Industry expert ConsultanTs
Partnerships drive success
meet our industry expert Consultants
Marketing, PR, Communications, Diversity and Inclusion
Cary is one of the top, global advocates for women in diversity and business and well-known for her work in creating corporate women’s programs. Cary has motivated thousands to believe in themselves and the power of transformation to get ahead in today’s competitive workplace. Her book From Cinderella to CEO is published in 10 languages, and her podcast Cinderella CEO On Air can be found on iTunes and Spotify.
Dow Jones described Cary’s work at Wyndham Worldwide as head of the company’s Women On Their Way program as “the gold standard of women’s marketing for Wall Street companies.” Currently, Cary and her team design and teach courses with an emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion and corporate social responsibility, which can be found on the website cinderellaceo.com. As an adjunct professor with New York University, Cary designed gender-inclusive leadership curriculum for her students.
Cary and her team launched the Cinderella to CEO Awards Show in New York City, honoring 220 accomplished nominees from around the country. The awards recognize today’s modern transformational Cinderella to CEO stories and aptitudes.
Cary served as President and Treasurer of the Press Club of Dallas from 2016-2019. Highlights of her expertise in Public Relations and Communication include leadership roles in hospitality (Vice President of PR at Wyndham International and Wyndham Hotel Group), government (Deputy Press Secretary, U.S. Senate Majority Leader’s office) and non-profit (American Cancer Society and Meeting Professionals International).
Cindy Johnson is the President of Global Hospitality Connections bringing over 35 years of luxury Human Resources hospitality experience at the property level. Cindy’s expertise is in creating domestic and international talent strategies, benefits and rewards systems, service standards and processes, training, as well as developing mentorship and coaching programs for executive and leadership teams. After working internationally in both Germany and Switzerland, Cindy returned to the United States where she worked for a group of twelve boutique resorts for over 10 years as the Director of Human Resources. Following that, she began work as the Vice President of Human Resources for the iconic, 5-star, 5-diamond, The Broadmoor Resort.
As a hospitality executive, David has broad U.S. and international experience. It includes development and asset management focusing on strategic, operational, and financial objectives to drive business performance; and capital markets consulting and advisory services to provide support for acquisitions, pre-opening and ongoing operations as well as exit strategies. David’s track record includes work with Marriott International (28+ years throughout the U.S., Europe, Asia, Caribbean, and Latin America), Wright Investment Properties, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, Pyramid Hotels, Interstate Hotels & Resorts, Ian Schrager Company, and, most recently (2014 – 2022), as part of the Consulting and Advisory team at Cerberus Capital Management. In this role, he was charged with responsibility for operational asset management across a €500m portfolio of hotels in the UK, Belgium, and Romania.
David’s previous roles include CEO, Greater China Hospitality, the master franchisee for the Howard Johnson brand in China, CFO – Interstate China Hotels & Resorts, CFO – Caribbean & Latin America – Marriott International, and CFO – Asia Pacific – Marriott International.
Kasten holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Trinity University in the U.S.
Marketing and Branding
Deirdre Ryan is a hospitality veteran with 20+ years of experience in sales and marketing. Throughout her career, she has developed a unique skill set that is an amalgamation of strategy, revenue growth, and creativity that results in financial success and brand growth.
Ryan was hired at Ace Hotels in 2010 as Director of Sales and Marketing for Ace Hotel New York by the Founder of Ace Hotels, Alex Calderwood. Within 2 years, Ryan was promoted to Head of Sales and Travel Marketing for Ace Hotel Group and eventually Vice President of Sales and Marketing. Ryan was instrumental in the expansion of Ace Hotels domestically and internationally. Under her leadership, the sales team grew from 7 people in 2010 to nearly 50 in 2020.
The sales department was envisioned, conceived, and created by Ryan where the company grew from revenues of $35 million in 2010 to $160 million by 2019. As Vice President of Sales and Marketing, she built the Global Business Development team which achieved $3 million in additional revenue for the portfolio.
Being such a unique brand with a strong brand identity, it was imperative that Ryan work closely with the creative and cultural team to launch and sustain brand integrity through the successful execution of partnerships, events, marketing, and PR. The highlight of Ryan’s more than a decade tenure at Ace was being part of the original team of 7 which included the Founder and Partners that grew the brand from 4 small relatively unknown hotels to the world-renowned brand it is today.
Prior to Ace, Ryan worked with SoHo and Tribeca Grand Hotels, Design Hotels, and Kimpton Hotels in various disciplines from sales, entertainment market, and business development in North and South America.
In the spring of 2021, she moved to magical Sante Fe, NM with her family.
Food & Beverage
He was awarded the Culinary Institute of America Gold Medal as well as the Royal Academy of Spanish Gastronomy and both named him Universal Ambassador. Salazar is currently the Executive Vice President of E-Spain, a company he co-founded in 2017; an international multidisciplinary company that specializes in the creation of international culinary competitions and culinary internships in the best restaurants in Spain.
