Mary-Catherine Moore, Director of Events and Catering at the Shinola Hotel in Detroit, talks about what it means to be on a preferred vendor list.
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people, vendors, shinola, hotel, client, venue, rooms, team, opened, space, catering, list, jewish, detroit, building, interview, important, fun, work, preferred vendor
As a Catholic farm girl in Minnesota, I certainly never expected to ever be the Jewish party Maven, but 4400 parties and 26 years later, I am indeed an expert at Jewish parties. I am fiercely committed to helping the best vendors, book more parties in this amazing, lucrative and incredibly loyal Jewish party market. Let's go. Well, welcome to the book more Jewish weddings podcast today I have the great pleasure of talking with Mary Katherine Moore from the Shinola Hotel in Detroit. And the Shinola is one of those iconic places, and I'm so excited to have you on the podcast. Hello, Mary. Katherine. Hi, hello. Thanks for having me. Well, tell us a little bit about you and the Shinola? Yeah, so
I'm the director of events in catering at Shinola hotel. We're in downtown Detroit. We opened right after the new year in 2018. And I actually work for noho hospitality, who is the food and beverage provider within within Shinola hotel. So we manage everything to eat and drink from room service to our lobby program to mister dips, which we just opened Sam Morello as well as our banquets and catering, weddings and corporate events across the hotel.
Wait, tell me mister dips. Is that what you just said? Yes,
yes, we just opened. It's our our second fast casual concept at the hotel. It's burgers, softer with fun dips. We have like cheesy waffle fries. So it's a really fun concept that we started in Brooklyn, New York. We just opened a second location in downtown Manhattan. And then this is the third location here in Detroit, first one outside of New York. So we're really excited just opened a few weeks ago, and people seem to be really enjoying it. So we're
very cool. Well, tell me more about the Shinola. How many rooms does it have? How big is the banquet space?
Yes. So we are a boutique hotel. It's the first hotel by the Shinola brand. We have 129 rooms, very unique layouts, they took three historic buildings in downtown, right on Woodward, around Grand River and farmer street, and took two other buildings that were new construction and melded them all together to make this really unique layout. So all the rooms are a little bit different. There's 50 different floor plans for 129 rooms, which keeps it really fun. Your experience can be just a little bit different every time you come to stay. And yeah, it's it's kind of like a campus, we have Parker's alley that goes kind of in between some of those buildings and has the different bars and restaurants, some local restaurants on sorry, some local businesses, retail stores down the alley. So it's a really fun place to come to stay, but also to attend an event or to just come down and walk around eat and drink and do some shopping. So it's so awesome. And
when I work weddings there, it's amazing to see all the cool photo up opportunities there. Definitely, definitely. So tell me how it works. When you don't have your wedding party there. I have a wedding party at some compete competing hotel, and they want to come take pictures in your alley. Is that an option for them? Yeah, I
mean Parker's alley, we curate this space. But it's it's a public space, honestly. So folks are welcome to come and take photos, understanding it's not a private area. So there could be other people walking around. But at the hotel, we do try to keep the common areas kind of dedicated to guests and people walking through. So we don't allow photography in the common areas of the hotel. But of course, the alley is kind of open to everyone. And there's all these great kind of industrial backdrops with the fire escape and the cobblestone and the old brown sign and painted signage from these, like 100 year old building. So it makes musicians
Yeah, musicians. Yeah. So awesome. There. You guys are amazing. Well, very cool. Well, this podcast is called book more Jewish weddings. And it's designed primarily for vendors who would like to learn more about Jewish customs, but also vendors who would like to be better vendors. And I would love to chat with you a little bit about a preferred vendor list and what that means and how to get on it and how to stay on it and and what it means from a client perspective as well. When you hear someone has a preferred vendor list. What does that mean?
Yeah, I mean, I think for each venue, it's probably a little bit different. And also, within each like vendor. venue manager, I think it might be a little bit different. What it means for us and what we tell clients when they ask is that anyone on our list has worked with us start to finish at least twice in our space. So usually means some client has brought them in. So we've had the opportunity to meet them. We go through the planning process, we go through executing the event, and of course follow up. And based on how we communicate, how they take care of the space, how we communicate with each other and collaborate through the process. Then we evaluate it, we'll add them on our preferred vendor list because it's really important, of course, anytime you're vouching for someone else that you're aligned in terms of a few different categories. So especially when we were first opening, we didn't really have a preferred vendor list cuz we hadn't done any of binds together. And I believe that we want to make sure that we've been through all of those steps of the process before we go through that step. So, and we are so on your properties, so we're constantly still adding people to that list. And we don't have any exclusives other than our on site catering. So, you know, we don't have any people you have to use at this time. So that also hopefully gives us the flexibility to keep expanding that list.
