While deciding how to approach our Hotel Food & Beverage 50 Women to Watch list, the idea of an executive-level “who’s who”—names you already know who have made a sizable impact on their respective companies and the hotel food & beverage industry—just seemed like an anticlimactic approach. After all, if we’re already familiar with their achievements, the list loses a surprise element. Instead, we chose to highlight those at the property level making a daily impact at their hotels. We queried our Advisory Board for candidates, and in turn, they contacted their individual property GMs to nominate some of their brightest talent. This isn’t a ranking from one to 50. Rather, it’s a collective list, with each person equally important to their operations.
Job Title: Executive Sous Chef
Property Location: JW Marriott Minneapolis, Mall of America
Nominated By: Dana Pellicano, VP, F&B experience, the Americas, Marriott International
Laura’s recent performance highlights include:
Awards for Cedar + Stone, Urban Table restaurant at JW Minneapolis:
Job Title: Associate Director of Events
Property Location: Grand Hyatt Rio de Janeiro
Nominated By: Christophe Lorvo, GM
Karina is described by her colleagues as a highly motivated and competitive individual, with strong values and an upbeat personality. Comfortable with deadlines, pressure situations, and new challenges, she has solid experience in sales, customer service, problem resolution, and development of personnel.
Karina played a huge role in implementing the Events Department at Grand Hyatt Rio de Janeiro. As part of the team six months before the hotel opening, she was totally involved in the property general planning for the area, participating in projects that include:
Thirteen months immersed in this project (since September, 2015), Karina was the focus point for our three major clients during the season (GE, OMEGA and DOW), assisting them in all their needs. She was highly involved in the negotiation of the catering contract estimated in over USD 2.8 million in 20-day period for these major Olympic sponsors and meet the financial target. She was also part of the hospitality programs detailing for GE, DOW, OMEGA, BP, USA FENCING TEAM and high profile individuals with events generating over USD 4 million.
The feedback from groups was remarkable, mentioning how she was key to the success of the unique event and were able to exceed their expectations.
New Year’s Eve Celebration
Job Title: Director of Event Management
Property Location: JW Marriott Chicago (Marriott International)
In 18 months, Caris has elevated the event satisfaction at the property to number three in the JW Marriott brand,” says Lisa Timbo, GM at the hotel. “She accomplished this by being a role model to the event managers, combined with her strong visibility on the event floors. Caris implemented stretch revenue goals for each group and trained her team on how to achieve the goals, which resulted in a 13% on-the-book growth per event.
Job Title: Director of Music
Property Location: Headquartered in Austin, Texas, and supporting all Kimpton markets with the Kimpton brand.
“Lauren began programming live music 365 days a year at Kimpton Hotel Van Zandt and its restaurant Geraldine’s as director of music and social programming,” says Alex Taylor, senior VP of restaurants and bars at Kimpton Hotels & Resorts. “Lauren started an Artists in Residence program and intimate Writer’s Lounge sessions, giving guests the opportunity to listen in on the creative process of Austin’s local musicians. Geraldine’s has become a sought-after spot for musicians from all around the country to play. Lauren is the first director of music for Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, paving the way for a future team of music directors at select hotels and markets. Chicago now has a dedicated director of music and social programming as an extension of Lauren’s team. Lauren soundtracks the guest experience across the hotel and restaurant portfolio, including working closely with the design, concept, and development teams to make music an integral part of the Kimpton experience from the start. This is a highly focused effort on new openings as well as significant renovations and re-concepts of both hotels and restaurants.”
Job Title: Director of Events
Property Location: Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Golf Resort, Spa and Marina, Cambridge, Maryland
Nominated By: Joel Bunde, GM
Jessica is a certified Meeting Planner (CMP) and has helped increase our event sales conversion ratio by +500bps YOY. She also has helped increase production YOY by +27%; +$600K; increased spend by group room night by +$20; +12.9%.Jessica led the event services and setup team to a +350bps improvement in meeting planner NPS for 2016.
