ground

Source: Memphis Business Journal 3/21/17

Tomorrow FedEx Corp. and Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital will break ground on an expansion that will triple the size of the FedExFamilyHouse.

The expansion of the building, which is located at 918 Poplar Ave., was announced last fall. FedExFamilyHouse is a "home away from home" for out-of-town families of patients at Le Bonheur.

The expansion will include a four-story addition to the current facility, 21 new suites, 30 new hotel-style rooms and community gathering spaces.

FedEx's support of the FedExFamilyHouse is part of FedEx Cares, the company’s community investment initiative, through which FedEx will donate $200 million to 200 communities by 2020.

A public fund-raising campaign was established in 2016 to raise $12 million dollars to fund the expansion of the house.


FedExFamilyHouse to Triple in Size with $12 million Building Campaign

FedEx and Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital is launching a campaign to expand the FedExFamilyHouse with a $12 million expansion by 2018


FedExFamilyHouse is home for many families of patients at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital. Families do not pay anything during their stay. Five million dollars will be raised and donated by Fred Smith, CEO of FedEx and his wife, Diane Smith. A fundraising campaign, Building on the Promise, has been launched to raise the money for construction costs. The money will be raised during a yearlong series of fundraisers and donations.

In the six years that the house has been open, it has helped over 100,000 families stay together through a difficult time.

“The generosity of FedEx, its leaders and employees is world-class, and all of us at Le Bonheur are excited and grateful for their commitment to FedExFamilyHouse,” said Meri Armour, Le Bonheur president and CEO.


The planned expansion will include:

• A four story building with 40,000 square feet to be connected to the current facility;
• 51 new rooms, with 21 suites and 30 hotel-style rooms;
• New community spaces for gatherings, meetings, and functions;
• New outdoor play areas;
• Four large kitchens
• A library
• A laundry room
• Play areas and gardens

St. Jude to renovate Tri Delta Place


Source: Commercial Appeal 11/15/15

St. Jude Children's Research Hospital plans a major interior renovation to the only housing facility on its campus, Tri Delta Place.

The hospital this week applied for a building permit that values the renovation at nearly $2.2 million.

The project will renovate the rooms of the building that backs up to 350 N. Third. Belz Construction Services is the construction contractor and The Renaissance Group is the architecture firm.

Patients and their families who need housing for seven days or less are invited to stay in Tri Delta Place, according to the St. Jude website. The facility offers 64 hotel-style rooms and 36 suites.

In 1999, Tri Delta formed a philanthropic partnership with St. Jude, and has raised more than $45 million for the hospital. In 2014 the sorority announced its latest fundraising commitment of $60 million over 10 years.

St. Jude, a cancer researcher, provides medical care, lodging, food and education free of charge for all of its young patients staying on the 5,000-employee Downtown campus.

FedExFamilyHouse to triple in size!


We made a promise when FedExFamilyHouse opened in 2010, that it would be a place of hope and healing for out-of-town families of Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital patients. Since then more than 103,000 family members have called FedExFamilyHouse home while their child is treated at Le Bonheur.

As Le Bonheur’s programs have grown, so has the demand for housing – and we need your help to fulfill our promise. FedExFamilyHouse is often at 100 percent capacity. No family should have to worry about housing when their child is critically ill. For every family who gets a room at FedExFamilyHouse, there are at least four more waiting.

That’s why today, we announced plans to triple the size of FedExFamilyHouse. We’re sharing this exciting news with you because you have been so generous to FedExFamilyHouse. Your gifts have given families a place of comfort and respite. Watch this beautiful video by our friends at FedEx about what FedExFamilyHouse means to the families who’ve called it home.

Your support will help us make this dream a reality. Please stay tuned for more updates on ways to help. On behalf of our families, thank you.

JA receives Wilson Family Foundation donation

The Kemmons Wilson Family Foundation announced a $25,000 donation to Junior Achievement of Memphis and the Mid-South Inc.

Junior Achievement teaches children and teenagers economics and operates JA BizTown, a simulated city in which participants hold jobs, create budgets and follow laws.

“This donation will allow us to send nearly 850 children through the program, arming them with the skills they need to thrive in the future," Junior Achievement chief executive Larry Colbert said in a statement.

Wilson Family Foundation was established by Kemmons and Dorothy Wilson, Memphians who founded the Holiday Inn hotel chain.


Wilson Urges Family Philanthropic Efforts at Dunavant Awards


When most people think of the Kemmons Wilson family, there is an image that comes to mind. It’s a black and white photo from the 1950s of the five children – three boys and two girls – of the Holiday Inn founder cutting the ribbon on the very first Holiday Inn at 4925 Summer Ave.

Click here to read the full article at Site Visits: Embassy Suites Tuscaloosa


ESTLobby Site Visits: Embassy Suites Tuscaloosa

By Stephanie Davis Smith

Touches of Tuscaloosa, Alabama—home of the Crimson Tide—can be seen all over the city’s first full-service hotel downtown. Wilson Hotel Management opened the $31 million Embassy Suites Tuscaloosa Alabama Downtown in March. The company’s president, Kemmons Wilson Jr., is a graduate of The University of Alabama and made sure the hotel reflected the campus and community.

Although it’s not overtly decked out in crimson and white, there are touches of the university throughout, such as houndstooth carpeting in the lobby and images of campus favorites, like Denny Chimes on The Quad and the president’s mansion, peppering the walls. Eight stories high with river views and 154 suites, the property was a necessary addition to bring more meetings business to the West-Central Alabama town, says Heather Dill, director of sales and marketing for the property. For meeting space, the hotel has a 5,240-sq.-ft. ballroom, which divides into five flexible sections, and a 2,100-sq.-ft. prefunction space for registration.

“We have a lot of association business on the books already,” says Dill. “It helps that we’re only 2 miles from Bryant Conference Center too.” So far, Professional Fire Fighters of Alabama, Alabama League of Municipalities and National Association of Letter Carriers have events planned at the hotel this year. Just don’t try to book over an Alabama football weekend—rumor has it the rooms are sold out for every home game weekend for the 2015-16 football season.

Foodies will revel in the fact that the hotel snagged chef Chris Hastings to open its restaurant, The Side by Side. Hastings is a James Beard Award winner and the gourmand behind renowned Hot and Hot Fish Club in Birmingham, Alabama. Planners can book several private dining rooms in The Side by Side.

Insider Tip: Thirty restaurants in downtown Tuscaloosa are within walking distance of the hotel. Try locally owned Chuck’s Fish, with fresh fish flown in daily, private dining rooms and a banquet room.

Tuscaloosa Magazine Covers Embassy Suites Tuscaloosa Downtown Restaurant

The Spring 2015 edition of Tuscaloosa Magazine covers Embassy Suites Tuscaloosa Downtown's Side-by-Side Restaurant as its Southern Gourmet feature. Click here to read.


Embassy Suites Tuscaloosa: First Look

Embassy Suites Opens in Downtown Tuscaloosa, Alabama


Embassy Suites Opens in Downtown Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Announcing Tuscaloosa’s Premier, Full-Service Hotel

TUSCALOOSA, Al. and MCLEAN, Va. (March 3, 2015) – Embassy Suites Hotels, the Hilton Worldwide brand of upscale all-suite hotels, today announced the opening of their first property in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. As the premier full-service hotel in the market, Embassy Suites Tuscaloosa Downtown, AL boasts 154 spacious suites and features the brand's latest design concept, Design Option III, and a new on-site restaurant, The Side by Side, led by James Beard award-winning chef, Chris Hastings. Embassy Suites Tuscaloosa Downtown, AL is owned by Tuscaloosa Hotel Partners, LLC and proudly managed by Wilson Hotel Management, LLC.

“Embassy Suites’ upscale accommodations, contemporary design and signature offerings will bring a solid option for travelers visiting this growing metropolitan area,” said John Rogers, global head, Embassy Suites Hotels. “The innovative Design Option III prototype will enhance the guest experience by offering guests more natural light in guest rooms and public areas like the atrium, while maintaining Embassy’s signature amenities.”

“The opening of Embassy Suites Tuscaloosa Downtown, AL is a significant milestone in the city’s history and will spring-board downtown Tuscaloosa into greater heights,” said C. Kemmons Wilson Jr., president, Tuscaloosa Hotel Partners, LLC. “We look forward to providing visitors with a new opportunity to visit downtown Tuscaloosa.”