Fernando is also the co-creator of The World Tapas Competition as well as the International Black Truffle Competition, both which are typically held in Spain.
Architecture & Design
Food and Beverage
A proven industry leader in hotel food and beverage operations for more than 40 years of leadership experience in hotel and restaurant Food and Beverage. Guy focuses on driving revenue and ancillary income for owners by maintaining cost controls, creating fresh food and beverage concepts based on market location, and sourcing quality products all while complying with brand standards.
Guy spent 38 years with Marriott International, serving as vice president of food and beverage and corporate executive chef. He was highly regarded for his ability to implement methods that improve service, quality, and profitability while monitoring quality, presentation, and quantities of plated food across all brands. He also served as a corporate executive chef for Renaissance Hotels and Resorts. Guy is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America.
Food and Beverage
Having worked on the launch of the new Cunard ship and collaborated with ownership of Hilton- and Marriot-managed properties, John’s skill set includes financial management skills such as P&L development and analysis, development of operating budgets, forecasting, and capital expenditure planning. His strong suit is also IT implementation and programming for effective property control as well as planning and training in all aspects of PH & safety in the workplace.
IT / Project Management
With more than 30 years of technology experience, José has an extensive background in planning, assessment, recommendation, integration, and managing cross-functional business operations and technology projects. He is an analytical, conceptual thinker who effectively partners with senior managers to assess opportunities, facilitate strategic decisions, and drive successful implementations.
With a refined skill set, José brings customer-centric mindfulness that enables organizations to innovate and thrive.
His experience includes working with Thompson Hotels, Joi De Vivre Hotels, Hyatt Hotels, Marriott International, Hilton Worldwide, IHG Brands & Independent Boutique Hotels and spans healthcare, entertainment, financial services, and banking.
Areas of expertise are: Technology Systems Support, Managed IT Services (Full Managed IT Support / IT Outsourcing), Project Based IT, Digital Technology Services, and Cyber Security Management.
Beverage & Mixology
Kim Haasarud is a nationally recognized mixologist and beverage consultant, working with hundreds of liquor brands, restaurants, and hotels across the country in helping to create successful cocktail and bar programs. Her expertise and skills include bar design consultation, drink development, training, trend analysis, to-go programs and menu design. In addition to consulting with groups such as PF Chang’s, Omni Hotels, Aimbridge Hospitality and Darden Restaurants, she has worked with dozens of beverage and alcohol brands.
Kim has been a judge on Iron Chef America, as well as doing guest appearances on the “The Today Show” and CBS’ “Early Morning Show.” Kim is the author of the best-selling “101…” cocktail series with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Most recently, she was elected as President of the United States Bartenders Guild.
Experienced hospitality expert based on 30+ years of on-property, regional and corporate leadership roles for all segments of lodging – from select service to extended stay to destination resorts and luxury hotels.
Specific experience and knowledge in hotel operations, repositioning, asset management, optimizing financial performance, driving topline strategies, and corporate reorganizations, growth, and alignment.
Mark has experience leading a team in launching 3 new brands (Sonesta ES Suites; Sonesta Select; Sonesta Simply Suites) and transitioning and converting over 200 branded hotels during COVID19.
As the EVP of Operations, he led the growth of hotel management company from 20 hotels and $150 mil in revenue to over 260 hotels and over $1bil in revenue over 7-year timeframe. Mark was a Certified Speaker for Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center specializing in guest experience, and delivering superior customer service presentations to dozens of groups. Mark was part of the leadership team that transitioned Marriott sales and marketing from single brand/single hotel to a multi brand/multi hotel model that was captured as a Harvard Business School Case Study.
Michael Teplin is a strategic financial leader who has been a hospitality CFO five times where he developed portfolios, people, profits, brands and owner’s equity at hotel, food and beverage, and nightlife companies. Teplin most recently was the Chief Financial Officer of Selina Holdings SE, one of the world’s fastest-growing hospitality brands that provides guests at their 80 locations on three continents a unique experience combining boutique hotel rooms, co-working space, and hostels to seamlessly travel and study/work abroad.
Branding and Marketing Expert
Melinda Speck is an accomplished hospitality professional with a proven track record in brand development and marketing, known for her innovative strategies and her ability to achieve results while maximizing team potential and motivation.
Melinda began her career with Hilton Hotels in Atlanta and Las Vegas. She moved on to hold Director of Sales & Marketing positions with Red Lion Hotels across the West Coast, was recruited to transition Pan Pacific Emerald Plaza to the Wyndham Hotel San Diego, and then established Wyndham Hotel’s first National Sales Office in San Jose. Melinda was charged with the pre-opening, launch, and stabilization of the first new build for W Hotels, San Francisco, which recouped its $90M build price tag in three years.
As W Hotels’ Corporate Director of Sales and Marketing, she was instrumental in opening 17 hotels throughout North America.
