Lisa Flores, director of sales and marketing at French-inspired restaurant Mistral, felt there was something missing on the professional-development scene: “I would attend all these seminars and would say, how can I apply this to my position? You know, there are wedding planner seminars, and there are event seminars, but nothing that was very specific to restaurant event planners.” Whether it’s intimate birthday parties or big corporate lunches, private dining plays a big part in the success of many restaurants.
That was the impetus for Society for Events: Restaurant Venues, or SERV, a networking group for restaurant event planners. “You are dealing with guests, you are trying to put together a seamless event, and it’s really challenging,” says Flores, whose aim is to create “a space where we can all collaborate together, network, discuss challenges to our position, and just create a really strong referral system.”
Flores says she asked for feedback on the idea at Mistral, but before making any big moves, she wanted to be sure the positive response was not just her co-workers being kind. “I brought this idea to [restaurateur] Garrett Harker who is like, ‘Lisa, I one-hundred percent support you, you should move forward with this,’ and that kind of gave me the push to say, let me really dig into this.”
That led her to reach out to the people who helped cofound the group: Meghan Brady (Ruth’s Chris), Kelly Fay (Harker’s Row 34, Eastern Standard, Island Creek Oyster Bar, The Hawthorne), Kerry Lynch (Big Night Entertainment Group), and Jacki Morisi (Trade).
“We all have different properties, and I just wanted to have the best in the business. I admire and respect them, and they are all really creative and talented. They are really powerful in their positions and are really focused,” say Flores.
The first seminar, which will be held in June, is called “The Value of the Private Event.” Flores says, “A lot of event managers don’t know the numbers and impact of their events, so a lot of us don’t know how important these private events are for restaurants, how they impact the bottom line. That was our first focus: Let’s talk about finance and numbers. Let’s lay that foundation first, and from there kind of build on it.” In order to keep the first seminar manageable — these folks know the value in a well-orchestrated event — the invite-only breakfast, with a panel discussion and networking, will be capped at 50 attendees.
Long term, Flores hopes to expand her list of more than 100 event planner contacts to a membership model — and expand the group to include general managers and chefs. “We rely on each other so heavily, and we face the same challenges,” says Flores.
The event planner believes collaboration is key to everyone’s success: “Overall, the restaurant industry in Boston is so supportive of each other. Yes, we’re competing for the same clients, but we are only as strong as the restaurant community as a whole.”