The International Foodservice Manufacturers Association (IFMA) recently named Susan Terry, vice president of culinary and food & beverage operations at Marcus Hotels & Resorts, a 2018 Silver Plate Award winner in the hotels and lodging category. With more than two decades of F&B industry experience, Terry took on her role at Marcus Hotels & Resorts in January 2016 and has since redefined the company’s approach to F&B by incorporating sustainable practices into its operations, showcasing more local flavors, and emphasizing healthier options across its 40 signature restaurants, bars, and lounges at 20 properties. LODGING caught up with Terry to discuss where her love of hospitality originated and her vision for how hotel food and beverage can deliver more exceptional experiences to guests.
How did you get your start in hospitality and when did you make the transition to hotels?
I started working when I was 14 years old in a restaurant down the street from my house. I was a cashier—not a good one—and before they fired me, I persuaded them to let me work in the kitchen. I found that I really liked it. As I looked to change jobs while in high school, I focused on learning more and staying in restaurants. During that time, I was influenced by Chef Vinny, a Culinary Institute of America (CIA) graduate, who taught me how to bone a chicken and make soup. It was fun for me as a 16 year old to learn these types of things. After that, I was hooked.
When you started at Marcus Hotels & Resorts in January 2016, what was your goal for the F&B program?
My goal was to build on the great work that was already done. When I joined the organization, we had a lot of opportunity to work on standards and specifications, banquet stylizing, and cocktail programming. My big goal, though, was to connect the team and give them a larger sense of community, to learn from each other and to challenge each other.
What changes have you seen in hospitality F&B throughout your career, and how have those shaped your approach to F&B today?
The biggest changes are ongoing. I’ve been around long enough to see the height of creative F&B and then see the decline. That was difficult to live through. But from that we’ve started to really find our food culture and we are back on the upswing of creative and inspired food and beverage. Particularly in the hotel sector, it’s rewarding to see that F&B is back to being valued and important. Marcus has always done that really well and it was one of the things that attracted me to the organization to begin with.
Where does the focus on wellness and healthy options factor into your strategy?
Wellness and healthy options are important and expected by the guests. We are working with our chefs to ensure that there is an appropriate amount of variety from which they can choose. In fact, right now, we are putting together a breakfast workshop focused on nutrition, defining healthy for us and inspiring the chefs to push the envelope from the regular staples. The funny thing about healthy options, though, is that people want it, but it’s not necessarily a top seller. Our challenge is to make the healthy options so spectacular that they appeal to everyone.
What does this recognition of receiving a Silver Plate Award mean to you?
It’s hard to put into words how much this means to me. I’m so humbled to be nominated by my peers, I think that is what means the most, to be honest. I’ve been mentored by some really amazing people in my career and to know that there are others that feel that I have contributed as well to the betterment means everything.
What’s your advice to those just starting their careers in this industry?
You better love it. It can be really unforgiving. We work when everyone else is playing. But, if it’s for you, you will have a lot of fun, meet lifelong friends, see things that you can’t imagine, and be surrounded by some of the coolest people out there.