Two veteran hospitality sales executives—Mark Benson, CMP, with a background in upscale resorts, and Todd Mickey, with expertise in F&B—have joined forces to launch Applied Meetings & Hospitality Solutions, a consultancy that aims to bring their experienceto planners’ and meeting design discussions. The company, based in Orlando and Naples, Fla.,can act as an extension of a meeting planning team in areas including site selection/cost analysis, negotiation, meeting design and execution, on-site staffing, menu design and coordination, and destination management recommendations.
Mark Benson, CMP, president
“With over four decades of combined business development and operational experience in international and domestic hotels and resorts, we know how hotels and resorts operate,” Benson says. “Our objective is to maximize our clients’ business value and increase leverage in negotiations while providing a healthy business case for the selected hotel’s stakeholders. We do this through obtaining high-level intelligence not normally sought but important in the decision-making process.”
What kind of intelligence? Benson says AM&HS’s “due diligence process” for planners includes investigating some behind-the-scenes details on the hotel side that those on the buyer side might not know to review; for example, hotel ownership investment intentions, market segmentation priorities, revenue and function-space management policies, and operational strengths and weaknesses.
Sharing F&B Secrets
Likewise, as a graduate of the New England Culinary Institute, Todd Mickey is able to put his insights to work for planners in the F&B realm. The overall goal is to work with meeting hotels’ culinary staff to craft the highest-quality menu possible within an organization’s budget.
“An important consideration is the impact of seasonal and regional food offerings on menu choices and hotel food costs,” Mickey says. “For example, raspberries can range from $3.50 per half-pint to almost $7 per half-pint when they have to be imported outside of the domestic growing season. Replace them with local, seasonal alternatives when out of season. Also, understanding cuts and quality of beef can drastically reduce a menu price. Instead of a grilled filet of beef ($11 or more per pound wholesale), consider grilled flat-iron steak ($6.50 per pound wholesale). This is considered the second-most tender cut of beef, is a staple in domestic and international regional cuisines, and a favorite of leading chefs such as Bobby Flay and Michelle Bernstein. And it allows you to cut your food cost by 20 percent to 30 percent.” Want another substitution tip? Choose an herb-and-mustard crust instead of the Saga blue-cheese crust and you could save another $1.50 on each plate. Says Mickey: “Details add up!”
Todd Mickey, COO
It’s All About Cost Analysis
The time is right for the launch, says Benson, because of planners’ increased workloads with no support staff hiring on the horizon, and the increased demands placed on them to analyze meeting spending.
“Corporations and associations continue to scrutinize the spend, return on investment, and return on objectives of meeting and incentive programs,” he says. “Meeting professionals (and non-professionals who are assigned meeting and incentive responsibilities) have less in-house support resources and increased responsibilities and accountability expectations from executive leadership.”
In addition, he points out, “procurement departments’ involvement continues to increase, along with their expectations of detailed due diligence and cost analysis. One of our key deliverables is our customized cost analysis and line-item reporting encompassing part or all aspects of travel incentives, meetings, and customer-focused programs.”
In creating their business model, Benson says, he and Mickey studied the meeting sourcing and operation processes and challenges of major associations and Fortune 100 companies. The company also convened an advisory board consisting of a resort executive, corporate meeting professional, association meeting professional, hospitality industry consultant, and marketing executive.