Thomas Whelan, 34
Director of Banquets, Boston Convention & Exhibition Center and John B. Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center, Levy Convention Centers, Boston
What I do:
I oversee an amazing team of 500. Daily, we plan and execute anywhere between one and 300 individual functions. Each function has its own menus, room sets and event orders.
How I got here:
I have been working in F&B for 20 years. My first job was at a restaurant in South Boston at 14 years old. My passion for meetings and events started at The World Bank Group in Washington, D.C. There, as a catering manager with Restaurant Associates, I found myself looking forward to our annual meetings where more than 10,000 attended.
My greatest career accomplishment:
In 2019, I went to Atlanta to assist the Georgia World Congress Center in preparation of Super Bowl LIII. It was a bucket-list moment. During the pandemic, I directed the transition of the Boston Hope Hospital, a field hospital built in days at the BCEC and served nearly 80,000 meals to patients, doctors and hospital staff.
From 2018 to 2019, I led my team to execute a 27% increase in our business, 39% of which were more than 30 conventions and conferences held in one quarter.
What I'm working on right now:
Further innovation of our food and beverage programs for large events. I am constantly looking to bring in new ideas for menus, presentation and decor.
What I do outside of work:
Currently, I sit on the Board of Directors for The SEARCH Foundation and the LGBT MPA, and I am the inaugural president of the Massachusetts Live Events Coalition. The SEARCH Foundation assists events, meetings and catering professionals faced with catastrophic occurrences. The LGBT MPA is the first and only organization solely committed to connecting, advancing and empowering the LGBT+ meeting professionals. The Massachusetts Live Events Coalition, a partner of the national Live Events Coalition, advocates for representation, support and financial resources for Massachusetts live event workers impacted by the comprehensive shutdown of their industry due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Favorite vacation destination:
During quarantine, I have longed to go back to either the Fairmont Hotel Austin or Mexico City. The service at the Fairmont Austin is amazing, and the people of Mexico City are so wonderful. My favorite vacation destinations are typically places filled with great service, great food and wonderful memories.
Favorite icebreaker line:
I like to ask, “What is the last song you played for yourself?” It can help you read the temperature of the room and can start a conversation of familiarity or intrigue.
Travel hack: No matter how long I am staying somewhere (it can be a night and sometimes 3 months), I always unpack everything and turn my hotel room into my home. After a long day of running around a convention center, it’s always great to be home.