“Tuscaloosa hasn’t seen a full-service, premium hotel like ours,” said Jon Crisp, general manager, Embassy Suites Tuscaloosa Downtown, AL. “Whether traveling on business, for a big game at University of Alabama or to tour local attractions, guests will appreciate the fantastic amenities and culinary offerings at Embassy Suites Tuscaloosa Downtown, AL.”

Situated in a lively retail and entertainment district, hotel guests and locals alike will enjoy the modern culinary offerings at the hotel’s restaurant, The Side by Side. James Beard award-winning chef, Chris Hastings, blends French, Southern and California-styles of cooking to create a bold menu of flavorful options. Taking cues from Alabama’s regional harvest and other fresh offerings by local artisans, the seasonal dishes and cocktails are served in the airy dining room featuring an open kitchen.

With 7,000 square feet of flexible meeting space comprising an executive boardroom and a divisible ballroom with 16 foot ceilings, Embassy Suites Tuscaloosa Downtown, AL can accommodate events for up to 500 people. The creative catering services, dedicated staff and state-of-the-art A/V technology will ensure the success of any conference, training seminar or celebration.

The new hotel features the brand's signature amenities including its free made-to-order breakfast, a two-hour complimentary Evening Reception* with snacks and beverages, two-room suites with a separate living area, private bedroom, WiFi, 42-inch HDTV’s, a wet bar fitted with a microwave, a mini-fridge and a coffee maker. Guests also have access to the 24-hour Embassy BusinessLink™ Business Center, an indoor swimming pool and a 24-hour fitness center.

Located near the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater, University of Alabama and the Bryant Conference Center, Embassy Suites Tuscaloosa Downtown, AL makes it easy to discover the best of the city. Top shopping and dining options are also conveniently located nearby. Business guests will appreciate the close proximity to many Fortune 500 companies, the Mercedes- Benz U.S. International plant as well as the U.S. Courthouse and City Hall.

Embassy Suites Tuscaloosa Downtown, AL participates in Hilton HHonors®, the only guest rewards program that allows members to earn Points & Miles® for the same stay and redeem points for free nights with no blackout dates at more than 4,250 hotels worldwide. Book by May 16, 2015 to save up to 20% on your stay. Book by March 19, 2016 to receive double HHonors points.

Embassy Suites Tuscaloosa Downtown, AL is located at 2410 University Boulevard, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, 35401. For reservations or more information, visit Embassy Suites Tuscaloosa Downtown, AL at or call +1 205 561 2500.

For more information on Embassy Suites Hotels, please visit For development queries, please visit

*Service of alcohol subject to state and local laws. Must be of legal drinking age.

About Embassy Suites Hotels Embassy Suites Hotels, one of Hilton Worldwide’s twelve market-leading brands, is dedicated to delivering what matters most to travelers. The full service, upscale brand offers every guest a two-room suite, free cooked-to-order breakfast and a nightly two-hour reception with complimentary drinks* and snacks. Both leisure and business travelers looking for a relaxed, yet sophisticated, experience will feel right at home with brand-standard amenities like inviting atriums and complimentary 24-hour business and fitness centers. Embassy Suites Hotels has 219 hotels with more than 35 in the pipeline. For more information, visit, and connect with Embassy Suites at, and

About Hilton Worldwide
Hilton Worldwide (NYSE: HLT) is a leading global hospitality company, spanning the lodging sector from luxury and full-service hotels and resorts to extended-stay suites and focused-service hotels. For 95 years, Hilton Worldwide has been dedicated to continuing its tradition of providing exceptional guest experiences. The company's portfolio of twelve world-class global brands is comprised of more than 4,300 managed, franchised, owned and leased hotels and timeshare properties, with more than 715,000 rooms in 94 countries and territories, including Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, Conrad Hotels & Resorts, Canopy by Hilton, Curio - A Collection by Hilton, DoubleTree by Hilton, Embassy Suites Hotels, Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton Hotels, Homewood Suites by Hilton, Home2 Suites by Hilton and Hilton Grand Vacations. The company also manages an award-winning customer loyalty program, Hilton HHonors®. Visit for more information and connect with Hilton Worldwide at,,,, and

Crosstown Groundbreaking

Crews will soon begin a massive renovation of the old Sears Crosstown building. The building will come with housing, businesses, and health clinics. McLean Wilson, co-leader of the Crosstown Development Team, gave News Channel 3's On Your Side a preview of the $200 million project.

Hundreds flock to downtown Tuscaloosa for hotel's job fair

Hundreds of people wait in line during a job fair for positions at Embassy Suites hosted at Cypress Inn Loft on the corner of Greensboro Avenue and University Boulevard Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015. People lined the block waiting for a chance to fill out an application and interview for positions at the soon-to-open Embassy Suites in downtown Tuscaloosa.

Click here to read the full story on

New hotel in downtown Tuscaloosa to hold pre-opening job fair


Tuscaloosa will soon have its first hotel downtown, but first the Embassy Suites needs to fill out its staff list. Management will hold a job fair this week to fill full- and part-time hotel and food/drink positions.

Read the full story on

Commercial real estate landscape looking up despite skepticism, obstacles


Isaac Thomas would almost rather be sunning himself on the beach, toes in the sand, than working on the $100 million revamp of Memphis' tallest building, One Hundred North Main.

"But where's the fun in that?" says Thomas, who's heading up the project.
Memphis is a challenging market for developers, Thomas says. Some of the issues that kill projects – even before they begin – are high property taxes, too few tax credits, and a laborious process to meet codes. But even more than that, there's a skepticism that saps energy from the market, as several developers, including ...

Read the full story from the Memphis Business Journal.

First look at demolition work inside Sears Crosstown


Construction crews won't officially break ground on the $200 million Sears Crosstown redevelopment until financing closes this month. But work is already underway.

Sears Crosstown, which is southwest of Cleveland and North Parkway in Midtown Memphis, is already 65 percent pre-leased, said McLean Wilson, a co-leader on the redevelopment and a principal at Kemmons Wilson Inc.

Read the full story from the Memphis Business Journal.

Kemmons Wilson grandsons step forward in leadership roles

Grandsons of Holiday Inn founder Kemmons Wilson are stepping forward to take primary leadership roles in Kemmons Wilson Companies, a 4,000-employee real estate manager and developer based in Memphis.

A statement released Wednesday by the Greater Memphis Chamber says Spence Wilson Jr., Kemmons Wilson III, McLean Wilson and Webb Wilson “are now the principals of the firm” and “the previous second generation family leadership group, Spence Wilson Sr., Robert Wilson, and Kemmons Wilson Jr. will remain active and engaged in the business as members of the Board of Directors.”

Read the full story on

Embassy Suites Downtown Tuscaloosa to feature new restaurant concept

Kemmons Wilson, Jr. Presents New Embassy Suites Development to Rotary Club of Tuscaloosa


On June 3rd, 2014, Kemmons Wilson, Jr. presented a program to the Rotary Club of Tuscaloosa on the new Embassy Suites Development. Click here for more details.

An Inside Look at FedExFamily House

Tri Delta Fraternity pledges $60 million for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital


Tri Delta Fraternity announced Friday, July 4th, that it plans to raise $60 million over the next 10 years to help with a short-term housing facility at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital — the largest single commitment to the facility in history. Read the full store on

New downtown Tuscaloosa Embassy Suites Hotel names general manager

Jon Crisp has been named the general manager for the Embassy Suites Hotel under construction at 2410 University Blvd. in downtown Tuscaloosa.

The hotel is expected to open in December.

Crisp served as a general manager with several well-known hospitality brands, according to a statement from Wilson Hotel Management LLC, a division of Kemmons Wilson Companies LLC, the Memphis, Tenn., company that will own the hotel.

Crisp, who has received numerous hospitality industry awards during his career, will be in charge of the hotel's operations.

"Jon's a seasoned veteran in this industry, and has worked for us for several years at our flagship hotel in Memphis," said Jim O'Brien, executive vice president of Wilson Hotel Management, which will operate the hotel. "He has the desire, knowledge, experience and enthusiasm to achieve our goals for Embassy Suites Hotel Downtown Tuscaloosa. It's great to have him lead our team for this new endeavor in the Tuscaloosa market."

