ReFuel: F&B Sales

08.05.20 2:00PM EDT

There’s still money to be made from food and beverage sales. The demand is there, even if it’s currently obscured. Now, it’s time to reinvent the art of selling F&B. Don’t give guests excuses to bring in their own meals and alcohol, instead learn from our experts how to increase F&B sales while being conscious of customer desires.  All experts are high level executives facing the  same issues you’re having in your company. They will help guide you to success.

Our Sponsors

Our Panel:

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Senior Vice President, Learning & Development

Forbes Travel Guide

Jeffrey J. Wielgopolan

Jeff Wielgopolan is one of the hospitality industry’s foremost service experts. Working

everywhere from luxury hotels to chain and independent restaurants, he has been an

Executive Trainer at the finest properties in the world. He has trained on six continents,

stayed at more than 250 Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star and Four-Star hotels, and worked

with esteemed brands such as Four Seasons, Peninsula, Mandarin Oriental, Montage,

Ritz-Carlton and St. Regis, as well as an array of independent hotels associated with

such renowned organizations as Relais & Chateaux, Small Luxury Hotels of the World,

and Leading Hotels of the World.

A passion for the hospitality industry led Wielgopolan to the Cornell University School

of Hotel Administration, where he concentrated in food and beverage management. His

work experience includes time with Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts and Lettuce Entertain

You restaurants. As the Dining Room Director at Tru, owned by chefs Rick Tramonto and

Gale Gand, he led a team that won for Outstanding Service in America by the James

Beard Foundation. In 2005, Wielgopolan joined Forbes Travel Guide, where his positions

ranged from the Quality Assurance Division Senior Manager, to an incognito inspector

for luxury properties around the globe, to his current role as Senior Vice President of

Learning & Development. He has worked with hotels, restaurants and spas throughout

North America, Europe and Asia to improve service, staff confidence and knowledge,

and to further properties’ understanding of Forbes Travel Guide’s Five-Star standards and


Wielgopolan is certified under the Court of Master Sommeliers, was a panelist for the

Cornell Hotel School’s Hospitality Research Summit, and is an Honorary Member of Les

Clefs d’Or. He was the Educational Speaker for the Les Clefs d’Or 2012 Pan-American

Congress in Las Vegas, the 60th annual International Congress in Queenstown, New

Zealand, in 2013 and the 62nd International Congress in Mendoza, Argentina, in 2015.

He also serves on the Advisory Board for EGBOK Mission, a non-profit organization that

provides young adults with educational and hospitality vocational training in Siem Reap,


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Design Principal – JCJ Architecture

Rick Marencic, NCIDQ, IIDA

Rick Marencic’s experience in the practice of interior design spans more than 35 years and includes all phases of design from project conception through construction administration. Rick’s vision and focus on design excellence are demonstrated by his creativity and delivery of memorable, highly creative designs that are tailored for each client’s identity and market.  Rick specializes in design for hospitality environments and he has collaborated with familiar names such as JW Marriott, Disney, MGM, Caesars, Ritz Carlton, SeaWorld, the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, OTG, SSP North America, The Smithsonian, The Franklin Institute, Comcast and more.  


Wine Expert and Lifestyle Maven


From your first glass of Champagne to final fist bump of caviar, Belinda Chang warmly invites you into her circle of approachable luxury. An award-winning experiential story-teller and lifestyle expert, Belinda specializes in making epic moments every day occurrences and is a global leader in powerful virtual experiences.

Over the course of her twenty year career, Belinda has made a name for herself as a sought-after wine expert and lifestyle maven. Prior to entering the life of a boot strap, small business owner, Belinda managed the legendary 26,000 bottle cellar at Charlie Trotter’s, the wine lists at Laurent Gras' The Fifth Floor, and Danny Meyer's The Modern. While at The Modern, she was honored with James Beard Awards' "Outstanding Wine Service" in 2011. After moving back to Chicago, Belinda headed up the memorable and approachable wine and beverage program at modern, splashy steakhouse Maple and Ash before setting off on her own to make a wine-and-food centered lifestyle equal parts luxurious and attainable. 

