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HEE – Conversations Create Change

Hospitality Executive Exchange

Hospitality Executive Exchange (HEE) West shared its “Conversations Create Change” theme with 120 participants in beautiful Palm Springs in early April, for one of the most engaging programs to date. Hospitality Executive Exchange is a one-of-a-kind program that focuses on conversations and relationships. Jen Robinson, CEO/Duchess of The Pineapple Group that owns and executes the program stated, “We have created a very exclusive platform for our industry family to come together without feeling pulled or pressured, to discuss relevant topics that we all share interest in and want to have productive dialogue about with our peers. HEE has resonated with our operators and suppliers because it provides valuable face time without fatigue or stress.”

HEE kicked off its ninth year with a Chairman’s Reception to honor and remember Teddy McAleer, who was the chairman of the HEE Advisory Board. The reception was held on the Starlight Terrace of the beautiful Omni Las Palmas Resort, where the view of desert, mountains and a beautiful sky made the conversations flow. The announcement of the launch of The Teddy Mac Award was made during this time. The award offers industry colleagues an opportunity to nominate someone who they feel exemplifies the word “hospitality” and lives it everyday. Robinson shared, “Teddy was a shining beacon in this industry and we want to honor him with the creation of this award, but also acknowledge our colleagues who really have a passion for what they do.” Nominations are open and if you know someone you feel is deserving, just send an email with the name, company and why you think they should be awarded, by October 1, 2017. The award will be presented during HEE East in November.

The core of the HEE program is the one-on-one meetings, but it has also become known for fresh and engaging educational roundtables that are geared to really connect with the participants. HEE West clearly continued to elevate our commitment to being in the industry moment and within our own program theme. This year’s gathering kicked off with a “Welcome State of the Industry” address by Brad Aldrich, Senior Vice President of American Hotel & Lodging Association, in which he gave participants a glimpse into the future. The opening evening was capped with one of the most involved sessions and the one that everyone was talking about, which was the meeting’s theme, “Conversations Create Change.” The session was moderated by HEE Board Co-Chairmen Stuart Melia, Jayne Portnoy and Michael Tolley. All participants were given relevant topics happening in the industry today to discuss within their small groups and then with the larger group, which resulted in some in-depth and insightful conversations.

Stuart Melia, Vice President of Food & Beverage for Craftworks Restaurants and Co-Chairman of the HEE Advisory Board, said, “HEE is the most talked about program in the industry for its out-of-the box agenda featuring face-to-face meetings carefully balanced with networking, educational roundtables, scheduled meals and team building. The participants are connected to the program and the conversations. Jen Robinson is the brand’s personality and her passion and love for the industry shines in every part of the agenda, but she allows the program to be about the industry, for the industry.”

One of the great things about Hospitality Executive Exchange is that no two programs are the same; they are constantly evolving and changing. HEE is held twice a year – once on the West Coast and once on the East Coast – with different participants invited to each who provide different conversations. The agenda changes with the location, the trends in the industry and the participants.

One cool idea that happened during HEE West was the real application of trends that we are seeing, or will be seeing, on menus this year and coming months. Participants were treated to food and beverage creations in the following categories: nostalgia, health and wellness, and global. The culinary team of the Omni did an amazing job showcasing these menus as well as pairing them with our beverage partners and their cocktail creations. The HEE family enjoyed the applications for every food and beverage moment, including breaks.

Other speakers during HEE West were Sally Sparks and Chef Katie Sutton, with Food & Drink Resources, who shared data on Millennials and created some great conversations surrounding how to hire, train, work with and serve them. Nik Kundra with Partender allowed all of our participants to partake in a physical inventory, which led to many conversations about technology and the benefit of having it help with this painful task. Colleen McClellan with DataEssential shared a custom presentation for HEE titled “Trends: Drinking Beyond the Bottle in 2017,” and Mark and Brandon Crisler created Grapardy, a fun team-building activity that had participants testing their knowledge on wines.

The final evening of HEE was a Masters Glow in the Dark Golf Tournament held on the fabulous golf course of the Omni and hosted by Deep Eddy Vodka and their launch of their Airstream trailer. The tournament provided participants with a fun way to relax and connect while enjoying some delicious libations. Nick Arenas, Levy Restaurants, captured the golf title, but the night was won by everyone. Conversations, cocktails and connections were made for lasting memories.

Jen Robinson is already in the planning stages for HEE East, coming up in November in beautiful Marco Island, Florida. If you are interested in participating, please reach out to Jen at jen@thepineapplegroup.net today. #jointheconversation #hee

Hospitality Executive Exchange – HEE is a small, exclusive program that brings together select supplier partners and multi-unit operators to exchange insights, ideas and information. HEE is not a trade show or a typical conference. The program was created so that the art of conversation becomes the focus of helping cultivate new relationships, building and maintaining old ones, as well as gaining valuable insights from your colleagues and peers. The platform has resonated with operators and suppliers on a national and regional level, with a huge ROI for both.

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