As part of our on-going “5 Minutes With” series, every month we’ll introduce you to a new member of our Disney Meetings team at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, Disneyland Resort in California or Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa in Hawaii. Whether they work in our Disney Convention Resorts, Theme Park Operations, Catering and Convention Services, Sales, Entertainment or dozens of other event-support areas, these Cast Members and their teams are responsible for creating magical experiences and unforgettable events for meeting and event industry professionals, and their important attendees and guests, every single day.
Let’s meet Kelly Blakely, Senior Catering Operations Director for Walt Disney World Resort in Florida:
Hi Kelly, tell us about your role.
My role is to lead the Catering Operations team here at Walt Disney World Resort, as well as our Disney Catered Events team, Disney Event Group Services, and Disney’s Youth & Leisure Group Services team. I’ve been at Walt Disney World for 21 years now, and have worked in various areas including food and beverage, front desk operations, group reservations, weddings, and catering and convention services. All of these experiences lend to what my teams do every day, which is to collaborate and provide each and every group with a memorable meeting and event experience.
Can you tell us about a typical day at work?
I really don’t consider any day to be typical! A good deal of my time is spent in the various locations where our meetings and events take place. I enjoy the opportunity to visit with clients, walk through the event space, and spend time with our team (Cast Members) who are interacting with our guests every day. I’m passionate about the meeting and event industry, as well as our brand here at Disney Meetings. It’s important to me to be sure that as a team and as individuals, we are constantly learning and looking at ways to enhance what we do and how we do it, to provide the very best to our groups every day.
How do you and your team work with meeting and event planners?
Our goal is to ensure that we are providing our meeting and event planners with a seamless experience. We enjoy working with our partners to personalize each client’s visit from pre-arrival through departure. We are most successful when we build trust and strong relationships with our clients, and that begins before they arrive on site. We have a depth of resources and creative talent here at Disney, and we truly do have the ability to make magic. We recognize that every planner has a different vision, and we pride ourselves on our ability to work hand in hand to create a one of a kind meeting or event. We also have great tools in place so that if a planner is not able to do a site visit prior to the event, we can utilize technology to ensure that they have a good feel for what their attendees will experience.
How do you think food & beverage impacts the overall meeting or event experience?
We think about food and beverage as a key part of the experience. Our culinary team has a strong focus on the quality and presentation of everything they produce. We believe that our food and beverage can make a statement, regardless of how simple or complex the menu is. It is about really good food presented in an approachable way. This fall, we will be introducing new catering menus that incorporate seasonal offerings, additional action stations, as well as some classic Disney themed refreshments. Our Chefs enjoy working to develop customized offerings that are unique to each group, as well as the style of the event.
What is your favorite part of your role?
I love leading teams with such diverse experiences. Our team members are incredibly adaptable, and they get excited to work with meeting and event planners to customize experiences. We are constantly challenging ourselves to think about the possibilities and unique ways to deliver a world-class experience. Where else can you start your day with Mickey waffles and end your day with a private dessert party overlooking an awe-inspiring Disney fireworks show? Only a Disney Meeting offers this much magic!