DelMonte's Erica Standish: What it takes to be successful in F&B

Hilton Garden Inn Rochester/University & Medical Center

The millennial generation's reputation often precedes it. Often denigrated as job-hoppers who don't like to put in a full-day's work, there are always exceptions to every stereotype. Enter Erica Standish. The 27-year-old old has been with DelMonte Hotel Group for five years, and currently is the food-and-beverage director at the company's Hilton Garden Inn Rochester/University & Medical Center in Rochester, N.Y.

Standish oversees the 136-room hotel's entire F&B operation, including the banquet facility, private dining room, roomservice and the property's Italian restaurant, Grappa. She also creates the wine list, helps determine the cocktail list and works with the Grappa chef on menu updates.

The fact that there is such a variety of dimensions to the job is one of the key reasons Standish says she enjoys coming to work every single day.

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"Every day is different, and I'm constantly learning and meeting new people," she said. "Every day you learn something new, whether it be about food and beverage, whether it be about management, whether it be about people's personalities.

"You're always posed with a new challenge, a new situation, and how am I going to do this puzzle today and put the right pieces in the right places. I think that's the most fun. This is my passion, this is my life. I love my career, and I feel that when I come to work every day, it's new, it's challenging, it's ever-learning and it's ever-changing, and I just love that."

From the beginning

Standish knew at the age of 16, when she got a job at a local ice cream stand, that the hospitality field was the right choice for her.

"I love seeing people happy, and I was like, 'You know what? This is what I want to do,'" she said. "I want to do something that makes people happy."

When the time came for college, she decided to study hotel management at Rochester Institute of Technology, and built upon her summer ice-cream job with a job as a restaurant server.

"I was fascinated with hotels," she said. "I thought, 'Wow, it would be so cool to run a hotel and be able to meet so many people and touch so many different lives, and help make them all happy.'"

Standish started with DelMonte five years ago as a front-desk supervisor at a Courtyard by Marriott property, then moved to another Courtyard as operations manager. She followed that up with a year-and-a-half stint as F&B manager at a Renaissance hotel, then moved to her current position. The Hilton Garden Inn has been open since June. The two F&B positions have solidified her feelings that she is in the right career, and she can't imagine doing anything else.

"Food and beverage is definitely my passion. The hotel [positions were] great, but being able to be part of the hotel while being a restaurant attached to the hotel and having banquets, it encompasses all of it," Standish said. "I fell in love with food and beverage, can't stop learning about it, can't stop trying to figure out what the next trend is, what's the latest, what's the greatest, and I definitely couldn't see myself doing anything else."

There's a possible genetic component to Standish's job trajectory: "After I picked my career path, my dad shared with me that my grandpa actually owned a hotel and restaurant in New York, and I never knew that. It was just funny because I think it's just in my blood."

Company focus

While Standish said that her immediate goal is to keep Grappa and the rest of the foodservice operations on the successful path they are on, she definitely has longer-term plans, and those involve moving up the ranks at DelMonte.

"For [the next] five years, I want to continue to learn and grow with the company, continue to take classes, including wine and beer classes, and get my sommelier [certification]," she said. "Within 10 years, I would like to be the vice president of food and beverage for our company."

Standish attributes her desire to stay with the company for the foreseeable future to the closeness that being part of a family-owned company creates, as well as the example set by frequent Grappa guest and CEO John DelMonte and his son Alexander, the company's president, who provide Standish with all the support she needs to continue to be successful, she said.

"It's important that you have support from upper management, and especially from your owners," she said. "I definitely get that, and I think that's really something that you need to perform your job. It's really important that they let me do my job, they trust the decisions that I make, they communicate well with me.

"They are phenomenal to work for."

Standish said one of John DelMonte's favorite quotes is "success is never final," and that is a sentiment she takes to heart.

"They've given me the opportunities to learn and grow, and the tools that I need to continue any education or learning opportunities," she said. "They push me to be the best that I can be. I just love to be challenged and pushed, and they do a great job of that."

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