The Bloomington Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) hosted the 23rd Annual Diamon Service Awards Gala on March 17 where 15 front line service personnel were recognized for their outstanding contributions to the hospitality industry.
Some of this year's recipients include Teransc Phillip, Minneapolis Airport Marriott (Best Bartender); Brandon Olson, Radisson Blu Mall of America (Best Banquet/Catering Personnel); Annette Cummings, Hilton Minneapolis/Bloomington (Best Hotel Restaurant Personnel); and Judy Neito, Hilton Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport Mall of America (2019 Hospitality Hall of Fame). We asked them some questions about their experience in the industry and advice for newcomers. Here are their responses:
1. How did you first get into this industry?
Annette Cummings: I first got into the industry on my 16th birthday, where I walked in for an interview at Arby’s and was offered the job on the spot. From that point, I knew I wanted to be in the food and beverage industry. I then ventured off to college and was looking to gain further experience. I stumbled along a server position that was open at a Greek restaurant in Crystal, Minnesota, and they told me, “you have no serving experience,” so I simply asked, “where can I get experience?” In which the restaurant told me to go to Perkin’s because they have the best server training, so I did just that! After serving at Perkins for a while and gaining the experience needed, I went back to the Greek restaurant and exclaimed, “look I have experience now!” and was offered the job and worked there for a year and a half.
Brandon Olson: The Radisson Blu is my first job in the hotel industry. I didn’t like where I was working prior, so I was just looking for anything that would get me out of there. I knew someone within the Blu and they were able to get me an interview for the on-call houseman position in the banquets department. I found that I enjoyed the work way more than I ever expected to and worked my way up to full time, then supervisor, and have been with the Blu for more than four years now.
Teransc Phillip: I had just completed a semester in college, when I was contacted by a manager from one my past jobs. They asked me if I wanted a job bartending at their hotel in the lobby lounge but I wasn't sure I could juggle my five-year-old at the time, as well as, run my own catering company. I took the job anyways and have never regretted it. I am still there 8 years later and have continued to run my business all the while.
Judy Neito: Once my son turned 4 years old, I decided I needed to get back into working. I had previously worked at a Holiday Inn years before my son was born, and there was a brand new Hilton opening up by the airport, and they were looking for a banquet server. Since I had experience and enjoyed working at the Holiday Inn, I decided I would apply at the Hilton. I got the job!
2. What is your favorite part of what you do?
AC: Making it a memorable experience for each guest that walks into my “office”, whether it be a couple celebrating their wedding anniversary or an important business meeting taking place. I truly want to personalize the service to meet the needs of my guests that walk in, so I can make an ordinary experience extraordinary for each and every guest that I serve.
BO: My favorite part of my job is working directly with the guests on their function and ensuring that everything is as perfect as I can make it for them. Often, I’m one of the first faces in the hotel that a group sees, and thus can greatly impact the group’s first impressions of our banquet space and service. Having the room set exactly as they want it, or promptly responding to concerns or changes can help set an overall positive mood for the rest of their event, which allows the clients to relax a little more and truly enjoy their time with us because everything is going to go as planned.
TP: The best part of what I do, is when a guest tells me they have travelled all around the world and but tell me that I am one of the best professionals they have encountered in all their travels.
JN: Working with all kinds of different groups/functions and meeting all of the people attending these events. No one group is exactly the same and that’s what keeps things different and interesting each day I come to work. I enjoy making a great experience for everyone holding events, making them happy makes me happy.
3. What is the best advice you have ever received or a piece of advice you would give someone?
AC: Best advice would have to be from my mom. She told me to “always smile at others because you never know, that may be the only smile a person receives all day, and it could make their day." That resonates with me, and I always make sure to smile and stay positive because in reality, you never know what that other person is going though.
BO: The best advice I have ever received was to always be yourself and be genuine in everything you do, because people take notice of that and see you as more likable, trustworthy, and helpful.
TP: A bartender once told me that when a person orders a drink you don't know how to make, instead of telling them you don't know how to make it, you can actually get them to give you the recipe by telling them you know more than one way of making the drink , and then simply ask how they like theirs made.
JN: Love what you do at your job. A lot of time in your day is spent at work so making sure you really enjoy what you do each day will show in your attitude, work and to the guests.
4. What does receiving this award mean to you?
AC: I had no idea that I would be winning this award. My son, Declan (who also works at the Hilton), and my husband, Tom, were both able to attend Diamond Service Awards, and they couldn’t have been more proud! This is my second time winning the Diamond Service Award, and I couldn’t have been more surprised that I not only won this award once, but twice!
BO: Winning this award is the confirmation that all my hard work over the years has been paying off and that people are noticing the passion I have for my work. It’s an amazing feeling to feel like the pieces of your puzzle are falling into place.
TP: Winning this years DSA for best bartender was like receiving a mini-Oscar, of sorts. Because, in a way, we sort of are on stage when we go to work, in one way or another. I accepted my award as a thank you and as recognition for doing something I love.
JN: Winning this award means a lot to me because along with my success I know the Hilton is successful and that is so important to me. I want the Hilton to be great and successful and I will continue working hard to make that happen.
5. What is one thing you wish more people know about your industry?
AC: Sometimes people don’t realize how much work it takes behind the scenes to get that meal out to them. People want their food quickly and expect the service to be top notch. Everyone has different expectations of the restaurant industry, and some people think, "how hard can it be?" But in reality, there is so much work that goes on behind the scenes.
BO: I wish more people knew that working as a banquet houseman is a really rewarding position, and a lot of fun too! We are a very important part of making any function start off on the right foot!
TP: I wish more people knew just how flexible many employers can be with certain schedules. This makes hospitality a great choice for anyone who is willing to give it their best effort. There also can be great perks and discounts for hospitality employes, which is an added bonus that I take advantage of.
JN: No job is perfect and with my job it takes a special person and someone with patience to be able to work with all kinds of people and still make a difference to them.