Program Profile

Feature Issue on Transition in a Global Context for People with Intellectual, Developmental, and Other Disabilities

Hospitality: A Business and a Philosophy


Meryl Heffernan is group customer service training manager for JDA Hotels. She may be reached at

JDA Hotels is a family business owned and operated by the Feros family (John, Dean and Alexandra), with 11 hospitality venues in Sydney and the Gold Coast. The owners and employees are proud to be an equal opportunity employer and recognise the valued contribution employees with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (IDD) can make when they have a role matched to their strengths and appropriate support. Collaborating with the disability employment service Jobsupport for more than 7 years, the company now has eight staff members with IDD. The partnership reflects our commitment to our values.

Milestones and Valued Employees

March 2017 - The journey began when JDA Hotels purchased General Gordon Hotel. The previous owners were already working with Jobsupport, and Dean Feros decided he would continue the program and retain the current Jobsupport client as an employee. JDA Hotels then decided to continue to expand the program across the group by involving other venues in need of reliable people to ensure the hotels were prepared for opening. These duties include stocking condiments and ice at the bars and bistros, arranging and wiping down chairs and tables, and assisting in the kitchen.

Also that month, The Mill Hotel hired a highly energetic worker through Jobsupport, who is still at the hotel and continues to provide key support in ensuring the venue is ready for when the doors open at 10 a.m. She’s an absolute delight who always turns up and gets her job done.

March 2018 - Padstow Park Hotel hired another employee through Jobsupport to provide essential support in ensuring the venue is set up during the pre-opening hours. He is consistently ready to commence work 15 minutes before his start time. The hotel licensee commented that “He is an absolute asset to the team and venue,” and they feel extremely privileged to be a part of his career journey.

February 2020- The Peakhurst hotel welcomed another Jobsupport worker into the program. Staff members rave about her commitment to working and completing her tasks as set out each day. She is never late and always delighted to take on more tasks. The licensee said he feels lucky to see her regularly and love having a good chat with her about weekends and what additional tasks she is thinking about completing on top of her daily task list.

April 2021 – Union Place Hotel added a team member through Jobsupport. She brings lots of personality and enthusiasm, along with playing a key part in ensuring the success of the venues set-up before open. She also has a passion for the kitchen and the head chef and his team with tasks. The Union Place licensee has been a part of the journey of many of these young individuals since 2017 and has been key in the success of these young individuals’ journey.

May 2021- Another team member joined the Great Southern Hotel. His commitment to travel over 2 hours a day to get to work is extremely impressive. Again, he is never late and always committed to complete his tasks with ease and enthusiasm. In the same month, The Mill Hotel welcomed the property’s second staff member in the program. He also plays a very important role supporting set-up for big events, checking the venue is at a high standard. He also supports the event manager with functions by delivering food or offering finger food to event guests, which involves explaining the items and interacting professionally with guests. His fun, bubbly personality brings lots of enjoyment to the peers he works alongside.

The JDA Hotels staff members and owners are extremely proud to be a part of the journey and growth of these young individuals and to see them develop life and work skills.

Supporting our Employees

The key to the success of this program is ensuring that our employees receive workplace support appropriate to their needs. Before each placement, Jobsupport staff members collaborate with the venue managers to identify needed tasks and ensure they match the potential employee. This means while most of the employees are involved in similar tasks of setting up the venues before they open to the public, each employee has a role that has been customised to meet both their individual needs and strengths and the specific requirements of the venue.

Our employees with IDD require training beyond what our team can provide, so having a Jobsupport trainer who knows the tasks and expectations onsite to provide instruction until the employee has learnt their task is an important resource. Jobsupport trainers also continue to provide regular onsite visits to assist in managing change and provide guidance when issues arise.

We are proud of our employees with IDD and of the role we have played in providing them an opportunity to work in an environment where they are not just accepted, but valued for their individual contribution to the workplace culture and operations. We value the ongoing connections with organisations such as Jobsupport, which help us provide equal opportunity employment throughout our recruitment process, and place excellent candidates into successful job roles. Our employment program not only enhances our organisational culture and company values, it also aligns with our company policies of providing a fair, non-discriminatory workplace. We are very proud of all our employees, particularly those who work for us through Jobsupport. There is nothing more rewarding than being part of our employees’ personal and professional growth and development. We recognise our employees are the company’s greatest asset. Our employment program is not only extremely rewarding, it continues to advocate for the importance of and benefits of equal opportunity for all.