Take 5: Evan Traub of IMI Agency

An in the Mix Feature Interview

By Mallory Ambrose | April 23, 2024

Evan Traub

Director of Accounts, IMI Agency

With over 20 years of restaurant, bar, and nightlife management experience, Evan Traub, Director of Accounts, IMI Agency, strives to build better beverage business for clients like Hyatt Hotels, Levy, Eataly, United Clubs, and others.

In this in the Mix Take 5 interview, Evan speaks to the art of navigating on-premise chains in the ever-evolving world of beverages and sheds light on his passion for elevated guest experience and genuine hospitality.

Mallory Ambrose: Hi Evan, thank you for taking the time to speak with in the Mix today. Can you share your journey into the beverage and hospitality world? What inspired you to pursue a career in this industry?

Evan Traub: Even as a young child I knew I wanted to work in hospitality. I loved entertaining and cooking for people. I created a candy store in my basement and would sell treats to my neighbors and sisters’ friends. My basement candy store later evolved into a cafe with a menu assembled off of what was in the house.

In 2010 I started my career with Live Nation first working two different roles at House of Blues in Houston and then later moving to Los Angeles and serving as the National Director of Food and Beverage for the company working on training initiatives, food and beverage programs, special events, openings and enhancing guest experiences.

After four years with Live Nation, my wife and I moved back to Chicago where I started with IMI Agency and recently celebrated 6 years with the company!

MA: What are some challenges and achievements that you have experienced throughout your career? What has been your most meaningful accomplishment so far?

ET: A challenge I have faced is making sure I am staying up to date with the workforce and finding training solutions that help deliver impactful beverage hospitality. Recent achievements include my new position as Director of Accounts as well as leading a session on hotels RFPs for the International Bulk Wine and Spirits Show. I’m also immensely proud of my team here in Chicago and the work we do to help our clients.

MA: As Director of Accounts for IMI, what is your favorite aspect of working with clients and suppliers in the beverage sector?

ET: The variety of projects and scope of work each client needs is so different, pulling resources and helping them solve problems feels good.

Last Fall Evan joined Hyatt Hotels on a trip to Italy alongside winners from Hyatt’s annual Sparkling Celebrations, a promotion in partnership with Folio Fine Wine Partners and Hyatt Senior Leadership

MA: In a fast-paced industry, how do you stay adaptable and keep the team ahead of the curve? How do you balance the need for innovation with the importance of maintaining brand consistency for clients?

ET: I try to stay in touch with the latest trends not only as they relate to flavor profiles, low-alc and no-alc, cocktails, wine varietals, etc. but also as it relates to training resources and technology for elevating the guests’ beverage experience.

MA: What strategies do you use to ensure client satisfaction and long-term partnerships when helping brands in Building Better Beverage Business™?

ET: Being as responsive to needs as you can be and being able to ebb and flow willingly, eager to adhere to change. It’s important to listen to and hear what your client needs.

IMI Agency’s Evan Traub and Lauren Parton recently attended the ‘Vanguards of the Vine’ event curated by Terlato Wines hosted by Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits

2023 Park City Wine Festival

MA: There are many revolving trends that take place amongst consumers in the on-premise beverage scene. How have you seen trends evolve over the years and how have you adapted to these changes in the industry? Are there any emerging trends that you find particularly exciting or challenging?

ET: Because we serve the on-premise beverage alcohol market, the no and low trend is something I’m watching closely. We continue to hear about the next generation of 21+ being very conscientious of what they’re consuming from a health and wellness perspective and overall consuming less alcohol, so I would say I’m actively paying attention to that, maybe more than some other trends.

MA: Let’s get personal: What is your favorite cocktail or go-to varietal for a pre-dinner drink?

ET: I’m not sure if it is considered to be a typical pre-dinner drink, but I love a good Vieux Carré or Old Fashioned.

United Club’s February 2024 LTO celebrated Black History Month with three Old Fashioned cocktails crafted with Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey.

MA: If you could create a signature IMI Agency cocktail, what would it be and why?