She is a certified trainer for our national new hire program which brings together managers (in their positions 6 months or less) of sales, revenue and events together in a collaborative learning environment. Jessica is on the Board of Director for Cambridge Main Street 501c3 non-profit organization focused on the revitalization of downtown Cambridge, Maryland. She led the promotions committee on continued downtown business engagement to include special events and co-op marketing opportunities. Jessica also participated in the re-branding of downtown Cambridge; an initiative which is focusing on creating a new message to the community and visitors.
Job Title: Pastry Chef
Property Location: Hyatt Centric Montevideo, Uruguay
Nominated By: Alexandra Bueno, GM
One of the main attractions of Hyatt Centric Montevideo is our Deli, where both locals and guests who love sweet things visit us every day looking for our amazing pastry options and our famous homemade breads.
Victoria makes our Deli bloom and brought a whole new variety of sweets to the city; from macaroons to a new version of an Uruguayan classic, alfajores de maicena. She also makes popular desserts and sweets for our other venues, including the lunch buffet at Plantado Restaurant.
Job Title: Specialty Restaurant Manager-Tarpon Bay
Property Location: Hyatt Regency Coconut Point, Bonita Springs, Florida
Nominated By: Brian Kramer, GM
Ever since Carrie joined us in Tarpon Bay restaurant, we recognized her innate talent and ability in developing programs to improve the effectiveness of the department and overall operation of Tarpon Bay. Tarpon Bay’s revenues in 2016 grew by 8% in comparison to the previous year. This year we are up by almost 11% increased revenues in Tarpon Bay year-to-date. Carrie’s contributions in improving revenues is due to increased bookings of large parties in Tarpon Bay’s private dining room, and also a focus on attracting more local guests to celebrate special occasions in the restaurant.
Job Title: Director of Restaurants & Bars
Property Location: The Westin New York at Times Square (Starwood Hotels & Resorts)
Job Title: Assistant Operations Manager
Property Location: Hyatt Regency Cleveland
Nominated By: Todd Costin, GM
Mercedes began working at Hyatt Regency Cleveland in February 2014 as a greeter while on break from college. She quickly proved herself to be more than capable in this role, and soon expressed a desire to learn other areas of the restaurant. She was promoted to server, and excelled at this position right away. Guests often remarked about her friendly demeanor, attentiveness, and efficiency. Her desire to learn and grow led her to show interest in other areas of the hotel as well, and soon she transferred over to the front desk as an agent.
In April of 2015, Mercedes accepted the Rooms Internship position. Upon completion, she returned to school at Penn State University to obtain her Bachelor of Science in Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management. After graduating, Mercedes completed the Operations CMT Program at Hyatt Regency Cleveland, which allowed her to gain experience in all operational areas of the hotel. Realizing what an asset Mercedes’ great wealth of knowledge and positive attitude were, the hotel created the Assistant Operations Manager position specifically for her, allowing her to work in both the F&B and Front Office departments.
Job Title: Director of Event Sales & Planning, Event Services, and Event Set-Up
Property Location: Hyatt Regency Sacramento
Nominated By: Scott Vandenberg, GM
Kendall Erlenbusch has been the Director of Events at Hyatt Regency Sacramento since March 2015. As a first-time director, she learned that one of the greatest attributes you can possess is one of authentic care. Every day she comes to work living by this virtue, no matter how stressful or hectic the day becomes. One of her personal goals was to instill a healthier work-life balance for all of her managers and associates. She also implemented flex scheduling so they are not burning the midnight oil and working for 12+ hours. Kendall and her team are successful in meeting and exceeding their revenue and customer service goals. Her team is currently on track to exceed the annual catering budget and they have maintained a respectable Meeting Planner NPS score of 93.2% for overall satisfaction.
