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 Lionel Alicea, Banquets Captain at Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club Resort:
Hi Lionel, tell us about your role.
As a banquets captain, I work with various members of the food and beverage teams to coordinate catering set-up and décor, as well as determine the proper staffing of banquet servers for any given event. I’m responsible for servicing banquet event orders and adjusting the staffing of an event based on the needs of the client.
I lead a team of banquet servers and am very passionate about motivating them. My leaders set great examples for me so I try to pass that on to my team in any way I can. I’m a big advocate for asking for help. If one of my servers asks me for help or advice, I’ll always do my best to guide them. I want them to ask for help so I try to make them feel comfortable and confident enough to do so.
Can you tell us about a typical day at work?
Every day is different! And, I’m usually not working an event at the same location every day. For example, today I’m at Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club Resort overseeing a continental breakfast in the convention center, and tonight I’ll be overseeing a networking event at Epcot. Typically, though, I start my day by reviewing the banquet event orders for that day. From there, I’ll meet with the culinary team to go over the menu and the set-up of the food.
Some events have more planning involved. For example, any events we do here on Shipwreck Beach (the resort’s private beach overlooking Crescent Lake) require a longer lead time. Whenever we have those types of events, I’ll try and meet with the sales manager in advance to determine any unique needs for the set-up, as well as the culinary team to determine timing and logistics. I usually try and get as much done ahead of time as possible to save time on the day of the event.
How do you work with meeting and event planners to ensure the group’s needs are met?
I meet with every meeting or event planner before the event, usually with the sales, and food and beverage managers. We talk about the planner’s expectations for their event, as well as any dietary restrictions or special requests. It’s also helpful for me to introduce myself as the banquets captain because they’ll know to look for me during the event if they need anything. During the event itself, I’ll seek out the planner to ensure their needs are being met and see if there is anything extra I can do for them.
How do you think food and beverage impacts the overall meeting or event experience?
I think food and beverage is very important and has a huge impact on an event. If you want to make sure a group has a great experience at their event, give them a good meal. And, if you present a delicious dish in an unexpected way, they’ll remember that long after they leave their Disney meeting.
What makes Disney’s approach to banquet service different than other destinations?
At Disney, we really try to go above and beyond in terms of guest service and that translates into each and every convention held on property. I try to be proactive in my meeting with the meeting or event planner, typically as soon as they arrive on property. Once the group arrives, I’m constantly looking for opportunities to create a “magical moment” for attendees, and that’s something that the planner always seems to appreciate. In fact, it’s what keeps them coming back year after year!
What is your favorite part of your role?
I love people. I’m a people person. I love to motivate people and bring the best out of them. I always try to build people up and make them confident that they can do something. I’m only as good as my team, and I want to be the best leader possible them. I’ve been with Disney almost 29 years, and it’s been a dream come true for me to be able to deliver magical moments to our Guests and Cast Members alike.