Crisp attended the University of Memphis and Vanderbilt University and is a member of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.

The new Embassy Suites will feature a variety of one and two-bedroom suites, free cooked-to-order breakfast, free snacks and beverages at a nightly reception, an atrium lobby with extended ceiling, more than 5,300 square feet of banquet and meeting facilities, an executive boardroom, indoor pool with a whirlpool, 24-hour fitness center and free 24-hour BusinessLink business center.

It also will have a restaurant and lounge operated by Chris Hastings, the chef and owner of The Hot and Hot Fish Club in Birmingham and "The James Beard Best Chef: South Award Winner for 2012."


FedExFamilyHouse hosts 40 celebrated chefs to benefit Le Bonheur Children's Hospital



MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) - -
Le Bon Appetit brings in 40 of the nation's most celebrated chefs, including Memphis' own Chef Kelly English. It's all to raise money for Le Bonheur Children's Hospital.

But before these chefs get hospitable, they got competitive.

Think of it as The Food Network's Chopped but with Le Bonheur flair.

"They took it serious. They collaborated for a couple minutes and started preparing dishes right away," said The Food Network's Claire Robinson, who's had her experience cooking under pressure on Chopped.

A secret ingredient and 37 minutes to cook: Eight of 40 Le Bon Appetit chefs cooked up breakfast at Le Bonheur's FedExFamilyHouse for ten of the hospital's patients. It made the experience all the more unique for the chefs.

"Chefs love to go back to their childhood," said English, known for Restaurant Iris and The Second Line, "And this is a chance for them to make chocolate pancakes and not as fancy stuff and stuff that really takes us back to our mom's table."

Chef Chris Shepherd from Underbelly in Houston, Texas, added, "It was good to see the faces and the smiles and then just see their reaction when they sit and watch because they're really into it and seeing somebody cooking."

From Apple Jacks in smoothies to Reese's cups in pancakes, the chefs didn't hold back.

"The dishes were inventive, really inventive," said Robinson, "I loved, I did love John Currence's Elvis pancakes were delicious. It was like Johnny Cakes and peanut butter and banana and a crunchy syrup. It was amazing."

It was the Elvis inspired pancakes that ended up the favorite with the kids.

"It was all Elvis: Peanut butter and marshmallows and bananas in a pancake and when you're cooking for kids you can't lose with that combination. Little chocolate and it's a no-brainer," said Chef John Currence from City Grocery in Oxford, Miss.

Currence's secret to the winning dish?

"I cheated a lot," the chef admitted, "I brought an entire car load of ingredients so I could pander to the judges."

Cheating aside, the chefs were happy to come together to help Le Bonheur's patients and raise money for the hospital. It's a cause near and dear to English.

"When I was a kid I needed a place like Le Bonheur. I fell out of my grandmother's window and I broke a lot of bones all at one time," recalled Kelly, "When I go back I think about my experience in the hospital how much I would have loved to have been in a place like this that really takes care of not just what ails you but … let's you be a kid."

Robinson said money from this year's Le Bon Appetit is helping purchase a customized ambulance for the children's hospital. Many of Le Bonheur's patients transported are less than five years old so the ambulance needs to be specialized.

"Memphis is my home and when I come home I'm so proud of the things that are coming out of Memphis, Le Bonheur being one of them," said Robinson, "It's an amazing hospital and they do incredible things for children."

Le Bon Appetit for 2014 sold out. The rest of us will be waiting – mouths watering – two years for the next course.

Days gone by…Kemmons Wilson interviewed in 1993 by Fourth grade CLUE class


Dave Darnell/The Commercial Appeal files
Holiday Inns and Wilson World founder Kemmons Wilson gestures as he is interviewed by a fourth grade CLUE class at Ridgeway Elementary School for a book the class is doing on famous Memphians. Students are Kera Schwartzberg (foreground with tape recorder), and in the background (from left) Rachael Cifuni, Lauren Massengill, Amber Thomas and Cardine Rinaldy. The interview took place on March 11, 1993.


University of Memphis' Kemmons Wilson School Becomes Independent

The University of Memphis is making the 10-year-old Kemmons Wilson School of Hospitality and Resort Management an independent school within the university.

The school has its own bachelor’s degree curriculum with 60 credit hours of coursework. The coursework had been a third of that previously.

With the autonomy, the school will also offer concentrations in event management, lodging, and food and beverage services.

The Kemmons Wilson School had been a part of the Fogelman College of Business and Economics since it was founded.

The school is housed in a full-service hotel and conference center on the university campus and is named for the late founder of Holiday Inn.

His son, Kemmons Wilson Jr., said in a statement that the school’s goal is “a real-world environment within an academic setting.”

“By broadening our course curricula, students will be better prepared on a wide range of hospitality issues,” Wilson added. “Ultimately, it will allow us to improve our training in regards to first-hand service standards, business challenges and real-time operations.”

Dr. Radesh Palakurthi, professor and director of the school, said the status as a separate school means it has achieved “the critical mass it needs to offer a more focused program in hospitality and resort management.”

Since becoming interim university president in July, Brad Martin has talked of more university programs aimed directly at the job market. It’s also been a theme of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam.

See original story on

Holiday Inn Wolfchase a flagship in billion-dollar rebranding effort

Kem Wilson Jr, (center) who’s father founded Holiday Inns was on hand at the Holiday Inn Wolfchase as it marks completion of a major rebranding and update by parent company Intercontinental Hotel Group with tours of the refurbished rooms and facilities. The Holiday Inn Wolfchase is one of their Flagship locations in the billion-dollar rebranding. Kemmons Wilson built the first Holiday Inn on Summer Ave in Memphis back in 1952.

The feel-good story of legendary Memphis entrepreneur Kemmons Wilson is the backdrop for a new multimillion dollar campaign by Holiday Inn to trumpet a $1 billion investment in the brand.

Holiday Inn officials were at the Wilson family-owned Holiday Inn Memphis-Wolfchase Galleria hotel recently to show off the campaign.

Founded by Kemnmons Wilson, Holiday Inn was a landmark Memphis business, renowned in the 1960s like FedEx Corp. is today. But a British brewer bought the hotel chain nearly a quarter century ago and moved the offices to Atlanta.

The Wilson family, however, has remained at the center of the hospitality industry, owning individual hotels. Now the owner of the chain is leaning on Wilson’s success. The online version of the “Change Your View” campaign touts “The Holiday Inn Story” in which Wilson revolutionized the lodging industry with a chain of roadside, family-friendly motels. The first opened on Summer Avenue on the then-eastern fringe of Memphis in 1952.

Wilson’s sons Kemmons Wilson Jr. and Bob Wilson and grandson McLean Wilson participated in the Wolfchase hotel event.

Holiday Inn last summer led the mid-scale full-service hotel chain category of the J.D. Power 2013 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Study.

The brand relaunch, completed in 2010, focused on guest arrival and welcome experiences, room and bath comfort and a redesigned logo and signs. Other Greater Memphis hotels that benefited from the investment included Holiday Inns at University of Memphis and in West Memphis and Southaven and Holiday Inn Express locations Medical Center, Airport, Southaven, Germantown, Millington, Southwind and Olive Branch.

Holiday Inn owner InterContinental Hotels Group PLC said the company operates 4,653 hotels.

Click here to read the original story on

Fox13 News talks to Kem Wilson, Jr. about Holiday Inn's Change Your View campaign


Take a look at this November 19, 2013 interview in which Kem Wilson, Jr. discusses Holiday Inn’s multimillion-dollar Change Your View campaign, a newly launched effort to remind people what’s special about the company.

Holiday Inn Launches Brand Awareness Campaign

Holiday Inn, the iconic hotel chain that launched in Memphis more than 60 years ago and went on to become an international mega-brand, wants customers to change their view.

That phrase has a literal and figurative connotation. It refers to a new generation of hotel guests becoming acquainted with the storied hospitality brand, and it also refers to Holiday Inn’s multimillion-dollar Change Your View campaign, a newly launched effort to remind people what’s special about the company.

The campaign launched in August with TV commercials, and the company has been stepping it up since then. As part of the effort, Holiday Inn is holding an invite-only, private event Tuesday, Nov. 19, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the company’s Wolfchase Galleria hotel at 2751 New Brunswick Road. The event will include food, drinks and a tour of the property.

