An Industry Redefined: Preparing to Control the Line of Scrimmage

February 25, 2021

Laura Hartmann

Laura Hartmann, CPCE, PBC, is co-founder of H&F Redefined, an Orlando-based network that supports individuals on their furlough/lay-off & new business journeys from all over the globe. Prior to her own layoff due to COVID-19,  she worked in various positions within the industry across brands such as Marriott, Starwood, Hilton, and Waldorf Astoria as Assistant Director of Events. 

Football season has officially come to a close, and although each coach, player, sports network and viewer fumbled their way through it during a pandemic, they made it all the way to the Super Bowl. Despite a lot of adversity and controversy over the risks, both the collegiate and pro leagues adapted accordingly. The football season offered fans all over the nation a tiny hint of familiarity to see players in pads and helmets execute a game that represents so much tradition and nostalgia. 

Think about all the work that went into executing every single game to ensure the loyal fans, or the “customers,” had the best viewing experience possible: The piped-in crowd noise, the cut-outs in the stands, the choreographed halftime shows and virtual engagements. There was so much work to keep the experience alive, and competitive. 

Isn’t that also one of the biggest struggles for the events industry right now? Everyone is ready to get back in the game, and hotel banquet teams, specifically, have a lot to prepare for. There is certainly a lot at stake in order to be competitive and creative when the flood gates open amongst a sea of inventory fighting for the same business. 

Will they be ready? Will they be trained? Will they be differentiated? Will they remember to deliver an experience? We know the playbooks were written months ago by the big hotel brands, however can planners feel comfortable that they’ve been read and the guidelines will be executed in an innovative way? Are those playbooks even still relevant?

This has been a topic that has weighed heavily on my own heart due to my passion for the industry, and a feeling of helplessness to contribute while I've been “benched.” I thought it only fitting to connect with a local director of banquets, who’s back in the game after several months of furlough and a property transition. Chris Andaur, from the Caribe Royale Resort in Orlando, offered insights and advice for preparing to get into the endzone. 

5 Game Plays Hotel Banquet Leaders Should Adopt 

  1. Remember to keep a flexible approach. Just because you have a playbook now, everything doesn’t have to be so black and white. There is simply no one-size-fits-all solution. It’s more important than ever to provide your clients and planners with customization that fits their culture and their comfort level.
  2. Stay relevant on social media and in-the-know. In today’s virtual world, the primary way we connect and stay educated is through a computer screen, or a phone scrolling to find the latest content surrounding our industry of choice. Staying engaged on social platforms helps you not only show clients your innovation, and your competitors your drive, but it also helps showcase your department culture and leadership style. Don’t forget to encourage one another within the market, as everyone needs to support each other and offer best practices. 
  3. Keep the lines of communication open and be as transparent as possible. You can’t forget the human decency component as it pertains to your staff. The more you show care and consideration for your employees now, the more they will respect you as a leader later and will feel connected to the culture along with you. 
  4. Keep a pulse on how restaurants are operating. Remember that there are parallels with how banquet and restaurant operations work. Spend some time visiting a few local restaurants and analyze the service style in each to help you adopt your own service standards. Are they sharing apps? Are they pouring water tableside? Are they using disposable menus or QR codes? 
  5. Be creative with recruitment and assign special projects. This is where the ability for innovation and forward-thinking comes in. You might not have a lot of staff, but how can you utilize the folks you do have, even if only a few hours a week. Consider assigning special projects to people you know have expressed interest in a certain area or you want to challenge. Let a bartender craft a few new cocktails, have a server to work on buffet presentations, let a housemen play with new room set configurations. Get their buy-in, and allow them a bit of equity in shaping the future. 

Said Andaur: “The teams that are right now putting in the work, will benefit the most when our hospitality season is in full swing. Innovation, hiring top talent in the market and continuing to improve their product will be a huge difference-maker in the future months.”

The outlook is positive. Planners will be curious about what was done inside each property during this “offseason” when making their venue selections. When all of the competition is at the line of scrimmage, will your property be positioned as the first to push and achieve control?


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