When she's not planning some of the food world's buzziest irl and virtual events — the who's who annual Pre-Prom, which is dedicated to empowering and pampering women in the restaurant industry; the down-to-earth Aspen Classic Pool Party; or any number of intimate Chef's Collab dinners — Belinda can be found educating passionate wine and food lovers about wine pairings, Champagne, caviar and living elegantly. She is a regular fixture in local and national outlets like The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, Food and Wine, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, CNBC, Fox, ABC and more.

Managing Partner, The Indigo Road Hospitality Group

Steve Palmer

Steve Palmer is the managing partner of the hospitality and consulting company, The Indigo Road Hospitality Group. Founded in 2009 in Charleston, SC, when Palmer began working with the celebrated restaurant Oak Steakhouse on historic Broad Street, Indigo Road now owns and operates more than 16 concepts throughout the southeast. These properties include O-Ku (Charleston, Charlotte, Atlanta), The Cocktail Club (Charleston), The Macintosh (Charleston), Oak Table (Columbia, S.C.), Indaco (Charleston), Oak Steakhouse (Alpharetta, Ga., Nashville, Charlotte), Colletta (Alpharetta, Ga.), Mercantile and Mash (Charleston), Bar Mash (Charleston), The Cedar Room (Charleston), Town Hall (Florence, S.C.), The Granary (Mount Pleasant, S.C.) and Donetto (Atlanta). Several projects are also in the works including O-Ku in DC, Raleigh and Nashville, Tiny Lou’s in Atlanta and Sukoshi in Charlotte.

Palmer attributes the company’s rapid growth and success to his loyal and dedicated team. He maintains the philosophy that great service starts with well cared for employees. By promoting from within and continuing to create new opportunities for his staff, Palmer has developed a strong company culture that is reflected within the walls of each of his concepts, resulting in an unwavering level of hospitality experienced by guests and patrons.

Prior to forming The Indigo Road, Palmer served as vice president of food and beverage for the Ginn Clubs and Resorts. In this role, he managed eleven properties in the Southeast and the Caribbean, while still developing other hospitality concepts for the company. He eventually served as the lead developer for Ginn Resorts, and developed over $100 million in hotel and club space.

Palmer’s passion for and commitment to the hospitality industry has been palpable since the age of 13 when he worked as a dishwasher. Later promoted to a line cook at the legendary Houston’s in Atlanta, Palmer’s unassuming beginnings in the hospitality arena granted him a comprehensive understanding of the restaurant industry that later led to the success of establishments throughout South Carolina and Florida.

Following his experiences as a member of the opening team at Magnolias, one of Charleston, South Carolina’s most celebrated restaurants, Palmer was charged with the task of opening Magnolias’ sister restaurant, Blossom. At Blossom, he co-developed and trained the staff on The Fourteen Elements of The Guest Experience which helped establish a lifelong commitment to service.

In 1995 Palmer was recruited as wine director and service manager of Canoe in Atlanta which received a James Beard nomination for Best New Restaurant in 1996 and was also named one of the Top Five Anticipated Restaurant openings in 1995 by USA Today. Palmer returned to Charleston to become a founding partner for Eidolon, a consulting company specializing in luxury restaurants whose client list includes Planters Inn, Peninsula Grill and Hanks Seafood (the latter two are both past recipients of the Best Restaurant awards in Esquire), and 2nd Empire in Raleigh, N.C.

Palmer took another hiatus from Charleston to work with The Ritz Carlton St. Louis where he co-created the largest private dining wine cellar in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel chain, earning praise from both Wine Spectator and Santé magazine. Palmer then returned to Charleston to become managing partner at the esteemed Peninsula Grill. Under Palmer’s management, Peninsula Grill garnered a Relais & Châteaux designation and recognition as one of the country’s best restaurants in Esquire, USA Today and Wine Spectator.

In January 2017, The Post & Courier named Palmer the second most powerful food and beverage industry player in Charleston. He was recognized not only for his growing presence in the hospitality business, but also for his charitable and community efforts. Palmer is a longtime supporter of Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry and Charleston’s Feed the Need coalition. In 2016, Palmer founded Ben’s Friends, the food and beverage industry support group offering hope, fellowship, and a path forward to professionals who struggle with substance abuse and addiction. He has been recognized by The New York Times, NPR, Southern Living, Atlanta Magazine and Charleston Magazine for his work, and has presented at TedX Charleston and the Charleston Wine + Food Festival.

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