The Holiday Inn — A Hotel to Call Home in Santa Ana, CA

Panini Restaurant
Panini Restaurant

Architect Mies van der Rohe has said that “God is in the details.” I am reminded of this any time I receive either poor customer service or exceptional customer service, and it is never more evident than when that customer service is tied to a hotel. Guests tend to enter a hotel or restaurant with certain minimum expectations: clean and well-kept rooms with clean sheets on the beds, water for hot tea that is hot and sandwiches that do not have flies inside them.

Most of the time, guests aren’t even conscious of having these expectations. Things just tick along without complaints or kudos, until something happens that veers outside of said expectations, whether on the side of good or of bad. At the Holiday Inn Hotel in Santa Ana, California, guests’ minimum expectations are more than exceeded, particularly at Panini, the hotel restaurant.

Holiday Inn Orange County Airport Located Close to Disneyland and Other Attractions

The Holiday Inn located near John Wayne/Orange County Airport in Santa Ana, California, in Orange County has a lot to offer in terms of amenities, cleanliness and location. Its proximity to the airport is just one of its advantages in location. A free shuttle is available to take you to and from the airport, the Disney Resorts®, or anywhere within a three-mile radius of the hotel. As long as you have a car or other mode of transportation during your stay, you can easily visit a number of tourist attractions outside the shuttle radius, including Universal Studios Hollywood, Medieval Times, The Los Angeles Zoo, and Newport Beach.

But while what is outside a hotel is important, with so many hotels in the area from which to choose, it’s also what is inside the hotel that counts. Though I have not stayed at this hotel, I have visited it three times as of this writing, and intend to stay here on any future trips to the area.

Panini Excellent Wait Staff Pay Meticulous Attention to Details

On my first visit with my daughter to Santa Ana, I discovered Panini while searching for a decent, yet affordable, place to have dinner. We decided to try the Holiday Inn, after having exhausted almost all other options during the few days we had been in the area. What set the Holiday Inn apart immediately was their welcoming, courteous, and friendly staff. Since the food was good, we made a note to return on our next trip out. Our return visit to the restaurant cemented our loyalty to Panini and piqued my interest in the Holiday Inn itself.

During our first sojourn into Panini, a kind and friendly gentleman who guided us to a perfectly situated table in the solarium greeted us. Our waitress was exceptionally friendly, chatted with us without being intrusive, and made our experience there enjoyable. On our second visit, we were again greeted by the same gentleman, whose name, we learned, was Ruben. He not only seated us at the specific table we requested but was our server for the evening.

Exceptional Dining Experience at Panini

My daughter and I always order water with lemon, and our server scored many points by immediately bringing us glasses of water with lemon before we even had a chance to request it. He astounded us by commenting that he remembered our previous visit to the restaurant, which had been over three months ago. He also recalled that we had sat at the same table. He then provided us with an exceptional dining experience, while, I noticed, providing other guests in the dining room with similar exceptional care and attention.

While some of what Ruben did may seem trivial, this attention to detail is, as previously mentioned, something that distinguishes the exceptional from the merely average. The previous night, our dinner at the Embassy Suites had been just fine. The food was good and the service was efficient, though not exceptional. While we had a nice time there, the experience didn’t raise the enthusiasm for returning that our experience at the Holiday Inn did, and it never occurred to me to report on it. We were not alone in our reaction to the service we received at Panini.

Testimonials from Other Diners at the Holiday Inn’s Restaurant

As we shared a dessert of triple chocolate cake and tea and coffee, my daughter and I remarked on the great service and the good food and discussed the possibility that we should stay at this hotel on any future visits. I then remarked that others should know what great staff this hotel has and that I should write a review about our experience. Two women at the table next to ours overheard the conversation and couldn’t resist chiming in with their glowing report on Ruben, Panini, and the Holiday Inn.

Jan and Michelle were there on business with Pacific Dental Services and said that the reason they came to the hotel was that it “feels like coming home whenever we come in here.” They also said that Ruben always makes their meals there enjoyable and pleasant, going out of his way to welcome them when they come in. They too were impressed and pleasantly surprised that he should remember them from visit to visit. They said that they would not stay anywhere else when coming to Santa Ana.

Holiday Inn in Santa Ana Almost Perfect

While the Holiday Inn in Santa Ana does not have everything I would want (I see no mention of a room safe on the website, and I prefer a room that has its own safe), it has so much of what I do want that I can overlook the minor omissions. The pleasant and welcoming manner did not end at the restaurant staff. Any employee that I encountered at the hotel was pleasant, if not downright cheerful, though they had no idea I would be writing a review about their hotel and restaurant. Rates are reasonable for what they provide, especially considering the exceptional service, and they do offer corporate rates for those travelling on business.

If you are heading to Orange County and want a place to stay that is welcoming, makes you feel at home, and has exceptional staff who devote themselves to your personal comfort and care, then consider the Holiday Inn in Santa Ana. At the very least, don’t skip having a meal at Panini (they serve breakfast and dinner daily and lunch on weekdays). Be sure to leave a big tip for their amazing staff.


Image: Panini Restaurant at the Holiday Inn, Santa Ana, California — Courtesy of Val Tobin

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