Surprisingly Entertaining Tips from Joan Bever, The Breakers Palm Beach

There are plenty of reasons to celebrate as we approach the end of the year, and Joan Bever of The Breakers Palm Beach has some helpful tips for hosts and hostesses!

As director of food and beverage for catering and banquet operations at Florida’s legendary AAA Five Diamond resort, Joan Bever has one guiding philosophy: Impeccable personalized service, fueled by an intense passion for perfection.

She approaches every facet of event planning and execution in this way, leading more than 200 dedicated associates who flawlessly transform dreams into realities. Bever oversees the various departments that contribute to the effort, including catering sales; culinary services; stewarding; The Breakers’ own in-house décor company, The Design Studio; and audio-visual services, Palm Beach Staging & Production.

Bever has worked diligently to earn an extraordinary reputation for creative vision, collaborative execution and merciless attention to detail. Says Bever, “A wedding dinner for 50 or 500 is as elegant and delectable as a gourmet dinner for two.” Every detail becomes a coveted opportunity to surprise and delight guests.

To effectively engage a new generation of brides and grooms, Bever has tapped the Internet and social media with the re-launch of weddingsbythebreakers.com, a site she first conceived in 2007, to underscore the importance of modern-day wedding planning and communications. This online destination encourages interaction before and after special events, takes full advantage of social media by utilizing resources such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, and engages the bridal community through the site’s own dedicated blog.

Bever has been part of the luxury hotel business since 1982, having held positions at the Boca Raton Resort & Club and The Ritz-Carlton Palm Beach, before joining The Breakers Palm Beach in 1992 as catering manager. Her favorite wedding was her daughter’s, which was hosted at The Breakers in the magnificent Circle Ballroom (Photographed below by Donny Newman.)

Oh My Goodness Gracious asked Joan a few questions. Here’s what she graciously shared!

What advice do you have for the budding host or hostess?
Joan Bever: There are really no rules when it comes to selecting a menu. We like to tell our clients to think of the dinner menu as if you were having friends over your home – you can’t make everyone happy with your menu, but with at least three sensational courses you know everyone will find something they like and enjoy a wonderful evening.

Another “must do” for special events is to incorporate an element of surprise. Ensure a “wow factor” with an interactive element – like a pizza station or a candy bar – or, add fun to your event with fireworks, sparklers or unique party favors.

Are there any dos / don’ts you’d like to share? Cardinal rules your staff is expected to follow?
Joan Bever: My favorite aspect of special event is the opportunity to be a part of something so special. We get to work closely with our clients to plan a memorable event and it’s always so wonderful to watch all your planning come to fruition. We’re in the business of making unforgettable memories, and you just cannot beat that experience – my cardinal rule is to never forget that.

My “do” for all hosts and hostess: Relax! Forget the worrying and leave all the planning to my team of professionals.

The Breakers Palm Beach – Photograph Courtesy of Lila Photo

What are some of the details (which may go unnoticed) that you provide to ensure a seamless and enjoyable experience to guests?
Joan Bever: When choosing The Breakers Palm Beach for a celebration or destination wedding, guests can expect a spectacular venue, extraordinary cuisine and above all, very personalized service. With a multitude of amenities, guests can also expect to start enjoying the moment they arrive on property – our staff ensures they can leave all of their worries behind as every want or need can be found on property.

From the first meeting with one of our catering managers, to the menu tasting, through every aspect of the planning process and throughout the event weekend, our staff combines experience with sensitivity to ensure all of our clients’ dreams become reality and their guests enjoy an incredible experience.

Is there a Breakers staff motto / tip from your culture of excellence you’d be willing to share?
Joan Bever: The Breakers stands alone with unmatched quality and versatility in cuisine, presentation and service. Our working environment is characterized by teamwork and dedication, while consistently providing a high level of personalized, sincere and engaging service to all guests at all times.

As our president, Paul Leone says, “We believe that to achieve our goals, the most important element of our strategy is to attract, retain, and develop the best and brightest talent in the hospitality industry.” That extraordinary emphasis on our team clearly benefits our clients.

The Breakers Palm Beach – Photograph Courtesy of Lila Photo

Is there anything we’d be surprised to know?
Joan Bever: It’s really all the little details that can truly make a tremendous impact. You might be surprised to know the amount of people or departments involved in a special event (hundreds), or the amount of flowers used on a wedding “chuppah” (a traditional canopy used in the ceremony) or even the number of lights needed to illuminate a performance.