Job Title: Catering Sales Manager
Property Location: Chicago Marriott Southwest at Burr Ridge (Interstate Hotels & Resorts)
“Erica approaches her job with energy, excitement, and love of the social market—namely weddings,” says hotel GM Robert Hines. “As a result of her passion and enthusiasm, the hotel is currently 105.3% ahead of catering pace for 2018. Her success also can be attributed to her response time. In the ‘I want it now’ world we live in, Erica does a great job of promptly responding to inquiries and leads."
Job Title: Catering Sales Manager
Property Location: Chicago Marriott Southwest at Burr Ridge, Burr Ridge, Illinois
Nominated By: Robert Hines, GM
What makes Sarah a success in her position is she treats each piece of business the same, whether it’s a meeting with $250 in meeting room rental only, or a training event with $35,000 in food, beverage, and audio/visual. Part of Sarah's success in her position is she sees the value in the small meeting and repeat business. Sarah has captured new business for the hotel that others may look at as not worth the effort, yet Sarah has turned this business into thousands of dollars a year in revenue for the hotel.
Job Title: Banquet Chef
Property Location: Grand Hyatt São Paulo (Hyatt Hotels & Resorts)
"Renata joined Grand Hyatt Sao Paulo as chef de partie with the aspiration to become, one day, a good chef de cuisine,” says GM Yann Gillet. “Excellent in organizing events, Renata is responsible for 38% of total food revenue, achieving an increase of 34% versus 2017’s budget. She is outperforming her objective of food cost percentage; she is currently 1.4 points below budget, with food cost at 22.4%. Renata has had an important impact in the profitability of the hotel.”
Job Title: Pastry chef
Property Location: Grand Hyatt São Paulo
Nominated By: Yann Gillet, GM
Passionate about pastry, after worked with pastry master chefs at Park Hyatt Palacio Duhau in Buenos Aires, Laura decided to move to Brazil and faced her first leadership opportunity in a major hotel with three restaurants and an extensive convention venue.
Laura has been implementing a consistent training plan to develop her pastry team, doing one-on-one sessions and as a result, achieving a score of 4.17 on Gallup. She has also been actively participating in the financial results, with a strong food cost control, while preserving food quality and guest satisfaction. The hotel is performing with 21.52% F&B food revenue above budget, food cost at 1.6% below 2017’s budget and 3.2% below 2016.
Her creativity has inspired her team to create amazing desserts and she is now recognized by guests and local press, especially in occasions such as Mother's Day, Easter, Valentine’s Day and also her participation in events with Michelin-Star chefs. Her ability to diversify recipes with fresh local ingredients and her commitment to guaranteeing individual preferences are aligned with Hyatt’s philosophy. Laura, who left Argentina to embrace a new challenge in a new country, is an example and inspiration for all her hotel colleagues.
Job Title: Event Sales Manager
Property Location: Hyatt Regency San Francisco
Nominated By: Matt Humphreys, GM
Danielle’s recent performance highlights at Hyatt Regency San Francisco include:
Client Feedback for Danielle:
Citi: “With all of the hotels in San Francisco, we choose this one because of Danielle and her team. Great attitude, great to work with, very accommodating, nothing is ever a problem.”
Streamsets: “Danielle Hale is a pro at her job and should be recognized by Hyatt Regency for providing outstanding guest experiences.”
Southern Wine & Spirits: “Danielle Hale was our event coordinator for our event on May 1, 2017 and from start to finish she was wonderful. Have already booked this event for next year.”
Grenzebach Glier: “Danielle Hale was extremely helpful throughout this process. She took care of all of our needs and helped us to have great meetings.”
Job Title: F&B Manager
Property Location: Hyatt Regency Austin (Hyatt Hotels & Resorts)
Since joining Hyatt Regency Austin in December of 2016, Cortney’s leadership and creativity has taken the Marker 10 restaurant to the next level,” says GM Dan Johnson. “We have seen significantly lower turnover amongst staff and increased outlet guest satisfaction scores,” he says. “Year-to-date for 2017, we have seen a 3.7 point increase in overall F&B NPS for Marker 10 as well as a 21% increase in revenues, all while maintaining a highly engaged team. The care that Cortney shows for the team allows them to be their best and deliver great customer experience."
