Local Expert @ The Chattanoogan Shares Insider Tips
Being right here in North Georgia, we are fortunate enough to be a stone's throw from some of the most innovative businesses in the nation. In this new section of our blog, I want to put the spotlight on the people behind those businesses that help make them so amazing!
To kick things off, I was honored to have the opportunity to interview Nichole Ridge. She has the fast-paced job as a Senior Catering Sales Manager for the iconic The Chattanoogan Hotel. In her dual role as a saleswoman and event coordinator, she shared some awesome insights that any business can benefit from. So without further ado..
Q: Can you tell me a little bit about what you do at The Chattanoogan Hotel?
A: My role as the Senior Catering Sales Manager is a dual role. I work to generate sales and book events for the hotel, as well as being the primary coordinator and point of contact for the people that host their events and galas in our hotel. We have another person on our team who focuses on personal events, like weddings and birthdays, leaving me free to specialize in creating event experiences for business and non-profit organizations. As their main contact throughout the process, I make sure everything from start to finish meets their needs and expectations.
Q: That sounds challenging and exciting at the same time. What inspired you to want to go into that as a career and to want to work specifically for The Chattanoogan?
A: The hospitality business is a career that really found me. I started my first restaurant job when I was 19 years old. In each job that I worked, I found myself climbing the ladder into management. From there, I ended up spending some time in New York where I took a summer job at a family-owned property. I started as a bartender and over my 9 years there, I worked my way up to being the Assistant General Manager of the property. I decided that I was ready to move back to Chattanooga, and started looking at my career options closer to home. I really loved the event management aspect of what I did when I was in New York and wanted to pursue that more. So when I came back, I spent almost a year at the Double Tree before a job opened at The Chattanoogan that was a perfect fit for my talents and expertise. I started here in December of 2011 and love the work that I do for the hotel and for local businesses.
Q: What is your biggest advice that you would give to businesses owners or organizations that are looking to plan an event?
A: Hmmm.... let me think about that one a minute. I would say that if I had to pick the biggest thing people should focus on, it would be to keep an open mind on what food you want to serve and what your price point will look like. As I start working with someone who is planning a new event, we often find that one of the first hurdles is striking a balance between serving exceptional food and an elevated experience while keeping it in line with their budget.
Q: You also spend time working to generate sales, so what would your biggest advice be for people that work in sales too?
A: Be tenacious, but be genuine at the same time. You have to get out there and get in front of people. You can't be afraid to start a conversation or follow back up with a good lead, but at the same time, you really do need to have a genuine heart for building relationships and getting to know people.
Q: What do you feel is the best way to generate new business for a company, especially one that's already as well known in the area as The Chattanoogan is?
A: Get out there and get seen. You need to be personal and develop real connections with others. Everybody needs a face, they need to know who they are going to come to with questions or concerns. This is even more important when you have an established business. You shouldn't rely on the name alone to carry the sale. People need and should have a personal connection when they are looking to make a decision.
Q: Do you attend any networking events in the area? And which ones do you feel are the most beneficial for you?
A: I really enjoy the AM Networking event that is hosted by the Chattanooga Chamber. It's very well attended and I feel like there are always new faces to meet and connect with. I do also go to the After Hours Event that they host as well. While it has more regular attendees, it is also more laid back and relaxed.
Q: When you first meet someone that is looking to host an event with you, what are some of the most common questions you typically get asked?
A: I think the biggest question I get is "What is it going to cost?" Most of the, what we focus on is building out a menu that balances food choices with their budget to help meet their needs.
From there, the next question I get is generally people wanting to know what dates, times, and spaces we have available.
Q: How far in advance should people call you if they want to reserve a space?
A: We are fortunate to have a business model that lets us adapt and host amazing events with 60 days or less lead time for business events. However, most gala functions are booked 6-12 months in advance to fit their unique needs.
Q: How can someone contact you to get more information or to book their event?
A: Just give me a call or send me an email. I can be reached at 423-424-3726 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Would you like to see more of these stories?
Please leave me a comment and let me know if you know someone who would be a great interview.
One of my first jobs was running a cash register in my grandmothers diner. My job was to talk to customers and and to keep everything in my area neat and organized. Now years later those lessons I learned help me in managing client files and projects. Making sure our team is working to help our clients reach their business goals is what drives me everyday.
I am a strong believer that to succeed in life you have to work hard and never let roadblocks stand in your way. You have to read and study but you also have to experience life and all that it can teach you.
My mission is to help clients and our team have the materials and knowledge they need to make every project a success, while making sure to spread some of the information I learn around for others to enjoy.