NOT every event professional is cut out for the social scene. But for Daniel Briones, CPCE, private events are personal favorites. “I love getting involved with a family and into an individual's personal space — being part of their thoughts and processes,” says the director of catering for the Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia. “There's a different level of satisfaction when you're part of an emotional decision.”

With his skill at dealing with the ups and downs of human emotion — a must in the high-intensity atmosphere of wedding and bar/bat mitzvah planning — it's no surprise Briones thrills to the constantly shifting challenges his day brings. After all, this is an event expert who left the world of restaurant management because he was bored with “the daily routine.” In Briones' current role with the Four Seasons, a calendar of more than 1,500 events annually ensures that constant change is on the schedule. “What's fascinating with a ballroom is that it's a box,” he explains. “The client can come in and do anything they want with design, menu design, etc. It's never the same event twice.”

While Briones embraces change, he acknowledges that it also can present obstacles. For one thing, there's the advent of technology, which he says is “removing the opportunity to have real interaction with our clients — you have to get creative in order to stay in front of a customer and be able to present yourself and your venue while using your own personality.”

Then there's the reality that “introducing change to others can be difficult,” Briones says. For instance, he faces the challenge of changing the view of prospective clients. “The Four Seasons Philadelphia has an amazing reputation as a fabulous location — very opulent, with amazing service and food and beverage,” he says. “But sometimes there's a perception of stuffiness and over-the-top elegance.” Briones' job is to alter such notions by demonstrating the property's versatility, as he did with a “very sexy, South Beach, Delano {hotel}”-inspired event for a recent client who “couldn't imagine how that could exist here.”

All of that change-management is good preparation for Briones' newest role — that of incoming NACE president. As the new leader of the caterers' association, his main duties include changing “the way we view education, marketing and the services NACE provides in order to capture the attention of a new generation of catering and event professionals,” he says. Efforts already underway include NACE's hiring of a marketing firm to assist in the process. Then there's the association's annual conference, which Briones has assembled a task force to analyze. “We're looking at some potentially radical changes in the format and structure,” the enthusiastic new NACE president says. “We're really going to take it apart and put it back together, starting new.”


Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia One Logan Square, Philadelphia, PA 19103; 215/963-272; www.fourseasons.com/philadelphia

STAR TREATMENT

“Part of {a client's} selection of the Four Seasons Philadelphia isn't just about the physical property, it's the people. From the moment you walk in the door here, you feel it. Our staff knows you're coming, they know why you're here. We get to know what's important to the client, know their family and what their decision-making factors are, so we can give them a real honest overview of what we have and how we can achieve those goals. It's more than just booking a piece of business.”

VISION AND REVISION

“I always love to know what the client's expectations are, particularly for a wedding. What have you always dreamed of? What does it look like in your mind? Is it outdoors? All white? Is food the most important part? Is the time of day the most important thing? First I have to confirm that I can provide what they want. And if I can't, I need to know how to go about trying to work around that.”

STAND AND DELIVER

“Guests are inclined to try to negotiate pricing now more than ever before. It's important that event professionals educate the consumer on the value of our product. Rather than dropping our prices to book business, we need to stand behind the integrity of our product.”