During the March episode of the CEO Podcast, Washington Hospitality Association President & CEO Anthony Anton chatted with Lex Nepomuceno, the senior director of communications for the association. 

For those who don’t know, Lex co-founded Jet City Pizza and Garlic Jim’s Famous Gourmet Pizza in the early 2000s, before he became the communications director at AWB. He’s been with the Washington Hospitality Association for about 12 years. 

His team of communications professionals is turning out content that delivers you a return on your investment. Anthony and Lex talk about that content and how you, as members, can benefit from it. 

The goal of the communications department is to deliver moments of $500 value to each of our members. 

“We have an editorial committee made up of members from all parts of the industry and we meet every quarter,” Lex said. “One of our regular tasks is creating the definitions.” 

The editorial committee tells Lex how much money they have paid to get wage information, the information included in a webinar, or the value of a toolkit based on how much time a member saved finding a lot of related information in one place. 

In the last fiscal year, Lex said the communications department delivered 33,000 wins to members. A win is $500, and in value, that’s more than $16.5 million. 

“That’s six or seven times their dues value,” Anthony said. “That’s why I want to make sure people take advantage of it.” 


“Resources are a big part of what we do,” Lex said. 

All members should have already received a complimentary labor poster that our graphic designer, Lisa Ellefson, designs every year. Some companies charge $100 or more every year for a similar product. Labor posters include the government notices you are legally required to post where employees can see it. Members can purchase extra posters if they have more than one location for $8 a piece. 

Every year, Lisa Leinberger, a communications specialist in the department, updates the HERO, or the Handbook for Excellent Restaurant Operations. She coordinates with state agencies and our government affairs team to make sure the information is up to date. 

“If I had this as a restaurant operator, this would have saved me thousands of dollars from the get-go,” Lex said. “From the start-up phase to the operations phase.” Members can find the HERO on our members-only site. Find an updated version at the end of every January. 

Members can also find cost calculators and every year, the communications and business development teams put together the annual Buyer’s Guide, which will arrive in your mailbox this summer. 

“There are just a ton of resources for our members and those are just the highlights,” Lex said. 

Advisory Network 

Lex said the Advisory Network is made up of industry experts who have been involved in the hospitality industry for decades. Members can utilize the Advisory Network yearly with a complimentary 30-minute consultation. 

Say you are not really a numbers person and need some help cleaning up your books, you can talk to your territory manager and they will put you in touch with a professional who will help you. 

“A lot of times these issues can be resolved in 30 minutes so they don’t have to hire anybody to do that,” Lex said. 

Some of the categories our Advisory Network consults in are financial services, legal issues, employment law, human resources and more. 

Contact your Territory Manager to get in touch. 

“For a lot of operators, they wouldn’t even know where to start to find this kind of advisor and if they found one they’re going to be charged $400-600 an hour,” Anthony said. “And they are getting that phone call for free. I’m just amazed it doesn’t get used more.” 


Toolkits are hyper-focused subjects that we assemble an online resource for,” Lex said. “It’s basically one page that has all of the association’s resources and other resources related to this topic assembled in one place.” 

The department treats each toolkit as a living document which means the association can update it at any time. 

Lisa Leinberger and Senior Communications Manager Andy McVicar assemble these and keep legacy toolkits up to date. Some of the most popular toolkits have been our Wildfire Toolkit. Regulations can change often surrounding air quality and safety, and lately every year there is a need to remind ourselves of what we need to do when it’s too smoky to work or serve guests outside. 

Wage reports 

This year, the communications department unveiled a new product, our wage reports. 

“This is an aggregation of wage data that’s acquired from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics but also scraped from the web,” Lex said. 

Starting this year, employers are now required to include wage data in job postings, and these reports can help you decide competitive wages for your various positions. You can also find wage information about careers outside the industry to see where your potential employees are going. 

Our wage reports are broken down by region and are only available on our members-only site. We have information about full- and quick-service restaurants and lodging. 

“I’m real excited about this new offering,” Anthony said. “Honestly, for the past year, it’s been the most common question I’ve gotten. ‘What is the going rate for blank?’” 

The association’s latest hire on the communications team, Kyle Galvin, updates each report every six months, so you will always have up-to-date information. Kyle can also create custom wage reports for Washington Hospitality Association members upon request. Email Kyle for more details. 

How to get $2,500 in value from communications 

Anthony said you can get $2,500 in value from the communications department. If you get your labor posters, download a wage survey, read the HERO and find the cost calculators you get value.  

“I could get a resource, an advisory call, a toolkit and one additional resource each quarter and I’m really ranking up the value I’m getting from my membership,” Anthony said.