30 °C Manila, PH
1st December 2023

What Powers the Powerhouse?


Behind the success of every billion-peso revenue of energy producers are support services such as hotel and F&B. Far East Hotel unveils the basics of operating a hospitality business for the energy sector.


Steve Tamayo

What is the common thread that binds power producers and hospitality services? The immediate answer that would pop into every man’s mind is that power producers provide the energy required by hotels to operate their facilities. Correct. But that is not the answer that will get this article going.


In the battle of machine versus humans, it is always the creator and controller that wins. Same goes for the human aspect in energy services. For institutions like the 1,218-megawatt Team Sual Corporation in Sual, Pangasinan, the hospitality segment is a little asset with a big role in the value chain; it supports the people who make all things possible inside a powerhouse.


Meet Far East Hotel Management and Consultancy, Inc., one of the firms that operate in this lesser known world. Far East is the accommodation segment of the Tamayo’s Group of Companies.


In 2002, Sebastian “Steve” Tamayo was invited by its catering client, Sual, to propose in a bidding for a management company which would operate the power plant’s accommodation facility. Tamayo’s catering at that time was growing but he had no business segment that specializes in institutional hotel management.


He eventually built Far East, confident that his past stints as a hotelier in Heritage Hotel, Hyatt, Kuwait International Hotel, and Le Meridien Hotel – Kuwait and the catering brand he carried would be his edge. Both pluses reaped him Sual. Ten years later, Quezon Power Plant in Mauban, Quezon, Team Pagbilao Power Station in Pagbilao, Quezon, and Cal Energy Casecnan in Pantabangan, Nueva Ecija were added in his portfolio.

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Like any developer-operator model, institutional hotels in power plants are already pre-built and oftentimes with pre-existing design, furniture, and facilities such as a pool and sauna. As management, Tamayo is in-charge with housekeeping, maintenance, F&B operations, landscaping, and minimal procurement.


The establishment’s operations are not entirely dissimilar with a regular business or leisure hotel. The difference only is that instead of walk-ins and strangers checking-in, Far East’s hotels exclusively cater to its principal’s employees, their family members, and company visitors. And this implies a lot of subsequent deviations from one’s regular hotel experience.




The complaints many long-staying people have with hotels—whether luxury or economy—is that breakfast is almost always purely the same the next day and the days after tomorrow. But in all fairness, hotels do not need to do an overhaul of its menu on a daily or weekly basis because guests normally and relatively stay for a short while.


This compared to Far East’s guests. Food is an institutional hotel’s topmost concern. Visitors and family members stay for days and weeks. Employees stay for years!


“I feed the same people. If you do not know how to plan your menu, people will grow tired of eating the same thing!” said Tamayo in Filipino. On top of the threat of growing distaste for eating the same food every day, the power plant scrutinizes the nutritional components of what employees eat.

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Did you know?
Far East accepts five to ten on-the-job trainees at a time. Tamayo’s company offers an interesting glimpse to operations of an institutional hotel management, a broader perspective of what the industry is really comprised of.


The honcho’s solution is a mixture of layered planning and gimmicks. Tamayo said he proposes a plan divided into dishes that would be changed every week, month, and quarter of the year. He invites guest chefs to plan the menu. To add spice the dining experience, the hotel regularly organizes a barbeque night and other similar gimmicks.


Tamayo ensures the nutritional contents of each dish. His company has its own dietician for this area and places the nutritional facts near food labels.


Far East needs to do all of this within the budget provided by the power plant. All income comes from the institution, and housed employees and guests will not bring out a single cent to be “pampered”, said Tamayo.




Another implication of having such a market is a stricter assurance of good service delivery.


“A challenge is familiarization,” said Tamayo, referring to the about-1,000 hotel employees under the threat of growing lax because of their emerging relationships with power plant workers. “I always tell my people that although we serve the same people, they must not ever forget that we are a service provider to maintain quality service.”


Guest profile


Steve Tamayo climbed from the bottom of the hospitality career ladder to build his own group of companies. The success of Tamayo’s Catering led to other hospitality-related businesses: Far East Hotel Management and Consultancy, Inc., EZ Cakes and Pastries, and DreamBlooms Flower Shop. Among all businesses, much of the conglomerate’s revenue comes from Tamayo’s Catering and Far East.
On a side note, he noticed that guests in institutional hotels are less demanding than in mainstream resorts or hotels might be due to dominant sense of “free lunch”.

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But even power plant hotels have their lean and peak season. Normally, occupancy is strongest during weekdays when employees are inside the facility and visit families during the weekend. Occupancy rate picks up during vacation time such as Holy Week and even Christmas when families go to the power plant.


Although this seasonality doesn’t worry marketing—if there is such a department. The institution pays for all costs and there’s no apparent pressure from the developer for a concrete ROI. The ROI is in the overall energy production. As conventional human resource wisdom says, a happy employee is a good employee.




Organization and training


No special divide exists in the organizational setups between Far East and a non-institutional hospitality business. One still finds a general and resident manager and corresponding supervisors and staff in each property.


To ensure quality service, Tamayo said he is very keen on employee training in Far East. Currently, Tamayo is devising a refresher course for his housekeeping staff, wherein participants get to train in Manila’s top hotels for about five days per property.




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