Click here to read the full story on

Wilson family members inducted into the Fogelman College Hall of Fame at the University of Memphis


Nov 13, 2013 — Dr. Rajiv Grover (right), Dean of the Fogelman College of Business and Economics, presents Kemmons Wilson Jr. with a medal as Wilson and his father Kemmons Wilson Sr. are inducted into the Fogelman College Hall of Fame at the University of Memphis. Nineteen individuals were honored during the first induction ceremony for the hall.

Read the full story here.

McLean Wilson discusses the Sears Crosstown renovation with The Daily News


Sears Crosstown developers McLean Wilson and Todd Richardson say the “magic is in the mix” for the massive project that aims to unite the community.

Click here to read the story at

Hard at Work on September 24, 1952

Thanks to the Commercial Appeal for this image from September 24, 1952. Pictured are Kemmons Wilson and his mother, Mrs. Ruby Lloyd Wilson preparing for the formal opening of Holiday Inn Hotel Courts on Highway 70.


McLean Wilson Named a 2013 Young Memphian by Greater Memphis Chamber

Kemmons Wilson Inc. congratulates McLean on his being named a 2013 Young Memphian by the Greater Memphis Chamber. The value and dedication McLean brings as Vice President of Kemmons Wilson Inc. and the passion he has to see Memphis reach its full potential makes him a true representation of what it is to be a Young Memphian.


C. Kemmons Wilson, Jr. Honored

On Tuesday, September 17, 2013, special guests and Wilson family members assembled at Presbyterian Day School's field for a ceremony renaming the field "C. Kemmons Wilson, Jr. Field." There ceremony included remarks from Kem's sons, C. Kemmons Wilson III ('88) and McLean Thompson Wilson ('90).



Click here to view larger versions of these images.

Relatives of late Kemmons Wilson donate $500K to children's nonprofit group

kemmons Wilson from CA Article 8-19-13

Source: Memphis Commercial Appeal, August 19, 2013

Heirs of the late Kemmons Wilson, founder of Holiday Inn, have donated $500,000 to “Give Kids The World,” a nonprofit resort in Kissimmee, Fla., that offers dream vacations to children with life-threatening illnesses and their families.

The Wilson family pledge was made in conjunction with their Orlando, Fla.-based company Orange Lake Resorts. The donation will be included in the nonprofit’s five-year $120 million capital expansion and improvement campaign and will be used to help build a new Town Hall facility to broaden hospitality services.

“My family has always had a special place in our hearts for Give Kids The World, which Dad and Mom believed in so strongly,” said Spence Wilson, president of Kemmons Wilson Companies. “It brought them great joy to see families who worked so hard to provide a strong, loving environment for their children as they struggled to overcome illness, gather together in a fun world of their own to renew and strengthen their bonds. In our eyes, these families are heroes and need and deserve the experience this wonderful organization provides. We are excited about the future of GKTW as we and our company make this pledge and continue the support initiated by our parents long ago.”

Added Pamela Landwirth, president of Give Kids The World, “The Kemmons Wilson family indeed has been a loyal supporter of our mission since we welcomed our very first family at the Holiday Inn Main Gate East more than two decades ago, even before our Give Kids The World Village was created in 1987. Since then, GKTW has been able to restore joy and provide hope to more than 122,000 children from around the world. On behalf of all the families who will be able to experience a week of magical memories, we extend our heartfelt gratitude to the Wilson family and Orange Lake Resorts for bringing us one step closer to making our Town Hall possible.”

For more information, visit:

Embassy Suites Deal of the Year Winner: Kemmons Wilson, Jr.

Embassy Suites Deal of the Year Winner: Kemmons Wilson, Jr. – Kemmons Wilson, Inc.
July 22, 2013

*This article is the first in a series to profile each of the 2012 Hilton Worldwide Development Award Winners.

Kemmons Wilson Jr. of Kemmons Wilson, Inc. is proud of his award winning project, the 154-room Embassy Suites hotel located in the heart of downtown Tuscaloosa, AL. The project has personal significance, as Kemmons is a University of Alabama alumnus and serves on the President's Cabinet and the Board of Visitors of the University. "I had witnessed Tuscaloosa and the University grow over the years and concluded that a luxury hotel property would be successful. I knew this hotel would be a ‘game changer' for the city," Kemmons says. They broke ground on the project in May and hope to have it completed in the fall of 2014.

However, there were a few obstacles to overcome before all was said and done. "We have been working on this project for over six years. We answered an RFP from the City of Tuscaloosa some six years ago for a developer to purchase the site and develop a hotel. The RFP was won by another hotel developer, but the project never got off the ground," he says. "We answered a second RFP and were the successful bidder. We then had to negotiate with the city to purchase the site and sought some incentives to make the hotel economically viable."

Location, Location, Location
If you Google a map for Tuscaloosa, the red arrow will be pointing right at the hotel site in the heart of downtown Tuscaloosa. Kemmons says the downtown area is being revitalized and the Embassy Suites is an important catalyst in this movement. "It's a project whose time has come," he says. "With the University of Alabama's enrollment at 32,000 students, an expanding Mercedes Benz plant nearby and several other growing entities, we believe Tuscaloosa is at the ‘tipping tip' for an Embassy Suites."

Partnerships & Perseverance
"We had identified Embassy Suites as the ideal product for this site," Kemmons says. "With the power of Hilton Worldwide and the incredible popularity of Embassy Suites, we feel we have the whole package. The Memphis office and particularly Glenn Goerke were great to work with." Kemmons says he is also proud to have Chris Hastings, winner of the James Beard Chef of the South Award and TV's Celebrity Chef competition, onboard to oversee the fine dining restaurant.
Looking back, Kemmons says he wishes the project could have come to fruition sooner but appreciates the positives that resulted from the delay. He found working with the mayor and city council an enriching experience and that market conditions actually improved during the waiting period. His advice? "Perseverance! We never gave up, even after we lost the first RFP. Delays can be frustrating to a developer, but I'm glad we hung in there!"

Kemmons Wilson Companies #10 on Memphis Business Journals Top 100 Private Companies

The Memphis Business Journal recently released its Top 100 Private Companies, and the Kemmons Wilson Companies made the top ten! Click here to see the list (requires Memphis Business Journal subscription).

Hilton Worldwide Recognizes Top Franchise Development Owners in North America

MCLEAN, Va. - June 13, 2013 - Hilton Worldwide today announced honors for its top annual development awards in North America. Awards are presented in five categories across the company's portfolio of hotels, including: Developer of the Year, Best Conversion, Deal of the Year, Outstanding Achievement and Lifetime Achievement. Recipients are awarded based on criteria ranging from total number and quality of hotels developed to impact on community and fastest construction time.

Read the entire article at

FedEx Family House provides comforts of home

FedEx Family House provides comforts of home

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) - For the last five years, Dana and Bill Defenbaugh have been in and out of Le Bonheur Children's Hospital by their daughter's side.

Nowell, 5, was born premature and given zero chance of survival; she now battles with acute respiratory distress syndrome.

"We don't go home until Nowell goes back home," Dana said.

With the Defenbaughs living two hours away in Mississippi, they are away from home for weeks and months at a time. Lucky for them, and other families in their situation, there is a place just across the street from Le Bonheur that allows them to be near their daughter and still have all the comforts of home: The FedEx Family House (

Click here to read the rest of the story.

Hampton Inn and Suites Lake Mary at Colonial TownPark Earns 2013 TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence

CONTACT: Bryan Waldron
Hampton Inn and Suites Lake Mary


Hampton Inn and Suites Lake Mary at Colonial TownPark Earns 2013 TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence
Honored as a Top Performing Hotel as Reviewed by Travelers on the World’s Largest Travel Site

Lake Mary, FL – 5/21/2013 – The Hampton Inn and Suites Lake Mary at Colonial Town Park today announced that it has received a TripAdvisor® Certificate of Excellence award. The accolade, which honors hospitality excellence, is given only to establishments that consistently achieve outstanding traveler reviews on TripAdvisor, and is extended to qualifying businesses worldwide. Only the top-performing 10 percent of businesses listed on TripAdvisor receive this prestigious award.

To qualify for a Certificate of Excellence, businesses must maintain an overall rating of four or higher, out of a possible five, as reviewed by travelers on TripAdvisor, and must have been listed on TripAdvisor for at least 12 months. Additional criteria include the volume of reviews received within the last 12 months.