But your property is a really unique property and having someone who knows the ropes of how to load in how to unload how to utilize that where the light is in the birdie room or your you know, your fabulous open air space, and the rooftop and all that having an experience there is huge. So having a preferred vendor list gives someone a sense of confidence that those vendors can do their best work there. And absolutely, that's important. So can you dish on some ways to get off your preferred vendors list? I mean, do people do badly that would make them not be on your list? I know, I see vendors make awful mistakes about Judaism and about just not being in the right place at the right time. But it's also about communicating, right?
Yeah. So far, we haven't had to remove anybody from our list. Fortunately, I don't know how we would broach that, I would have to be pretty egregious, I think, you know, also, because we've worked with these folks at least twice, often more, we've also developed a relationship and a style of communication that hopefully would allow us to give feedback, like if something doesn't go as well, hopefully, that they are interested in that feedback. And we are reaching out with it. So there's an opportunity to correct and improve moving forward. So yes, there have been some cases where our space either, you know, wasn't taken care of as much as we would hope our spaces like, it's so beautiful. It is also what we tell people is it's kind of precious. You know, there's wood paneling everywhere, that is local wood from the state of Michigan, and there is marble flooring, and you know, just a lot of antique pieces. So we, it can seem like a bit of a burden sometimes. But we're constantly asking people, please be careful, please be careful, because we want the space to last and look just as beautiful in five years as it did on day one. So you know, there have been a couple of instances where that hasn't happened. And we've had to approach them and ask them to help us get it fixed or things like that. And I'd say like if a mistake happens, just be forthcoming. Just tell the venue Hey, we had a somebody tripped and you know, knock this thing or this piece broke while we were working in the space. And we'll find a way to make it right. But I think just being forthcoming and honest. And also like paying attention when a venue gives guidelines, just makes everyone's you know, jobs easier, because we can just trust it's going to be handled properly. It can be challenging when we're dealing with, you know, room setup, and we're also the caterer on site, of course, we've got a lot of different focuses. And if we can just trust that the vendors know our policies, and we don't have to like babysit or check on them again, that goes a really long way in terms of our peace of mind as a venue to,
so, absolutely. And I know things happen even when you have amazing vendors, and I've done this a long, long time. And I think I'm pretty darn good at my job. But we had an experience recently, where the Floor Plan wasn't communicated to anybody as far as we know. And we ended up changing things around a couple of times. And that was a new experience for me. And you know, we all learn things every time. Um, communication is so important. And just understanding that we all have the same goal is huge. And our goal is always to make the best experience for the client. And I know you excel at that. And it's nice to know that people are on the same team. And
yeah, absolutely, thanks for saying that. I mean, we I tell my team and I try to live this to is that our vendors are actually our most important regulars and our most important referrals, right, because, hopefully, you know, we've done a couple of ads together. But hopefully, we're going to do several dozen more. And the way that you then talk to your clients and your community about how we are to work with is just as important as how much we recommend you so yeah, it's it's a two way street. And I think we are all trying to serve the client. But if we can also keep in mind like serving each other and making sure we all make each other look good. It can only help in the long run.
Absolutely. I totally wholeheartedly agree with that one. And it's always about the client and doing the best job we can for them. And so as a venue right now, it must be incredibly difficult to get staff, it must be incredibly difficult to keep staff because everybody's poaching everybody's good staff. And so what can you advise to our vendors or to our customers about how to take care of the staff that you have no? tipping? Yeah. I don't mean to put you on the spot, but no, it's okay for us to be something that was sort of, okay, you might tip you might not. I think now you better be tipping. I think you you probably need as a client to be more generous now than you used to. To be, and that's a difficult thing to hear as a client. But this is a difficult economy for people to do a good job.