Job Title: Director of Food & Beverage
Property Location: Hyatt Regency Atlanta
Nominated By: Peter McMahon, GM
Sherry Hicks-Buckles has been director of F&B at Hyatt Regency Atlanta, one of Hyatt’s largest convention hotels, since 2015. She was previously director of F&B at Hyatt Regency Washington, DC, and Hyatt Regency Boston, among other properties. Sherry also helped lead the reopening of Hyatt Regency New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
A native of West Virginia, Sherry started her hospitality career running a beverage cart at a South Carolina golf resort.
She worked in summer restaurants during and after college, and eventually joined Hyatt, where she was quickly promoted to hotels in North Carolina, Florida and Michigan. Her success at smaller properties led to leadership roles at major Hyatt hotels across the U.S.
Throughout her career, Sherry has been a recognized leader, innovator and mentor, bringing new ideas to drive profitability, lift guest satisfaction and develop young colleagues for success.
At Hyatt Regency Atlanta, Sherry helped restore the Space Age rotating Polaris rooftop lounge (which reopened in 2014 after a 10-year hiatus), creating new demand for private parties and increasing revenues by 25%.
At the same time, Sherry facilitated the promotion of 16 junior colleagues into new roles. She serves as a mentor to Hyatt Corporate Management Trainees and a leader in the Women @ Hyatt organization, which mentors and advances female leaders in our industry.
Some of her awards and recognitions:
“From my first summer job, I’ve loved the hospitality industry because it’s always based on caring for other people,” Sherry says. “There’s a real power in caring, in surprising and delighting a guest or a colleague. It’s the core of what we do, and why I love coming to the hotel every day.”
Job Title: Senior Event Sales Manager
Property Location: Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe
Nominated By: Michael Murphy, GM
Caity has been an instrumental part of the Events Department through seven record breaking summer seasons. She has been a key player in developing the social and wedding market for our resort and the company. Caity was hand-selected by Hyatt’s corporate office to create wedding specialist training which helps new managers learn the ins and outs of this very challenging position. In 2011, the hotel’s wedding/social market ended with 60 weddings at an average F&B spend of $17K and $1.3M in total revenue. Caity’s strong selling skills has increased this number year-over-year with 2016 resulting in 113 weddings with an average F&B spend of $20K and $2.27M overall revenue (an increase of 53 weddings and $1.23M).
In her earlier role, Caity was responsible for selling and servicing on average $1.3M in sales and executing 60 events. She works tirelessly to ensure every detail is covered and that our internal teams are fully prepared so her client’s expectations are exceeded. Caity’s dedication to her team and her clients, as well as her extensive knowledge of event sales and planning, is the reason her main focus will now be on the sales process, securing new and repeat social business for the resort. On average, Caity fields and qualifies five new leads per day, resulting in over 150 leads monthly. Caity has won Manager of the Quarter in 2012 and 2016.
Job Title: Senior Events Manager
Property Location: Grand Geneva Resort & Spa, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin (Marcus Hotels & Resorts)
"Over the 21 years in her current role as senior events manager, Kristi has worked with more than 2,600 groups, which means on average she works with around 125 groups per year,” says GM Jeff Stewart. “The numbers are staggering. Of those 2,600 groups includes 274,000 group room nights at the Grand Geneva and over $23 million dollars in food, beverage, and room rental. Along with the statistics above, Kristi’s focus is the customer and making sure they have exceptional service, creating memories and delivering a grand experience for everyone. Kristi is deeply committed to making sure the hotel is successful. Large corporations ask to work specifically with her, and her service scores show why. Kristi strives to never say ‘no’ to her clients. She will find a way to make things work even if it means doing it herself.”