“The Hampton Inn and Suites Lake Mary is pleased to receive the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence,” said Mark Plebanski, General Manager at the Hampton Inn and Suites Lake Mary. “We strive to offer our customers a memorable experience, and this accolade is evidence that our hard work is translating into positive reviews on TripAdvisor.”

“TripAdvisor is delighted to celebrate the success of businesses around the globe, from Sydney to Chicago, Sao Paulo to Rome, which are consistently offering TripAdvisor travelers a great customer experience,” said Alison Copus, Vice President of Marketing for TripAdvisor for Business. “The Certificate of Excellence award provides top performing establishments around the world the recognition they deserve, based on feedback from those who matter most – their customers.”
About the Hampton Inn and Suites Lake Mary
The Hampton Inn and Suites Lake Mary at Colonial TownPark is a state-of-the-art Hampton Inn and Suites with 86 guest rooms and 45 suites designed for the business traveler. Amenities include complimentary in-room high-speed Internet service, complimentary On The House™ Hot Breakfast, voicemail and speakerphone, advanced cable TV system, outdoor pool and whirlpool, laundry/valet service, 24-hour "Suite Shop," fitness facility, fax and photocopy services, meeting facilities and more. It is conveniently located in the Colonial TownPark, a 175 acre mixed-use park (upscale retail shops, movie theater, numerous restaurants, corporate office park) and offers easy access to all that Central Florida has to offer.

About TripAdvisor
TripAdvisor is the world's largest travel site*, enabling travelers to plan and have the perfect trip. TripAdvisor offers trusted advice from real travelers and a wide variety of travel choices and planning features with seamless links to booking tools. TripAdvisor branded sites make up the largest travel community in the world, with more than 200 million unique monthly visitors**, and over 100 million reviews and opinions. The sites operate in 30 countries worldwide, including China under TripAdvisor also includes TripAdvisor for Business, a dedicated division that provides the tourism industry access to millions of monthly TripAdvisor visitors.

©2013 TripAdvisor, Inc. All rights reserved.

Tuscaloosa officials, developer break ground at $31M downtown Embassy Suites hotel


Source:, May 06, 2013

Tuscaloosa officials, developer break ground at $31M downtown Embassy Suites hotel

TUSCALOOSA, Alabama -- Representatives from Memphis, Tenn.-based developer Kemmons Wilson Cos. and city officials celebrated the groundbreaking for the $31 million downtown Embassy Suites Monday morning.

The construction of a full-service hotel at the corner of University Boulevard and Greensboro Avenue, known as the the CityFest lot, has been the aim of the city for three decades. Six years after the city received a proposal from Kemmons Wilson Cos. for a hotel at the site, work is set to begin with a completion goal of fall 2014.

Two weeks ago, the city and the developer closed a $1.855 million deal for the former parking lot after the Tuscaloosa City Council ratified an amendment to economic incentives for the project in the form of tax rebates totaling $4.89 million or 10 years of those rebates.
The plans for the eight-story hotel call for 154 suites, a fine dining restaurant operated by Hot & Hot Fish Club owner Chris Hastings, thousands of square feet of meeting space, private dining rooms, a lounge and an indoor pool and fitness center. The project will spur 125 construction jobs and 57 full-time jobs once operational.

C. Kemmons Wilson Jr., principal of Kemmons Wilson Cos., said he at times wondered if he would get to the day of the groundbreaking of the hotel, but that City Hall had the resolve to see the project through.

"Tuscaloosa is at the tipping point and is poised to take off like a rocket ship," Wilson said. "We'll all look back on this day and remember this hotel development served as a catalyst that spring-boarded this city into greater heights."

He credited the city leaders' vision and passion for making the hotel move forward.

"A project of this sort has to be a public-private endeavor," Wilson said. "It couldn't happen any other way."

Wilson said his company will work with the city, local businesses, the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama and the Tuscaloosa Tourism and Sports Commission, and will need the community's help in making the downtown Embassy Suites a landmark.

Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox said he thought while walking to the future site of the hotel about the strides downtown has made in the eight years since he became mayor.

"This project is going to be the type of bold initiative that when we came into office in 2005 we talked about," Maddox said. "We talked about being unconventional, we talked about questioning the status quo, we talked about transforming the winds of change through this downtown. This project further signifies that."

Maddox said that this is an "extraordinary" time in the city's history, and that the downtown hotel gives the city a new anchor from which it can build momentum in the area.

"This is not a city project or a downtown project or a university project," Maddox said. "This is our city, this is our project and and we look forward to an unbelievable future."

"I appreciate the patience that our city leaders have exercised in waiting for the right project to come along, and this is it," Nunnally said. "The Kemmons Wilson group has shown us, through their ability to negotiate in good faith and bring forward a project that this entire community can all be proud of, that we've made the right decision."

University of Alabama Chancellor Robert Witt said he knew the hotel deal would come through because of Wilson, a UA graduate who has served on the board of
visitors and president's cabinet and co-chaired a $612 million capital campaign that concluded in 2009.

"I knew that with Kem Wilson's leadership that this project will be a success," Witt said.

The Embassy Suites in downtown Tuscaloosa, selected by Hilton Worldwide as the Embassy Suites project of the year for 2012, will be the fourth in Alabama. There are currently 220 hotels under that brand in the country.

Susan West, CEO of Tuscaloosa Tourism and Sports Commission, said the hotel will provide visitors a new opportunity to visit within walking distance all of downtown Tuscaloosa including the amphitheater, galleries, restaurants and other destinations.

The university's Office of Archaeological Research is putting together a report of their survey conducted earlier this year at the site, where they found currency from foreign countries, more information on a Civil War prisoner of war camp located there and some details on a a former house built for the first mayor of the city, Maddox said.

"I think the thing that really struck me is that when this city was first constructed, this corner was considered the heart of commerce for the community," Maddox said. "Now 200 years later, it's still the heart of commerce for our community."

The city is replacing parking spots at the former free lot in a new 100-space lot just north of the site and at the old farmer's market. There are also plans to acquire a parking lot near First Baptist Church and to look into a possible valet service downtown, Maddox said.

The new hotel will add thousands of square feet of convention space and offers the opportunity to expand the Bryant Conference Center, Maddox said. He said the city will partner with the university on a feasibility study for that project.

"Without a doubt, this is a gamechanger project for downtown Tuscaloosa with a transformational effect -- really lifting our downtown from good to great," Maddox said.

Additional coverage of the Embassy Suites Tuscaloosa ground breaking

Kemmons Wilson School Students placed first at the Annual Hospitality Entrepreneurship Summit!!

(Left to right) Zachary Lewis, Ankur Sharma, Dr. Leonard Jackson, Associate Professor Suzanne Reese, Mellissa Smith. All students will graduate in 2013 from the University of Memphis, Kemmons Wilson School of Hospitality and Resort Management.

Kemmons Wilson School Students placed first at the Annual Hospitality Entrepreneurship Summit!!

A team of students from the Kemmons Wilson School (KWS) placed first at the annual Hospitality Entrepreneurial Summit! This was the second time in three years that a team from the Kemmons Wilson School won the competition (the KWS did not participate last year). The summit was held at the University of Delaware and was sponsored by Marriott International, McDonalds Restaurants and ARAMARK. Over 200 students from twelve universities and twelve high schools participated. The summit focused on hospitality business ownership and featured leading hospitality entrepreneurs and hotel and restaurant development executives. The keynote speaker at the event was Sheila Johnson, CEO and owner of Salamander Hotels & Resorts-a portfolio of luxury hotels and spa & golf resorts. Ms. Johnson also has ownership interests in ProJet Aviation, the NBA’s Washington Wizards, the NHL’s Washington Capitals and is the President and Managing Partner of the WNBA’s Washington Mystics.

The team from the University of Memphis won the award for the best business plan in the College & University category. The team’s business plan featured a restaurant concept, SPRIGG, which incorporated “Urban fusion”, sustainability and use of fresh herbs grown onsite. The concept promotes healthy living/eating in an unobtrusive manner. The KWS team comprised: Suzanne Reese, Zachary Lewis, Mellissa Smith, Ankur Sharma and Ryan Metzler. Dr. Leonard Jackson selected and coached the team. He noted that, “It is important that our students attend these conferences since they are exposed to the ownership side of the industry. Winning these competitions definitely improves the profile of the Kemmons Wilson School and the University of Memphis.” The first place prize included a cash award of $2,500.

