Paying Her Dues, Building Her Toolbox, and Climbing the Ladder

Author: Corin Hirsch       

Lanette Myers, CMP

With grueling hours and a constant tide of special requests, catering requires mettle, quick thinking, and flexibility. Despite these challenges, the pull of F&B was strong for Lanette Myers, CMP, when she started her career with Hyatt Hotels more than 30 years ago. “Back then, there were four [hospitality] disciplines you could go into,” Myers said. “There was sales, and human resources, and there was the rooms division, which is the heads in beds [arena]. I considered that.” But Myers, now the executive director of catering, conventions and events for Caesars Palace Las Vegas, said she liked the “unpredictability of food and beverage. You don’t work nine to five — it’s minute by minute. I don’t think I would do well sitting at a desk all the time. Plus, I love food and wine, so that was a huge portion of it.”

Myers, who grew up in San Francisco, began working in food and beverage operations in what is now Grand Hyatt San Francisco. Her early career took her to properties in California, Arizona, Texas, Aruba, Mississippi, and then to Las Vegas, as she worked her way up through the ranks in catering, convention services, and catering sales. “Each step, and discipline, made my toolbox that much stronger, whether it was fine dining or a restaurant or banquets,” Myers said. “Working in several high-volume convention hotels really allowed me to understand catering and conventions.”

Since joining Caesars Entertainment as catering and convention service manager in 2001, she and her administrative team execute, by her count, tens of thousands of events per year. Convene spoke with Myers during one of the most high profile of those events, CinemaCon, a gathering of 3,000-plus theater owners, director, producers, writers, screenwriters, and actors who converge on Caesars Palace each spring. Myers gamely fielded our questions while her phone rang constantly. “We have a lot of talent here, including Oscar winners,” she said of CinemaCon. “Right now, it’s on my mind that Matthew McConaughey wants a specific black snapper.”

Please describe your role at Caesars.

My primary focus is on how I can support my team — my catering convention services managers, director, assistant director — in executing events that our sales team have sold. Ultimately, I’m responsible for making sure that sales, banquet operations, and culinary are set up for success, based on my team’s ability to execute and communicate at a high level. It’s not like I have a five-day, or 40-hour, week. I think that’s par for the course for anybody in this sort of business. With over 1,000 groups [each year] and each group hosting multiple events, you can see how that can be all-encompassing. We have some amazing people who work here. The caliber and the quality is remarkable.

In terms of catering and F&B, what are planners asking for more of today than, say, a few years ago?

They want events that are relevant and memorable. People want to see restaurant-quality food, as opposed to traditional banquet food where everything is cookie-cutter and delivered in chafing dishes. They want to see familiar items on breaks, but yet those still have to be compelling.

There is also more emphasis on special-diet awareness. We’re much more cognizant of people with actual allergies and food restrictions, of people who have celiac disease and are really gluten-free, versus people who say, “ I just don’t want to eat mangoes, or I really don’t like onions.” Regardless, we do accommodate people who have special dietary requirements and preferences. We do many things for people who are vegan, and we have gluten-free desserts, those kinds of things.

Are there women who have served as mentors for you during your career? And when others look to you as a mentor, what do you try to impart?

I’ve been fortunate to have many female associates who I’ve tried to glean as much information from as I can. I don’t think it really matters if your mentor is a male or female, as long as they’re willing to teach and coach you, and you’re willing to learn. I’m cognizant of making sure that I’m always available — I’m usually very calm and I think my persona is something they pick up on. I do focus on some things that [younger employees] might not be so concerned about — PNLs [profits and losses], for example. If they want to become a director or an executive director, that’s something that they’re going to have to eventually learn. It’s all about the numbers.

Also, you want to learn operations. I think too many young managers cheat themselves out of understanding the importance of that. If I walk into an event, based on my background and the things I’ve been exposed to, I can feel it. I can say, “Oh my gosh, this function is not going to get set up in time.” That comes from that experience, when I was quite a bit younger, of being exposed to operations, to dive deep into it, to learn it. You can’t really hold people truly accountable or meet them if you can’t, at a minimum, empathize with their daily challenges. Learn patience. Don’t make rash decisions. Those are the things that I have learned just from being in the business for as long as I’ve been.

What’s the value of gender diversity in executive level roles at organizations such as Caesars?

Diverse workforces help businesses better understand their customers. It’s about smart business values and outcomes. Gender diversity contributes to overall effectiveness. I think that includes a higher return on equity, higher operating results, and also strong stock prices. How a business is represented to an audience, employees, potential talent pool — it’s a key definer in its overall success.

I can’t say that there’s one type of industry where women are represented fairly equally. I think that, yes, there is still some work to be done. Our culture is just starting to recognize how women contribute. Our ability to organize and our ability to contribute cannot be disputed. I think the fact that Caesars Entertainment has a different mindset only adds to the success and effectiveness of the organization.

Do you have any advice for women who are interested in executive roles in catering and hospitality, and who are just starting their careers?

There is part of it that’s about paying their dues — having that work ethic is important. I remember when I was a convention catering manager, and I worked 32 days in a row. That’s okay, because that’s part of it. You can always teach somebody a floor plan. You can always say, “In this specific room, it’s going to fit this many people.” But how do you learn to handle a client speaking to you directly, and how to handle a problem? That comes with experience. There is no manual with regards to how you can be successful in this job. I wish there was.

I still view [my job] as fun. I’m very passionate about it. I would never do this for as long as I have if it wasn’t still fun for me. Even though you want to tear your hair out — even though, like right now, I’m trying to deal with a situation, I’m a fixer, and so we have to fix things. For me, there’s a huge amount of satisfaction in that.

Learn more about Caesars Entertainment’s commitment to achieve gender equality by 2025 at convn.org/caesars-2025.