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Home Grown Hospitality

There is something exciting about living in one of the top food destination cities in the world. In August 2017, Bon Appetit magazine named Chicago “Restaurant City of the Year.” I am spoiled because I live in the heart of the hottest dining neighborhood in Chicago. It’s wonderful to know I can walk out my door and have the opportunity to dine at a hot restaurant every day of the week if I like.

Conversely, there is something fabulous about becoming a “regular.” Having that bartender know I like my martini shaken, not stirred. Ordering from the waiter who knows I like my steak cooked rare and that I hate mushrooms. Chatting with the owner when she stops by the table to say hello and to see what’s new in my life. These are the places that keep bringing me back because they always welcome me.

It is so important for your team to remember that you are in the hospitality business. The definition of hospitality is: “The friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.” 

Customers have so many options today that we must make every experience memorable for a return visit. Food and service are two essential items we provide that make memorable experiences for guests—if we hire the best people. Your team needs to understand that hospitality is the fundamental element of our culture.

Jen Perna's favorite table in Puerto Vallarta


I have been traveling to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for the past 15 years. I usually visit at least once a year for a two-week vacation. About 10 years ago, my great friends, David and John, introduced me to a beach club called La Carreta. La Carreta looks like a typical club on Los Muertos beach; an open-air restaurant set in the back with rows and rows of umbrella tables leading to the Bay of Banderas. What is not typical is the level of service I receive every time I return.

It may be an entire year between my visits. But upon my return, the owner, Romy, welcomes me with a hug. He remembers me. I then say hello and get hugs from Enrique, Ricardo, and Carlos because it has been a year since I have seen them too. They serve me a Pacifico Light with limón because they remember my beach drink. They also know I prefer the second row, like two tables rather than one, am still an early riser, and will be there each day by 9:00 a.m. They have everything ready for me each day before I even arrive, with the reserved sign holding my spot.

Since David and John first introduced me, I have now brought numerous friends and family members to La Carreta. Why on earth would I go anywhere else? Romy and his team make me feel special. They have made Puerto Vallarta and their beach club a second home for me. Gracias, amigos. I will see you again soon.

Jen Perna will be teaching two sessions at Catersource 2019. Click here to view them, and then register!

Jennifer Perna

Jennifer Perna

Owner, Fulton Market Consulting, Chicago, IL
Jennifer Perna started Fulton Market Consulting in May 2017 after developing an event experience and sales management experience portfolio for over 25 years in the downtown Chicago catering and special events industry. Jennifer presently works with owners, managers and all team players at hospitality-related companies on increasing sales and creating business development strategies, streamlining processes for operations and event production and developing best practices for human resources and administrative management. This is especially imperative as we continue to manage a diverse and young talented pool of employees today. Jennifer brings a dynamic, approachable and relatable communication style to all levels and members...