The Southwest Hospitality Management Society Prepares a Meal for St. Jude Kids


The Southwest Hospitality Management Society (HMS), comprised of students in the Hotel Management, Food and Beverage Management and Culinary Arts programs, teamed up with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital’s Grizzlies House to provide dinner for families and patients recently. This was the first time Southwest students worked together on such an event. It was an amazing opportunity to put their classroom learning into action – and an equally amazing opportunity to give back to the community.

Some of the students, along with Chef Steven Leake, prepared a delicious Asian-themed meal. The menu featured a Pacific Rim salad tossed in an Oriental Vinaigrette, grilled teriyaki chicken served with Lo Mein noodles, stir fry vegetables, and an Apple Wonton Bundle, with Chef Leake’s famous homemade caramel sauce. Other students, along with Lead Faculty for Hotel Management Margie Coltharp, served the meal to patients and family members and offered Asian-themed arts and crafts to entertain the kids – all while the movie Kung Fu Panda played on the TV.

The HMS students spent many hours planning this event and their efforts paid off. It was a fun-filled night with good food, laughter and lots of fun. A good time was had by all and plans are already in the works for a return visit to the Grizzlies House!

View the Hospitality Management Society Photo Gallery

Governor, First Lady visit with Le Bonheur families

Source: 4/13/13


Governor Bill Haslam and First Lady Crissy Haslam visited the FedEx Family House for their first time Saturday evening before heading to the facility's fundraising gala.

"One of the cool things about being governor is all over the state you see things like this and you walk away incredibly proud of Tennesseans and companies that are based here that kind of go that extra mile to make other people feel comfortable in hard times," says Gov. Haslam.

The FedEx Family House becomes a home away from home for hundreds of families during the year whose children are being treated at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital. Gov. Haslam says they didn't miss a thing when providing comfort and quality to families staying there.

The Haslams visited with some of those families, including Bill and Dana Defenbaugh, who have been living at the Fed Ex Family House for nearly nine months as their five-year-old daughter receives treatment for an infection.

"One of us can stay here and get a good night sleep while the other one is there with her so she won't ever be alone," says Bill. Dana adds, "We can wash clothes and have a good home cooked meal."

The Defenbaughs says the Haslams were eager to hear about their daughter and even asked to see pictures of her.

Since is opened in 2010, more than 7,000 families have stayed at the FedEx Family House free of charge. The facility depends entirely on donations and volunteers to make it what it is today.

Home2 Suites celebrates the new Home2 Inspired breakfast bar at the Memphis Grizzlies House


Home2 Suites by Hilton celebrated the unveiling of the Home2 Inspired breakfast bar at the Memphis Grizzlies House part of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. (Photo ID from left to right): Emily Greer, Chief of Staff - ALSAC/St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital; Bill Duncan, Global Head of Brand Management-Home2 Suites by Hilton; Brad Freet, Senior Director of Product Quality & Innovation Focused Service Brands for Hilton Worldwide; C. Kemmons Wilson Jr., President and Chairman of the Board for Wilson Hotel Management; Brent Adams, Director Domiciliary Care/St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital; and James M. O’Brien, Executive Vice President of Wilson Hotel Management Company, Inc.

Holiday Inn Middle East: Father figure covers Spence Wilson's tour of the Middle East, where seven hotels are planned to open within several years.


Journalist covers Holiday Inn for Spanish newspaper El Mundo

Our friend Isabel García Martín, whom we met when she stayed at our Holiday Inn & Suites Memphis Wolfchase Galleria, has a couple of great articles about Holiday Inn in the Spanish newspaper El Mundo. If you speak Spanish, take a look here and here.

Stars perform at the FedExFamilyHouse for families of the children at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital


On Dec. 6, 2012, international recording artist Jimi Jamison (left) of Survivor, and formerly of Target and Cobra, and multi-talented friends, Steve Cobb and Niko Lyras, donated their time and talents to perform at The FedEx Family House for the families of the children at Le Bonheur. Jim Gorman, vice president of FedEx Flight Standards and Training, held the all-management meeting at the beautiful facility in the afternoon followed with the amazing concert and delicious dinner from Central Barbeque provided for the family members residing there. Gwen Smith with FedEx Flight Simulator Support and Bridgett Askew with The FedEx Family House coordinated the event.

The San Diego Air & Space Museum Honors its "Class of 2012"

On November 17, 2012, the San Diego Air & Space Museum honored national and international air & space legends at its 49th Hall of Fame Induction Celebration. Each honoree was selected for their historic contributions to aviation, space or aerospace innovation. Our own Bob Wilson was among those honored. Click here for the full story.


I Choose Memphis: McLean Wilson

Check out the nice "Q and A" with McLean Wilson by the Commercial Appeal here.

Holiday Inn & Suites Memphis Wolfchase Galleria wins top industry award covers Holiday Inn & Suites Memphis Wolfchase Galleria's win of a top industry award - IHG's 2012 Torchbearer Award. Read the full story here.

Holiday Inn Express & Suites Park Place Jackson Wins IHG 2012 Newcomer Award covers Holiday Inn Express & Suites Park Place Jackson's win of the IHG 2012 Newcomer Award here.

Holiday Inn founding family reflect on past and look to future in Middle East and India

The founding family of Holiday Inn have just rounded up a whistle-stop visit to the region, helping to commemorate the 60th anniversary of one of the world's most successful hotel brands. The family of founder Kemmons Wilson paid a visit to the UAE, Kuwait and India on their two week tour which paid homage to the brand's 35-year history in the region, as well as its promising future. Click here for the full story on

Sears Crosstown’s new life: vertical urban village

The Sears Crosstown building has been vacant for years, but a team of developers is working to bring the 1.5 million-square-foot building back to life. McLean Wilson, vice president of Kemmons Wilson Cos., leads the development and consulting team of Crosstown LLC with Todd Richardson, a University of Memphis assistant professor. Read the full story here, posted by the Memphis Business Journal on 11/23/12.

Spence Wilson attends Crowne Plaza Kuwait 30th anniversary celebration

Crowne Plaza Kuwait celebrated its 30th anniversary recently, having opened in 1982 as the Holiday Inn Kuwait - one of the first Holiday Inn hotels in the Middle East. Joining the commemoration of this milestone was Spence Wilson, son of Kemmons Wilson, and his wife Becky. covers the story here.

Bob Wilson inducted into the Air & Space Hall of Fame as an Air Pioneer

On Saturday, November 15, 2012, our very own Bob Wilson inducted into the Air & Space Hall of Fame as an Air Pioneer. has full coverage.

The Fogelman College of Business and Economics at the U of M Top 100 ranking

Kemmons Wilson, Jr. receives Outstanding Philanthropist Crystal Award

The 2012 "Outstanding Philanthropist" Crystal Award was bestowed on Kemmons Wilson, Jr. on Nov. 15, National Philanthropy Day. has the full story here.

Spence Wilson talks about IHG's plans to open new hotels in the Middle East

Spence Wilson is quoted in this Trade Arabia News Service article about IHG's plans to open new hotels in the Middle East.

U of M business college honors alumni, local entrepreneurs

Posted November 13, 2012 to


The Fogelman College of Business and Economics hosted its annual alumni appreciation luncheon on Tuesday, celebrating some of the school's most distinguished graduates and honoring a longtime supporter.

At the program, held at the Holiday Inn at the University of Memphis, Kemmons Wilson Jr. was recognized for his years of patronage to the college. Son of the founder of the Holiday Inn hotel chain, Wilson is an entrepreneur and has done much to promote FCBE, said Dr. Rajiv Grover, dean of FCBE.

Click here to read the full story on commercial

Holiday Inn Express & Suites Park Place Jackson Wins IHG 2012 Newcomer Award


Holiday Inn Express & Suites Park Place Jackson Wins IHG 2012 Newcomer Award

ATLANTA (Oct. 24, 2012) -- The Holiday Inn Express & Suites Park Place Jackson received the IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group) 2012 Newcomer Award as one of the best properties to join the system within the last year as either a new development or a conversion property.

The hotel was recognized during the 2012 IHG Americas Investors & Leadership Conference in Orlando, FL, Oct. 24-26, 2012. As one of 26 hotels selected for the award, the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Park Place Jackson had to meet the highest standards of quality and customer service.