ET: I think mine would be a large format cocktail, something that lots of people would share and enjoy. It would be a very fresh fruit-driven cocktail that would encompass IMI as a diverse group who serves a diverse client base. I’m imagining something served with several straws that is fruity and colorful, emulating a cocktail you would enjoy while relaxing on the beach.

MA: What do you think the future of beverage and hospitality marketing will look like 10 years from now?

ET: Well, I don’t know if this is what I think will happen, but I hope that the core of hospitality in taking care of people and the craft of what people do behind a bar like making conversation to learn about what someone likes returns, and I hope we don’t have to wait 10 years for that. The relationship between it and the caring nature that was associated with bar culture, I hope that returns.

I think that we will continue to see more spirits and overall beverages evolve internationally. I think people want to tap into new and different spirits and cocktail trends, whether it’s gins from more exotic places or agave spirits from more esoteric regions, all those different things.

Left to Right: IMI Agency’s Cody Henson, Heather Baker, and Evan Traub pictured at HEE East 2024

MA: What are some of your favorite bars or restaurants? What sets these venues apart from others?

ET: There is a concept in Chicago called Le Colonial. It is a French Vietnamese restaurant, and it has an incredibly beautiful, nice ambience. They have amazing cocktails, and their food is delightful.

It’s a unique space. Today you’re seeing more fusion type restaurants, but I think they were pioneers in the fusion frontier.

Evan will be speaking this summer at the 2024 International Bulk Wine and Spirits Show (IBWSS). See ticketing information here.

And be sure to check out the IBWSS educational webinar session below in which Evan Traub joins Sid Patel, CEO of Beverage Trade Network (IBWSS, Sommeliers Choice Awards, Bartender Spirits Awards, USA Trade Tasting), to outline the details of Cracking the National Hotel Chain Beverage Programs, providing a solid opportunity for brands looking to understand how national hotel chains work.

Evan Traub, Director of Accounts, IMI Agency

Born and raised near Cleveland, Ohio, as a young child Evan loved entertaining, hospitality, and cooking. He brought these passions to life through a candy store in his basement he used to sell treats to his neighbors and sisters’ friends. The candy store later evolved into a cafe with a menu assembled off of what was in the house.

Evan’s early jobs included prep work at Cleveland’s famed Ristorante Giovanni’s, working as a server assistant at Hyde Park Steakhouse and a bread maker at Great Harvest Bread Company.

In his teens Evan started a DJ entertainment company hiring his friends as the first employees. The company specialized in school dances, bar/bat mitzvahs and other teen events. The company grew, hired several employees over ten years while Evan went to college in Chicago and the DJ company added offices there too.

Evan studied public relations and marketing at DePaul University. While in school, Evan worked for Chartwells, a division of Compass Group, the Park Hyatt and Chicago’s preeminent nightlife and event group Rockit Ranch Productions.

After college, Evan became the Maitre’D for Nick’s Fishmarket, a 30-year old Chicago institution where he developed a passion for fine dining and elevated service. Evan moved on to the group’s sister restaurant in the western suburbs where he managed large teams for the popular destination.

In 2006 Evan was the opening GM for The Southern, a chef driven bar concept supporting local farmers and a great seasonal cocktail program. Evan and the team started an award winning food truck featuring mac & cheese and then opened a quick service mac & cheese shop in the loop. Evan began overseeing the Southern, food truck, quick service restaurant as well as the Hunt Club, a longtime Gold Coast late-night mainstay.

In 2010 Evan started his career with Live Nation first working two different roles at House of Blues in Houston and then later moving to Los Angeles and serving as the National Director of Food and Beverage for the company working on training initiatives, food and beverage programs, special events, openings and enhancing guest experiences.

After four years with Live Nation, Evan and his wife moved back to Chicago in anticipation of their first son’s birth. Evan started with IMI Agency as an account manager after previously being their client. Evan has celebrated 5 years at IMI with a team of three and helps drive better beverage business for clients like Hyatt Hotels, Levy, Eataly, PPX Hospitality Brands, United Airlines Clubs, Mina Group and others.

Evan now lives in the western suburbs of Chicago with his wife and two young boys.