Well, and it's also, there's just more steps for the clients to be kept safe for our staff to be kept safe, everything just has a few extra layers on it. And hopefully, you know, if we're doing our job properly, the client and the guests don't really see most of that. But on top of being short staffed, you know, our team members, at least at our hotel, are still messed up just for everyone's safety and to keep them keep us, you know, healthy and so that we can keep working and keep providing the services that we do. But everything's just a little bit more challenging than it used to be on top of the fact that we have less hands than leads to, like I do on my management team, our service team is a little smaller than it usually was. And we're trying to deliver just as high of a caliber product, because, you know, I'm finding that the the guest expectations, people are so ready to party like they have been at home, yeah, for almost a year and a half. And we are ready to get out. And I think the hope and the expectation is that we can go back to just how it was before, if not better. And so we feel that and we wear that because we care part of why we do this. But I think acknowledging that, you know, something that may seem so simple, may take a few extra steps or a few extra, you know, hands to get done. So, you know, in terms of our team, we really just try to keep it a safe and also positive and fun place to work as much as we can. And we take a lot of pride in our in the product that we're delivering. And I think that keeps keeps our team coming back. As well as the fact that we just, we try to have fun and make sure everyone's having a good time and also continuing to learn and working well together. So we're fortunate to have the team that we do we really, they are really
good. And I know you take good care of your people. And as a vendor, I think it's important to understand that the things you used to take for granted may not be there anymore. I know that I worked at a different hotel recently. And my job was to take 17 girls dresses down from the suite down to my car into my car, take them to another venue where they would get dressed there. It used to be I would call the Bellman he would come up with a cart, he would take all these dresses down my car would be waiting there at valet Well guess what? No more Bellman? No more valet. So that simple task became a major. Okay, how do you haul 17 dresses down without getting them all wrinkled anymore? Right? No, no, no. It things are different. And so as a vendor, we need to not assume things anymore, just because that's the way it used to be. But it's also as a client, understanding that some of those options aren't available anymore, and may not be available for a long time. And so I think patience and flexibility are still key to all of that. And I know your staff works really hard training, training training. I've been doing some workshops around Detroit, in training people in George customs, and I hope to do a whole bunch more of that. But I've got people gonna sign up and take my class and learn all that it's all about customer service. And you guys are the masters of customer service. Do you have any advice on what you look for when you're hiring people to get that customer service? Excellent. Yeah, I
mean, we definitely look for people who have at least a year or two of just catering and or serving experience. You know, there's some certain basic skill sets in terms of being able to carry a large banquet trays, being able to you know, serve and clear tables accurately knowing a little bit about wine. But honestly, the thing that we look for the most is just people who who care who want to be a team player, and who are eager to learn. And you know, folks who bring that energy to an interview. And also, of course, we do check references and just make sure you know, how are they to work with? Are they reliable, all the other basics, honestly. But for us, it's also it's really about being a team player, like our team, it's very much like one team one dream, it's kind of a cheesy phrase, but we really try to live by that. Everyone has their assigned roles. And some people have a little bit more leadership within the internal team. But everyone ultimately is there to make that dream and the event happen. So if we need to drop everything and change focus, because you know, a tray of glasses, spills or something like that we all jump in, and make sure that it's corrected, and then we continue doing what we were doing before. So that team mentality is something that is hard to teach. So we look for people that just kind of want to work in that environment.
So have you come up with some key questions that you ask during the interview to discover that? I mean, it's hard people can fake a lot in an interview. Yes, yeah. There's something you come up with that reveals something.
I usually try to ask that, you know, if they can tell me about a team that they worked on in the past that they really loved, and tell me what that was like and what the dynamic was like and any examples and then also to ask about a team they didn't love as much and as soon as you ask people to talk about something a little bit less positive or something that was more challenging. It can also Often reveal how they approached that situation or looked at that situation. But we also always do like a secondary interview with another manager. So we get another set of eyes. And we all have different interview styles. And I've learned a lot from my colleagues. So having another set of questions and, you know, eyes on or no eyes on a resume, but also just like speaking to an additional person goes a long way.
awesome. Well, you are terrific, and Shinola is terrific. And lucky to have you there. And I know you bring that sense of dedication with you every day. And I'm, I've watched you personally do things above and beyond the call of duty over and over and over again. And it's a wonderful thing, and our customers recognize it and appreciate it. And and you are just awesome. So I'm appreciate your coming on the podcast today. And I look forward to working with you again and again, is there any piece of wisdom you'd like to leave with our vendors, if somebody wants to be of above and beyond vendor, something that they ought to focus on?
It's something I I've been thinking about a lot just again, as we get back in the swing of things, and it's, we're doing you know, I'm sorry, sure, you are to like a whole year in like seven months, this year, especially, you know, if and when there's ever something that may we may not seem aligned on or you know, there's a group email or a group call. And it seems like, that's not what we talked about, or Oh, that doesn't seem to work. I just say like, reach out to the venue directly, or reach out to me directly and to say, offline, aside from the client pay, how can we find a common ground and find a solution, and then we can both approach it with the guest. And make sure that we then can like continue to move forward together, as opposed to, you know, those those group emails that can come sometimes spiral out of control, like getting off the email and onto the phone or in person can make such a big difference in building that relationship and finding common ground because ultimately, it is a collaboration. And, you know, we want to be of a great event, we want our vendors to you know, be able to get the service they want to give. So I'd say just again, just that collab collaboration is probably the biggest thing that that I've been thinking about lately.
That's huge. Absolutely. Yeah. Well, yay. Again, thank you very much. I appreciate your being here. The Shinola Hotel in Detroit is lucky to have you and I hope to be working with you lots and lots. So thank you so much for having me. All right. Take care.