“We are extremely proud to have the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Park Place Jackson join our IHG brand family,” said Kirk Kinsell, President, the Americas, IHG. “We look forward to strengthening our relationship with Wilson Hotel Management Company, Inc. as they have clearly made the guest experience a top priority when visiting this new property.”

“We thank our talented and hard-working hotel staff and our many loyal customers as well. We are thrilled to be recognized with IHG’s 2012 Newcomer Award,” said Jim O’Brien, Executive Vice President of Wilson Hotel Management Company, Inc., the firm which proudly manages the property.

Nearly 5,000 franchise owners, operators and company officials attended the 2012 IHG Americas Investors & Leadership Conference.

Holiday Inn & Suites Memphis Wolfchase Galleria Wins IHG 2012 Torchbearer Award


Holiday Inn & Suites Memphis Wolfchase Galleria Wins IHG 2012 Torchbearer Award

ATLANTA (Oct. 24, 2012) – The Holiday Inn & Suites Memphis Wolfchase Galleria received the IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group) 2012 Torchbearer Award, the company's most prestigious award.

The Torchbearer Award was presented during the 2012 IHG Americas Investors & Leadership Conference in Orlando, Florida, Oct. 24–26, 2012.

The Holiday Inn & Suites Memphis Wolfchase Galleria is one of only 102 properties within the Americas chosen from the IHG system of more than 4,500 hotels for achieving the highest levels of excellence in all aspects of operation -- from quality to customer satisfaction. A 2012 Torchbearer trophy, the company's symbol of excellence, will be on permanent display at the hotel.

"It is my pleasure to name the Holiday Inn & Suites Memphis Wolfchase Galleria as one of the top-notch hotels in our industry," said Kirk Kinsell, President, the Americas, IHG. "This hotel embodies the heart of our brand promise and continues to make IHG properties known and admired throughout the world, continuing our mission to deliver Great Hotels Guests Love."

“We’re honored to receive the IHG 2012 Torchbearer Award. We will continue to strive for excellence in every endeavor at Holiday Inn & Suites Memphis Wolfchase Galleria,” said Jim O’Brien, Executive Vice President of Wilson Hotel Management Company, Inc., the firm which proudly manages the property.

Nearly 5,000 franchise owners, operators and company officials attended the 2012 IHG Americas Investors & Leadership Conference.

Memphis Grizzlies’ ownership group grows

The Monday, November 5, 2012 edition of the Memphis Business Journal includes a story on the newly announced Memphis Grizzlies owner group, which includes Spence Wilson, C. Kemmons Wilson Jr. and Robert Wilson of Kemmons Wilson Cos. Read the full story here.

Kemmons Wilson Family receives Hospitality Heritage Award


Kemmons Wilson Family receives Hospitality Heritage Award

Posted 29 October 2012 on

Washington, D.C. -- The American Hotel & Lodging Educational Foundation (AH&LEF) presented members of the Kemmons Wilson family with the Hospitality Heritage Award on October 23, in Orlando. Considered one of the lodging industry’s most prestigious honors, the award acknowledges the family’s remarkable leadership and commitment to the hospitality industry and their community involvement.

Accepting the award on behalf of the family was McLean Wilson; Spence Wilson, Bob Wilson, Spence Wilson, Jr., and Kemmons Wilson, Jr., were also in attendance

Wilson stands as one of the past century’s most noteworthy innovators. In 1952, the first Holiday Inn was built in Memphis, Tennessee due to a personal quest out of frustration from his own family vacations. From Memphis to Washington, D.C., Wilson was increasingly annoyed by the random rules he encountered at the motels along the way, and so he resolved to build his own hotel chain. By 1959, Holiday Inn had 100 properties that were providing standardized hotel services to America’s open-road travelers, and by the 1970s, Holiday Inn had reached across oceans.

Wilson left a living legacy with the creation of the Kemmons Wilson School of Hospitality and Resort Management at the University of Memphis. Additionally, the Kemmons Wilson Family Foundation is a family-run foundation that honors the legacy of giving established by Kemmons and Dorothy Wilson. Giving categories include community service and outreach, empowerment of youth, enrichment of education, faith-based ministries, and health and research-related organizations. “In my opinion, Kemmons Wilson is the industry’s most notable innovator and visionary,” said AH&LA President and CEO Joseph A. McInerney, CHA. “He lined America’s new highways with welcome mats, which had an enormous impact on our industry. We are pleased to honor this industry icon with our most distinguished award.”

The Kemmons Wilson family is the 10th recipient of the Hospitality Heritage Award. Past recipients include JW Marriott, Barron Hilton, the Tisch family, and the Carlson family.

AH&LEF is the charitable fund-raising and endowed fund-management subsidiary of the American Hotel & Lodging Association. Founded in 1953, AH&LEF is the premier organization for scholarships, professional certification, and instructional material as well as funding for hospitality industry research. For more information, visit
Serving the hospitality industry for more than a century, AH&LA is the sole national association representing all sectors and stakeholders in the lodging industry, including individual hotel property members, hotel companies, student and faculty members, and industry suppliers. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., AH&LA provides members with national advocacy on Capitol Hill, public relations and image management, education, research and information, and other value-added services to provide bottom-line savings and ensure a positive business climate for the lodging industry. Partner state associations provide local representation and additional cost-saving benefits to members.

Hotel plan for downtown Tuscaloosa advances


Published: Tuesday, October 16, 2012 on

"The city's three-decade attempt to lure a major business-class hotel to the downtown area took a major step forward Monday night when the Tuscaloosa Planning Commission approved the developer's plans for a $27 million Embassy Suites.

The commission voted 8-0 to recommend the plan to the City Council, which will have final say on the development by Kemmons Wilson Inc. of Memphis, Tenn."

Click here to read the full story.

Go Jim Go: FedExFamilyHouse

In the shadows of Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, the building that displays a giant heart, is a home away from home that beats the same way for families such as Glenda Voight.

Voight said, “My son had a liver transplant.”

Voight has traveled 500 miles from Churchill, Tennessee to have her 15-year-old son, Skyler Varner, cared for by doctors and nurses at Le Bonheur in Memphis.

What makes her son’s operation less stressful for her is that she’s able to stay right across the street from Le Bonheur at the FedExFamilyHouse on Poplar near Ayers, “I think it’s peaceful for parents who are stressed out and what they’re going through and I really think it’s exceptional and the staff here is wonderful and it’s a beautiful place.”

Read the rest of the story on

A Chef's Life: Our Own Chef Edward's New Book Retraces His Journey from Poland to U.S.

The September 19, 2012 edition of Memphis Commercial Appeal has a great article on Chef Edward Nowakowski's new book, "Brush with the Edge of Time and Profession." Click here to see the article.


Tuscaloosa City Council approves deal for upscale downtown hotel

"…the [Tuscaloosa] City Council on Tuesday ended almost three decades of work toward luring an upscale hotel to downtown."

"The vote to sell the 2.02-acre tract commonly known as the CityFest lot to Kemmons Wilson Inc. of Memphis, Tenn., for $1.855 million was unanimous."

Click here for the full story on

Downtown Tuscaloosa, AL hotel deal moves near completion

"All that’s needed is a final vote of the City Council and the deal for a new downtown hotel will be complete."

"The council’s Public Projects Committee on Tuesday gave its resounding approval to an agreement with Wilson Hotel Management Group that will bring a $27 million Embassy Suites hotel to the area commonly known as the CityFest lot."

Click here for the complete story on

Coverage of the 60th anniversary of Holiday Inns

The Wilson children, then and now!

