Listener beware: The second installment of Off Site: The Meeting Planner Podcast is now available, but do not tune in on an empty stomach. The half-hour discussion between Bizly’s Bryan Plofsky and Amira Gertz, director of catering and events at Rosa Mexicano, on the geography lesson that is authentic Mexican cuisine will send you to an early lunch. Gertz lauds the restaurant group’s director of beverages, Courtney Greenleaf (“a leader in agave”), for her freshly squeezed juices, home-made artisanal, and aromatic tinctures so you will want at least one pomegranate margarita to accompany your guacamole en Molcajete.
Gertz shares stories on how she knew the hospitality industry was for her—she would persuade her mother to use the best china for dinner on Friday nights, not just for celebrations—and her definition of hospitality (“To meet someone else’s expectations and give them what they are looking for”), which is relevant to all aspects of the meetings and events industry, not just F&B.
Gertz is in charge of events and private dining at all 11 Rosa Mexicano locations, as well as the original restaurant on First Avenue and 58th Street in New York. She focuses on continuing the mission of the brand’s founder, Josefina Howard, a Cuban who loved Mexican food and began importing avocados for fresh guacamole and educating diners on the cuisine of different regions of Mexico. Forty years later Gertz says, “Now our clients are more educated than they have ever been. They ask about the origin of the rice!” Rosa Mexicano has introduced a tapas-style menu at private dining events because of the educated diner trend. Event attendees, Gertz says, want to try lots of different dishes rather choose from two main courses. Another big trend Gertz identified in the private-dining field is technology. “In San Francisco, they don’t ask if you have Wi-Fi; they get there and say, ‘What do you mean you don’t have Wi-Fi?’ We have to keep up with our customers’ needs, and they want screens and projectors.”
Part of the brand’s success is down to the transition of Gertz’s sales team from passively taking bookings over the phone to outreach and marketing. Her best advice is to network at every opportunity. Her team members belong to multiple industry organizations, from Meetings Professional International to the local convention and visitors bureau and go to networking events every quarter. After a successful event with one department head at a corporation, they ask for an introduction to other department heads. Gertz’s mantra is, “When you deliver on your promise for an event, ask for more business!”
Listen to the podcast here for Gertz’s views on what drives repeat business, the best cities to eat out in, and why she loves “Michelin Tuesdays.”