In this Interview Series, titled One on One, Mogogo met and conversed with VP of Operations Ralf Brabandt from Mary’s Woods. From early experiences, personal ambitions, and his unique approach to excellence in service and quality, we were fascinated to discover all that goes on behind the scenes!
Have you always had a passion for the hospitality industry? What sparked it?
I caught fire at the age of 16 during my first internship at a hotel in my hometown Dresden in Germany and have been drinking the F&B Kool Aid ever since! During that internship I washed dishes and appreciated the hard work of the kitchen team – and worked in the restaurant serving visitors and locals – an eye opening experience.
I enjoy the interaction with residents and guests – the opportunity to create lasting memories and building a strong bond with people continues to inspire and fascinate me.
Did it inspire you to strive for the position you currently have?
After my move to the US in 1998 I had the pleasure of working at small boutique properties, large convention hotels and luxury resorts in the Western Region. I decided to settle down in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, met my wife and we started a family.
Hospitality is all about serving and making an emotional connection with people – it is part of our Mission and Values at Mary’s Woods – so when the opportunity arose to join this amazing team – I knew I found a new home for the rest of my career.
How important it is for the Vice President of Operations to be involved in design beyond the plate?
To create the perfect event all elements need to be executed flawlessly – the service – the culinary creativity – functionality – design – esthetics. It is truly an Art and they need to harmonize with each other.
Mary’s Woods partnered up with Mogogo because the buffet tables and components allow us to be flexible and versatile in the execution of all activities and events – we learned that mobility is crucial during quick set ups and break downs while maintaining the residential feel that our residents appreciate.
We use our space for foodie events, then flip the room for a Yoga activity and then again for a Ukulele Class. The fun times are ongoing at Mary’s Woods!
What have been your biggest challenges, and how does Mogogo help you solve them?
The biggest opportunity is always the planning phase when mapping out the week with all stakeholders and identifying the furniture and equipment needs.
The partnership eliminated the extra pressure during the set up and break down with its multi-functional design and flexibility. We have used Mogogo for buffets, front & back bars, registration tables and even as a natural room divider.
Optimizing your labor is always important – and we are able to accomplish that with the modular system Mogogo is offering.
We strongly feel that Mogogo has allowed us to enhance the dining experience at Mary’s Woods!
Did switching to linen less buffet tables help you save money?
100%. Not only does it support our laundry operation at Mary’s Woods as we are doubling in size with the opening of our new village neighborhood – we also save on linen replacement cost.
At the same time we are maintaining the residential look our residents desire and appreciate.
Describe your job philosophy in 3 words.
One Team = One Dream (sorry that’s 4)
In the age of social media and the power of visuals, where do you find inspiration and creativity?
Our residents at Mary’s Woods are a great resource when planning events and activities – they truly inspire me to do the best and be the best so we create lasting memories in their life.
Mary’s Woods – as the name says – is beautifully located in a stunning scenery surrounded by forest and rivers. Its pure nature – and we strive to feature its beauty on our buffets with natural elements indigenous to our location.
We also have 2 amazing Chefs with deep local roots to support local farmers and businesses who are incredibly creative. We are having fun and think outside the box to surprise our residents.
What would you say to young professionals aspiring to become a Vice President of Operations in a prestigious community like Mary’s Woods?
Be passionate. Build strong mentoring partnerships. Gain knowledge and strength in all operational aspects and have “Wanderlust” us Germans say – experience the world of hospitality at all levels – hotels – resorts – restaurants – and never ever settle for average.
What is your dream in hospitality?
Creating amazing memories – one resident and guest at a time – supporting the beautiful journey of aging.