Job Title: Beverage & Wine Manager
Property Location: Seneca Niagara Resort & Casino, Niagra Falls, New York (Seneca Resorts & Casinos)
Dennis Khanh, VP of F&B at the property, says Tracy has consistently increased sales by 25% annually through monthly beverage and wine promotions. The resort’s customer satisfaction score for beverage is at an all-time high, with a score of 86.9. Tracy has reduced the employee turnover rate in her department by routinely running employee-engagement activities. She also was instrumental in achieving a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for the resort’s Western Door Steakhouse.
Job Title: Head Bartender
Property Location: 312 Chicago and Bar Allegro Kimpton Hotel Allegro, Chicago (Kimpton Hotels & Resorts)
"Jenn breathed new life into the cocktail program at 312 Chicago when she accepted the position as head bartender three years ago,” says David Friday, GM of 312 Chicago and Bar Allegro. “Her passion and spirit reinvigorated a tenured team to think differently on cocktail preparation and presentation. As seen in the secret shops that are bar-focused, Jenn’s intensity for customer service has been contagious throughout the team, as the average score has been 96%. Jenn loves to be involved in every aspect of Hotel Allegro; in addition to creating a seasonal menu at 312 Chicago four times a year, she writes the cocktails for Bar Allegro, a tiny bar off the lobby, which surpassed goals with $750,000 in revenue and meets with couples to craft signature cocktails for their weddings."
Job Title: Head Bartender of Boleo and Vol. 39
Property Location: Boleo restaurant and Vol. 39 bar at The Kimpton Gray Hotel in Chicago, Illinois.
Nominated By: Kayla Arthur, assistant director of F&B, The Kimpton Gray Hotel
Jess Lambert jumpstarted her career bartending at Kimpton’s restaurant Blue Hound Kitchen in downtown Phoenix, AZ, apprenticing under award-winning bartenders and mixologists Tyson Buhler (United States Bartender's Guild Best Bartender 2015) and Shel Bourdon (Last Slinger Standing Ultimate Shake Off Competition Winner).
While in Phoenix, she crossed paths with bartender Mike Ryan (Sable Kitchen & Bar, Jean Banchet Award nominee for Best Mixologist, Cocktail Apprentice Program Leader from Tales of the Cocktail) who now serves as the Director of Bars for Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants. She credits Mike as the driving force behind her ascension into the craft cocktail realm, following his advice to secure a spot in the prestigious international Cocktail Apprentice Program at Tales of the Cocktail in 2014 before graduating to Grey Coat leader the following year.
Upon relocating to Chicago, Jess ventured into more complex cocktails under the guidance of Clint Rogers (Graham Elliot, The Gage) before joining Sable Kitchen & Bar in early 2015. She was instrumental in contributing to a bar program at Sable that garnered twelve Tales of the Cocktail nominations and numerous “Best Bar” accolades from publications including Esquire, USA Today and Food & Wine. Her inspired cocktail recipes have graced the pages of Vogue, Liquor.com, Food & Wine, Yahoo.com and Chilled magazine.
In 2016, Jess made the leap to Head Bartender of Boleo and Vol. 39, where she takes a culinary approach to the cocktail programs with the goal of enhancing a familiar sensory experience in each unique creation.
Job Title: Wine Director and Barking Frog Manager at Willows Lodge
Property Location: Willows Lodge, Woodinville, Washington (Benchmark Resorts & Hotels)
“Under Cara’s watch as wine director, the property has seen significant growth in the wine program from staff training, consistent inventories, and wine and labor costs, as well as an increase revenues up to 10% in the various outlets of the hotel,” says Todd Parmelee, VP of F&B at Benchmark Resorts & Hotels. “She created a consistent wine/spirits/and beverage training course for staff and has helped five members of her team successfully pass their first wine courses/exams and work towards becoming certified sommeliers. Her work in the wine program and the Lodge has earned her the 2016 Leader of the Year Award for Willows Lodge as well as Manager of the Quarter in 2015.”