Historical Marker for the first Holiday Inn

Official Holiday 60th Anniversary Video

The Holiday Inn chain that started in Memphis turns 60 years old
By Andy Meek
The Daily News
August 9, 2012

Personal History: Holiday Inn at the Beginning
by Ted Roberts
PDF download

Holiday Inn Celebrates 60 Years of Firsts
August 2, 2012

'HI' fives all around as America's innkeeper turns 60
By Wayne Risher
Commercial Appeal;
August 1, 2012

Holiday Inn celebrates its 60th anniversary
By Nancy Trejos
USA Today
August 1, 2012

Media Gallery: Holiday Inn turns 60
USA Today
August 1, 2012

How Holiday Inn Changed the Way We Travel
By Victor Luckerson
August 1, 2012

The World’s Nine Most Interesting Hotel Rooms
By Victor Luckerson
August 1, 2012

Today marks 60-year anniversary for Holiday Inn
By Michael Sheffield
Memphis Business Journal
August 1, 2012

Holiday Inn celebrates its 60th anniversary with ribbon-cutting ceremony and social media sweepstakes
By Elliott Mest
Hotel Management
August 1, 2012

Happy birthday, Holiday Inn
By Andy Meek
Memphis Daily News
August 1, 2012

Holiday Inn uses social media to celebrate 60
By Jeff Weinsten
August 1, 2012

Holiday Inn celebrates 60th anniversary
By Mark Caswell
Business Traveller
August 1, 2012

Holiday Inn Celebrates its 60th Anniversary Around the World
By Ozgur Tore
Focus on Travel News
August 1, 2012

Holiday Inn “Celebrates First” – Enter to Win 1 of 60 FREE Room Nights Per Day
Win With Jinxy
August 1, 2012

Contest: Holiday Inn Hotels Offer 60 Free Night Stays
Celebrity Parents Magazine
August 1, 2012

Tia Mowry celebrates American Icon’s 60th birthday
August 1, 2012

Holiday Inn Hotels Celebrates 60 Years of Firsts
The Financial
August 1, 2012

Holiday Inn: Win Free Night Stay Worldwide- Up to 60 Winners Daily in August #celebratefirsts
Bargain Briana
August 1, 2012

USA Today Syndication

Courier-Journal Syndication

New Kemmons Wilson School of Hospitality director to improve enrollment, placement

From the July 27, 2012 edition of the Memphis Business Journal.

Screen Shot 2012-07-30 at 1.34.28 PM

Chefs feed Le Bonheur

Click here to download a PDF of this article.


FedExFamilyHouse Awarded LEED® Building Certification

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FedExFamilyHouse Awarded LEED® Building Certification
$15,000 USGBC/MLGW incentive awarded to Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital’s
home-away-from-home for sustainable features

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – FedExFamilyHouse has been awarded LEED® Gold certification, established by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and verified by the Green Building Certification Institute. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the nation’s preeminent program for the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings. FedExFamilyHouse, 33,850 square feet, is one of the country’s first pediatric residences to be awarded LEED certification.
Through achieving LEED Gold certification and the required points in the Energy, Atmosphere and Water Efficiency categories, FedExFamilyHouse qualified to receive a $15,000 award from the Memphis Regional Chapter of the USGBC. The award was funded by a 2008 grant from Memphis Light, Gas and Water to encourage and recognize businesses and organizations that achieve LEED Certification with extra emphasis on energy and water measures. By showcasing leading facilities, the grant creates awareness and rewards organizations that exhibit commitment to energy efficiency, indoor air quality and the environment through LEED’s green building practices.
FedExFamilyHouse received recognition for its sustainable building process and features, including:

• Significant reductions in energy use (23 percent) and water use (44 percent)
• Access to various forms of public transportation
• Recycling stations in common areas
• 44 percent water use reduction
• 24 percent energy use reduction
• 76 percent of construction waste was recycled, therefore diverted from landfills
• 32 percent of materials used were manufactured regionally, within 500 miles
• Views to the outdoors are provided for 98 percent of all regularly occupied spaces
• 70 percent of the building’s electricity comes from renewable sources
• Use of low-emitting materials (adhesives, sealants, paints, coatings, and flooring systems)
• Reused Brownfield site as part of Legends Park development
• Reduced heat island effect through site landscaping and shading and limiting asphalt
• 26 percent of the material content is recycled
• 5.3 percent of materials used were made of rapidly renewable materials
• Building occupants are allowed to control light levels and temperature to create a more comfortable indoor environment

The award will be presented to representatives from Le Bonheur Children’s and FedExFamilyHouse by MLGW and USGBC Memphis Regional Chapter:

Thursday, June 28
6 – 8 p.m.
918 Poplar Ave

“During the design phase and now in our operations, sustainability has always been a focus at FedExFamilyHouse,” said Le Bonheur Vice President of Facilities Dave Rosenbaum. “We want to thank USGBC and MLGW for their recognition of sustainable projects in Memphis. This award will be used to continue our missing of providing a respite for families of children being cared for at Le Bonheur.”

FedExFamilyHouse’s project team included:

Architect: Looney Ricks Kiss
Sustainability Consultant: Looney Ricks Kiss
Structural Engineer: Structural Design Group
Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing (MEP) Engineer: OGCB Inc.
Commissioning Agent: OGCB Inc.
Contractor: Montgomery Martin
Civil Engineer: Tetra Tech
Landscape Architect: Kersey Wike & Associates

Previous recipients of the USGBC/MLGW award are: iBank, Germantown, 2009; Big River Engineering and Manufacturing, Memphis, 2010; Court Square Annex, Memphis, 2011; and Methodist Le Bonheur Germantown, 2011. The FedExFamilyHouse award completes the original $75,000 grant.

About USGBC Memphis Regional Chapter
Established in 2005, the Memphis Regional Chapter of the USGBC is a nonprofit 501c3 membership-based organization that promotes green building in Memphis and its surrounding areas through advocacy and education. Originally founded by a few dedicated individuals, we have grown to become a regional catalyst for the acceptance and adoption of green building practices, technologies, ideas, and standards. Membership in the Memphis USGBC chapter is open to anyone who has a passion for green building and sustainable living. To learn more, visit, like us on Facebook,, or follow us on Twitter at

About LEED
The U.S. Green Building Council's LEED green building certification system is the foremost program for the design, construction and operation of green buildings. Over 100,000 projects are currently participating in the LEED rating systems, comprising over 8 billion square feet of construction space in all 50 states and 114 countries. By using less energy, LEED-certified buildings save money for families, businesses and taxpayers; reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and contribute to a healthier environment for residents, workers and the larger community.

USGBC was co-founded by current President and CEO Rick Fedrizzi, who spent 25 years as a Fortune 500 executive. Under his 15-year leadership, the organization has become the preeminent green building, membership, policy, standards, influential, education and research organization in the nation.
For more information, visit

About FedExFamilyHouse
FedExFamilyHouse is a home-away-from-home for families of children receiving treatment at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tenn. Consisting of 24 suites and a variety of comfortable common areas, FedExFamilyHouse is provided at no cost to families. It is Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design (LEED) Gold certified. For more information, visit, like us on Facebook, or call (901) 347-6462.

About Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital
Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., treats more than 200,000 children each year in a 255-bed hospital that features state-of-the-art technology and family-friendly resources. Nationally recognized, Le Bonheur is ranked by U.S. News & World Report as a Best Children’s Hospital. Serving as a primary teaching affiliate for the University Tennessee Health Science Center, the hospital trains more pediatricians than any other hospital in the state. For more information, please call (901) 287-6030 or visit Follow us on Twitter at or friend us at Facebook at

Latest news on Embassy Suites at CityFest site in Tuscaloosa has the full story here.


FedExFamilyHouse provides comfort for Le Bonheur patients and their families

The June 14, 2012 edition of the Memphis Daily News has a great article on FedExFamilyHouse.

"So far this year, FedExFamilyHouse has served as a home away from home for more than 800 families whose children have received treatment at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis.

Last year, the facility at 918 Poplar Ave. – located a short walking distance from the hospital – brought comfort to more than 4,000 individuals, including pediatric patients and their parents, grandparents and siblings.

The patients – who are typically newborns through age 6 – have traveled to Memphis from 26 states, as well as Kosovo, Ghana and China, to be treated for a variety of conditions, from brain tumors to congenital heart problems to orthopedic issues."

Click here to read the rest of the story.

Kemmons Wilson Recipient of 2012 Hospitality Technology Award of Merit

Austin, Texas (June 1, 2012) — Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals (HFTP) is proud to announce the Hon. Sir Michael Kadoorie, Warren Markwart and Kemmons Wilson as the 2012 Hospitality Technology Award of Merit recipients. The award, presented every five years, recognizes individuals who have made a significant innovation or breakthrough that established a path for others in hospitality technology. Recipients were nominated and chosen by a committee of inductees to the HFTP International Hospitality Technology Hall of Fame, a group of industry professionals who have already been recognized for their influence on the industry.

Get the full story here.