A Recap of HEE East 2023
Survivor: Renew, Refocus, Resolve
Content Provided By –
Hospitality Executive Exchange | April 20, 2023
Renew. Refocus. Resolve. Three words that continued to resonate over and over throughout HEE East and this year’s theme, an HEE version of Survivor, the tv series.
HEE (Hospitality Executive Exchange) has become known throughout the hospitality industry for creating unique, custom and out-of-the-box programs twice a year for senior level beverage professionals and select supplier partners of beverages. HEE East definitely raised the bar on all levels from the welcome kick-off “beverage” challenges which had our HEE family “renewing” ordinary garnishes, to our Keynote Fireside Chat with Matthew Von Ertfelda, of Marriott International, moderated by longtime friend and colleague, IMI Agency’s very own, Larry McGinn.
For HEE East, networking always plays a big part of the program. We asked all of our select supplier partners to ramp up their survivor game with refocusing LTO’s for each evening of the program in lieu of a traditional happy hour, with different select suppliers being featured each night. At the end of each evening, HEE participants could “cast their vote” for the supplier station that truly offered a “wow”. This allowed all of the HEE family an opportunity to see menu ideation in real time in a laid back, casual environment while also adding a little bit of fun competition into the mix.
Speaking of competition, during HEE East, we held our “HEE Masters” tourney with the help of Skrewball Spirits and awarded the infamous “green jacket” to David Miller, of HEI Hotels. The activation was a fun golf challenge that allowed participants to try out their putting skills. In addition, on our final night with the help of our friends at Monster Energy, we were honored to have rising country music artist, Andy Velo with us.
Trends, Training and Tools were three conversations that were all requested by our HEE participants and each of those were definitely inspired by our featured speakers and panels over the course of our two full days. Colleen McClellan, of Datassential, kicked off the opening tribal session with a unique and custom take on trends, with an In the Circle Chat featuring Cole Robilliard and Nicole Milnthorpe of Smokey Bones, and Mike Herchuck with American Social.
Our panel conversations were Innovation vs Operationalization featuring Matt Durbin, of Durbin Consulting; Jennifer Rubright, of Deutsch Wine & Spirits; Brian Lebredo, of Texas Roadhouse; David Spirito, of Dave & Busters, and Marcus Marshall, of HVMG. This was followed by ‘Training: To Train or NOT to Train’ featuring Mike Tolley, of Beverage by Design; Steve Madonna and Brian Lebredo, of Texas Roadhouse, and Aliya Kritzler, of HEI Hotels.
The Beverage Bazaar is always a favorite of the HEE family, with four mini-breakouts that offer a more in-depth conversation on particular topics. HEE East was delighted to have The Journey of Cristalino with Proximo Spirits; Does Your Menu Suck 2.0 with the team of Better Beverage Bureau; Boston Beer’s Surivor Take on Pairings and The Art of Balance with Jayne Portnoy.
While education is a key focus with every HEE program, the one-on-one meetings are the core and foundation and the center of how every custom agenda comes to life. These sessions are not what you envision, but they are relaxed, engaging, beneficial and valuable. They are the passion and heart and soul of not only the HEE program, but the hospitality industry. This is where the word “resolve” played the most as these conversations allow select suppliers to connect with multi-unit operators without pressure, stress but in a productive and meaningful way to help resolve any strategies on beverage programming.
In 2023, HEE is so thankful to be celebrating 15 years of programming. HEE has always had the mission and goal to create a family that gathers together to exchange ideas, insights and information. HEE has never been about the masses, but quietly under the radar, developing and creating programming that is determined by you, the executives.
The celebration continues this fall with the dates of HEE West on October 23-26, 2023 at the beautiful Hyatt Regency Indian Wells, Indian Wells, California. The theme will be Experience & Engagement: The MAGIC of Hospitality and will also have a night dedicated to The Exchange Awards.