An in the Mix Take 5 Interview
National Beverage Director,
Smith and Wollensky
Legal Sea Foods
Where were you before you became the beverage director for PPX?
I worked for Boston-based entertainment company, The Lyon’s Group, for several years in Boston’s Fenway area and Theatre District, before moving to Connecticut to join the opening team for their newest properties at Mohegan Sun Casino. My time with the Lyon’s Group at Mohegan Sun was spent improving my skills and knowledge in beverage, from mixology to operations, and focusing on the many facets of the business, both internally and throughout the marketplace. Yearning to return to the Boston area, I reconnected with past colleagues to become the managing partner for an all-new, ground-breaking entertainment concept in the city, an experience that further developed my beverage, operations and guest experience skills.
Several years later, ready to move on and return to a more beverage-focused role with opportunity and growth, I joined Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group at their brand new Boston location at Atlantic Wharf, as beverage manager. In 2018, I was invited to join the opening team in the brand’s first foray into the suburbs, where they would open an all-new steakhouse in Wellesley, Massachusetts. I spent just over two years in that location, focusing on the nuances of an upscale suburban clientele, where guest preferences and expectations of the steakhouse experience were reinterpreted in the upscale bedroom community. With the expansion of our company, I entered my current role in the spring of 2021.
What are your primary goals for the beverage program in 2022?
All of our brands have a very strong presence in the greater Boston area, where historically many of the beverage conversations were held at the local/distributor level. As we look to continue to grow all three of our brands in new markets across the country, it is critical that we strengthen our supplier partnerships on a national level. This has been my top priority as we approach the close of 2021. Looking into next year’s program, we want to identify brands that align with ours— in quality, integrity, and the ultimate guest experience. I seek genuine partnerships with real people and great products, striving for mutual benefit and growth.
How have you utilized IMI Agency since coming onboard in your new role?
IMI has been a great resource to me personally in my role and to our entire company. From assisting our connection with the right national representatives to working in tandem with our marketing team, IMI has helped to facilitate creative promotions and brand partnerships that drive awareness, visibility and incremental sales, while also providing industry trend and survey data that support operational investments and brand strategy. IMI is a real partner to our beverage program, and we look forward to the growth and opportunity that lie ahead in 2022.
What do you look for in a beverage partner for your concepts?
One keyword we use constantly is HOSPITALITY, and as cliché as that may sound, it is the core of my own day-to-day philosophy. From greeting a guest as they walk in the front door, to working directly with our supplier partners, HOSPITALITY is what drives the creation of long-lasting relationships. It is through these relationships that our businesses can succeed and grow, mutually. If this last year has taught us anything, it is that strong relationships help resolve issues faster than poor ones. From a brand perspective, we are always looking for products that are aligned with our core values, backed by people who value relationships. Identifying these key partnerships is at the core of our brand search for 2022.
How do you anticipate aligning the beverage program across your three concepts?
While there are certainly many opportunities for some products to live within multiple brands, their experiential value will be a defining factor in all that we do at each of our concepts. The word VALUE can mean many things to different audiences; and with multiple brands at various price points within so many markets, VALUE is relative. At PPX, we choose to focus on experiential value and look closely at what drives value for our guests. Of course, this most often relates back to quality, hospitality and the overall guest experience. If a product is of high quality and contributes to the brand experience in a valuable and memorable way for all three brands, that’s fantastic — and I’m optimistic we’ll have these opportunities for many products. But, we won’t sacrifice these principles to force a square peg into a round hole, simply for economics. Some things just won’t fit and won’t be in the brand’s best interest. This discipline will help us further define each beverage program, both individually and strategically.