Cover Story: Putting More “Ritz” into the Ritz-Carlton

By Astrid Zeppenfeld

With over 30,000 square feet of combined event space in one central location, the Ritz-Carlton, Saint Louis, has always been a desirable spot for annual meetings and other corporate events, as well as fancy private parties. In addition, many Saint Louis area brides have dreamed about St. Louis’ premier luxury hotel as the perfect wedding venue. Located in the upscale Arts and Garden District of Clayton, Missouri, the surroundings supply the perfect frame for this upscale hotel. Upon entering the elegant lobby, one feels like they are sent back in time to a movie from the “Golden Days”, one where elegance and culture are supremely married and manners matter most.

The famous Lobby Lounge – with its variety of martinis, fresh sushi, private cigar club, and live entertainment on weekend nights – provides a wonderful spot for anyone to gather, be it attendees just before the start of a business conference or couples for a date night. But what is the main reason Forbes’ Travel Guide Star Awards
consistently adorns the Ritz-Carlton, St. Louis, with four stars? I would venture to guess that it is the employees’ motto: We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen. Ms. Amanda Joiner, General Manager of the hotel, hands me a little card with the motto/credo and explains, “Everyone who works for me, owns and energizes this credo – we pledge to provide the finest personal service and the genuine care and comfort of our
guests is our highest mission. It is imperative that my ladies and gentlemen not only know the words, but feel that they are ladies and gentlemen of Ritz-Carlton.” And as ladies and gentlemen themselves, they cannot help but treat others as such. Is it possible that this is why I felt like I had just stepped back in time to the more formal and genuine business-like behavior of a 1920s movie?

No, this is still 2019

It is precisely this formal business-like behavior which brings meeting and event planners back to the Ritz-Carlton again and again. And the effect of the hotel’s motto is not lost on the guests: “They refer to themselves as the ladies and gentlemen of the Ritz-Carlton. They really make it a seamless process, from pre-planning to execution of the event. They know our programs inside and out, anticipate our needs, and help us troubleshoot any potential issues”, states Sarah Pinkowski, CMP and Meetings Supervisor, Meetings and Travel Department at Enterprise Corporation. Some of this superior service and attention to detail may stem from the fact that the company’s spring GM meeting has been going there for many years, but most of it can be attributed to the ladies and gentlemen of the Ritz-Carlton who make every effort to get to know the ladies and gentlemen of Enterprise, down to getting to know their preferences of what they like to eat and drink. Pinkowski explains, “We work very closely with the culinary team; Chef Lee is amazing at creating new, inventive menus for us each year – in order to impress that returning attendee that has been there for a couple of years.” She summarizes, “They go above and beyond to deliver customer service to our attendees, who also value customer service. Enterprise wants to be the best transportation service provider in the world; service is in our mission. And we look for partners who share that goal, to provide great service. The Ritz-Carlton definitely delivers that here in St. Louis.”

Birds of a feather definitely flock together, so if you are an event planner looking for outstanding service, you have probably held your event at the Ritz-Carlton, St. Louis or are planning to host an event there in the future.

Exciting changes are happening

If you happen to fall into the former category, you have no doubt noticed the various improvements this venue has undergone over the past few years. According to Amanda Joiner, GM of the Ritz, “the hotel has been on a journey.” After the Grand Ballroom in 2014 and the Spa & Fitness Center renovations in 2015, the guest rooms, the meeting rooms, and the Amphitheater were all remodeled in 2017. This year of 2019 is bringing about exciting changes at the hotel’s Club Level. “The Club Lounge, Presidential Suites, and Bathrooms are meant to feel more residential”, Joiner explains. Maybe the best room to book on the Club Level – if you are looking to host a small gathering – is the new 2,500 square feet executive office with French doors to the dining room, as well as his & hers bathrooms. When your business meetings are done, you can go right out to the Club Lounge for a 4:00pm cocktail and enjoy the grand view over University City and Downtown St. Louis with its world-famous Arch, the Gateway to the West.

In case you need something larger for your meeting, the Grand Ballroom with its 12,000 square feet can accommodate pretty much any large event. And then there are the 15 different smaller meeting rooms – the wine room, for example, can offer a seated dinner for 40 attendees. Even the picturesque area by the fireplace in the lobby can be rented for an informal meeting.

Not just a pretty face…

However, as much as we love the soothing blue and gray color scheme, we are all discerning travelers and we know that a pretty exterior only goes so far. The Ritz-Carlton, St.Louis has recognized just that and made it its mission to not only be fancy, but to also be true to its mission. Under Amanda Joiner’s leadership, the Ritz-Carlton, St. Louis, climbed from rank 29 out of 44 Ritz-Carlton properties in the Americas in 2016, to rank 9 out of 44 in 2018. Joiner knows, “We will never win if we only look prettier than someone else for a year.” No, if you want repeat business, you have to look prettier and do better with every year.

We asked Sarah Dvorak, Sr. Meetings Coordinator at the American Association of Orthodontists, point-blank what
comes to mind when asked about hosting a meeting at the Ritz, something this particular association does quite frequently. Succinctly, and without hesitation, Dvorak summarizes, “The Ritz-Carlton, St. Louis is a wonderful place to host a meeting. The service is top-notch, the meeting space is beautiful and functional and their club lounge is among the best of the best. The hotel has excellent food and is in walking distance of many great restaurants. I know that my attendees will be well cared for when they stay at the Ritz-Carlton St. Louis.”

MM&E

About the author

Joe Clote

Joseph W. Clote is owner of Publishing Concepts, LLC a communications and marketing firm based in Saint Louis, Missouri. Mr. Clote is Group Publisher of MeetMed™ and Missouri Meetings & Events™ (MM&E) magazine, a quarterly publication read by thousands of meeting and event professionals, and producer of the St. Louis and Kansas City trade shows under the MM&E name. Mr. Clote has extensive sales and marketing expertise in the travel, tourism, fine art, insurance, and software development industries.