Is there a signature drink or recipe you’d be willing to share with us?
Joan Bever: Certainly! We have many fun and delicious recipes perfect for a signature cocktail. Here is a link to the recipe for our Flirtini Cocktail.

Thanks, Joan! Cheers!




The Guest Experience: An Interview with The Breakers’ Kirk Bell

How does one of America’s most legendary resort destinations, a 140-acre property with 540 guest rooms, manage to create a highly personalized guest experience? To learn more, I had the pleasure of interviewing true professional Kirk Bell, hotel manager for The Breakers Palm Beach. Overseeing everything from the front desk and concierge to the individual guest rooms, Bell was gracious enough to share strategies for a seamless and surprisingly entertaining guest experience that can benefit hosts and hostesses at every level.

 Main Lobby: LILA Photo; Fountain and Aerial View: The Breakers Palm Beach
Oh My Goodness Gracious with Kirk Bell, The Breakers Palm Beach

Anticipate Issues
“Hosting guests in your home is little different from managing the guest experience at a large resort,” said Bell, who has been with The Breakers for 10 of his 25 years in the business. “Anticipate, and always add something new. You want to know your guests and work to anticipate needs even before they realize them.”

And anticipate they do. For instance, I appreciated that our luggage made it to our room before we did! Bell explained that at the end of a guest’s jog, staff members may anticipate that he or she needs a bottle of water or a chilled towel… Keeping an eye on the weather radar, they may prepare to offer umbrellas at the front door or towels where people may get caught in the rain. He shared that one of his favorite rewards is seeing letters and surveys indicating the staff knew what guests needed before they even needed it.

One adorable thing I witnessed was children departing from The Breakers with parents and selecting stuffed animals from a little treasure chest. Since kids are often sad to leave, The Breakers offers them stuffed animals in aquatic and tropical themes, so they depart with a little piece of their stay. They come back wanting to collect them all (a calling and an expectation for kids). Brilliant!

“For the most part, guests don’t walk away with anything but a memory, so you want to create a special experience,” added Bell.

Whether at The Breakers or in your own home, Bell explained it is important to try and have something new for guests to enjoy each time. For The Breakers, that something new could mean a new restaurant, pool area or room decor. Continually striving to offer engaging experiences, The Breakers’ newest addition is an exciting drinking and dining experience opening this fall. Described as “lively, glamorous and unique,” it’s planned in collaboration with famed hospitality designer Adam Tihany and will be an ode to the classic Palm Beach cocktail culture. Likely one Mrs. Lilien would approve of. Sign me up!

Know Your Guests
When you invite guests into your home, it is good practice to know a little about them in advance. Are kids coming? Do they have certain dietary needs? At The Breakers, that concern for guest comfort is no different. They just have a much more sophisticated system to enable a highly personalized experience. From the moment you call The Breakers, a staff member is already looking into any personal guest history information on-file. Are you there for a conference? If not, you may need a restaurant suggestion. Boom! They’ve got it.

Guest Room Greatness
The Breakers recently underwent a five-year, $80 million redesign of all guest rooms. Before starting the project, guests were asked what they’d like to see. Their answer? They wanted to be reminded of where they were: by the ocean, in a tropical place. You’ll find The Breakers did a beautiful job of providing that atmosphere, complete with vintage Old Florida photographs and a fresh, new decor in a distinctive and classic style.

Inspired by how the resort incorporated the local area into its decor, I may have to apply this idea to our own guest room – maybe some Tallahassee touches and photo books for out-of-town guests to appreciate. Consider that added to the guest room goals!

The Breakers Palm Beach: Oceanfront Suite - Bedroom

Within the halls of the grand structure, there was something that made me feel right at home, and it wasn’t just the Bloody Marys talking. Bell, who began at The Breakers as front door manager, attributes that feeling to the awesome staff, and I have to agree.

One of the resort’s core values is respect. Respect guests. Respect each other. Maybe that’s why The Breakers has such high longevity among its employees. When an organization is like a family, the camaraderie is noticeable, and it rubs off! At every turn, the staff seemed genuine, friendly and essentially non-robotic. It was comforting.

The Pro at Home
I was very curious to hear just how The Breakers’ hotel manager entertains in his own home, so I asked Bell how he would prepare for a small gathering with only a few hours of notice.

“Go with what you know,” replied Bell. “This is not the time to experiment.”

His final advice: Look around you for ideas. The Breakers team travels the world looking for new ways to enhance the guest experience, and as individual hosts and hostesses, we too can find sources of inspiration wherever we go.