As the Corporate Director of Marketing for JC Resorts, she led the marketing team at an independent, family-owned hospitality company encompassing three acclaimed resorts, one inn, two signature restaurants, two nationally recognized spas, and several golf courses. In a consultant capacity, Melinda has been instrumental in branding and marketing of 21c Museum Hotel, Louisville; The Keating, San Diego; Hotel Lulu, Anaheim and Pantai Inn, La Jolla; as well as J Street Space and Anagram Ventures out of San Diego.
Finance & Accounting
Neil Grammer, CPA, is the Executive Managing Member of Grammer & Associates, which provides accounting, audit, and advisory services to hospitality, healthcare, and not-for-profit organizations. With over 30 years total experience and 17 in hospitality with Interstate Hotels & Resorts and Marriott International, Neil is well versed in business process design, enterprise risk management, internal control design, IT security, privacy, fraud prevention, corporate investigations, and corporate compliance.
Before forming Grammer & Associates, Neil was the Senior Vice President of Audit and Compliance for Interstate Hotels and Resorts, one of the world’s largest independent hotel management companies. Outside of work, Neil currently serves as Chair of the HSCSN Health Plan (a managed care health plan for children with special needs in Washington DC) and Vice-Chair of the HSC Health Care System.
Norman Van Aken
Norman Van Aken is a chef, author, teacher and is best known for introducing “fusion” into the lexicon of global cookery. He is also known as “the founding father of New World Cuisine” – a celebration of Latin, Caribbean, Asian, American, and African flavors, thus pioneering a new, visionary way of cooking in America. He is the only Floridian Chef inducted into the prestigious James Beard Foundation’s list of “Who’s Who in American Food and Beverage.”
He has immortalized his cooking career, by authoring six cookbooks and a memoir. He was inducted into the 2016 Menu Masters Hall of Fame and is a James Beard semi-finalist for “Best Chef in America” and his namesake restaurant NORMAN’S, in Coral Gables, was a finalist for “Outstanding Restaurant in America”. He has also appeared on CNN’s “Parts Unknown” with Anthony Bourdain and “Jimmy Kimmel Live”.
Paige Duke is the founder of Duke Consulting, LLC after a 30-year career in sales and marketing, destination marketing company and conference services. While her main goal is to get results, she finds the most excellent satisfaction in providing resources, positively influencing the sales culture, and providing a roadmap to execute to the teams she advises. Her expertise includes distressed asset sales support, productivity evaluations and sales deployment assessments.
Duke previously was a ground floor Director at a privately owned destination management company, and while at the company grew revenues and opened offices to become the second largest DMC in the State of Hawaii. Afterwards, she climbed the ranks throughout the Islands to become the Complex Director of Sales and Marketing for four Starwood Hotels in Waikiki and later area roles with Marriott and HEI Hotels & Resorts, working with all levels of ownership and property executives.
Property Management and Capital Planning
Robert “Bob” Jones is the owner of Great Waters Companies, LLC, a Massachusetts-based company founded in 2020. Bob’s 35+ years of hospitality experience started as a general contractor and progressed through multiple on-property roles in hotels in the US and Canada. For over two decades, as Vice President of Engineering and Facilities, Bob had responsibility for as many as 410 Marriott-managed properties in twenty-three states in the US, and over 20 countries in the Caribbean and Latin America.
Today, Bob works with Hotel and Senior Living Community Owners, Management, and Franchise Companies in asset protection and operational efficiency.
Past projects include a multi-million-dollar long-term capital planning enterprise solution for the owner of a 260+ property portfolio and the implementation of a mobile preventive maintenance solution for a management company with over 200 hotels. Bob’s expertise includes technology implementation, capital planning, property condition assessments, and engineering operations reviews to name a few. Bob partners with the best vendors and service providers to bring clients state-of-the-art solutions for their business needs. He does this by developing effective strategies, and designing high-quality, cost-effective, and scalable solutions.
Property Transition, Revenue Optimization and Sales Expert
Robert Speck is a trusted industry leader with extensive experience in multi-property management, international sales, marketing, and hotel development. Robert started his hospitality career as a busboy at the Waco Hilton while at Baylor University and continued with Hilton in northern California, rising to Regional Director of Sales & Marketing. At Hilton’s corporate headquarters in Beverly Hills, Robert oversaw commercial activities for Hilton’s full-service and luxury brands in Southern California and Mexico. He was then recruited to open the Hilton San Diego Bayfront and run the San Diego sales complex. As Regional Vice President of Sales and Marketing, he oversaw the commercial activities and teams for 60 full-service hotels and resorts in the West and Mexico.
Known for his breadth of experience and expertise in revenue optimization, Robert transitioned to Hilton’s development team in 2017, focusing on new hotel development and brand transitions to enhance owner returns: he was instrumental in adding 50 full-service and luxury hotels to Hilton’s managed portfolio in the Americas.