AS far as James Cutfield is concerned, bigger doesn't necessarily mean better. Not when it comes to Beverly Hills, Calif.'s Regent Beverly Wilshire — the elegant, Rodeo Drive-adjacent property whose event business he oversees as director of catering. “If you're planning an event for 1,600 in L.A., you go to the Century Plaza. For 1,200, you pick the Beverly Hilton,” Cutfield says. “Our size is more selective.”
With seating for 880 guests in its main ballroom, the hotel has become the selection of choice for a wide range of charity and social events looking for cozy quarters in which to raise funds or simply raise the roof.
To best serve benefits, Cutfield helps clients choose not just table linens and floral arrangements, but how best to spend their budget dollars to raise much-needed funds. “Where we come in is helping to make suggestions for a successful flow of the evening so they get the biggest bang for their buck,” he explains. “Maybe, depending on their needs, they don't want to spend time on a silent auction. Maybe it's better to show a video about the cause or, say, have someone who has battled cancer speak to the audience.”
He offers the example of the Lucky Brand Foundation's “black tie and blue jeans” gala, a regular Regent event where spreading word of the foundation's mission is a key client priority. Instead of lavish auction lots and formal wear, funky attire — the foundation was created by the tycoons behind Lucky Brand jeans — and blues music set a fun and frivolous mood. Meanwhile, presentations by foundation founders “really hit home as to why they are doing the event, what they are raising money for” — improving the lives of underserved children.
In the area of private social soirees, the hotel's longevity and iconic stature are typically the factors that seal the deal. “Our wedding clients often have their heart set on being married in a signature hotel,” Cutfield says. “That's the kind of client we can take by the hand.”
Whether it's intimacy or opulence, iconic appeal or fund-raising know-how that draws a particular client to the Regent, it's Cutfield's flexibility that equips him to meet their needs once they've signed on. “One needs to adapt one's presentation to the different clients one comes in contact with, whether it's a head of state, a person planning an office party, or a young lady who wants to be married here,” he explains. Cutfield credits his background — he was born in Hong Kong and educated in London — as a great asset: “Being a foreigner and having international experience really helps me understand different service techniques. And that helps me make them feel welcome, and serve their needs.”
Regent Beverly Wilshire 9500 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90212; 310/275-5200; www.regenthotels.com
“Earlier in my career, I was with the Hilton Los Angeles Airport, the Hilton San Diego Resort, and then I was asked to come to Beverly Hills and be director of catering at the Beverly Hilton, which is a very interesting property — a real convention property. I think as hoteliers, that's what we want to do — try a resort and see what life is like there. Then try a social hotel, an airport hotel, a convention hotel — learn the differences.”
“It's an exciting time for this hotel. We're undergoing a $14.9 million renovation, adding a spa, upgrading our pool, adding cabanas. A dining room that was designed by Richard Meier is going to become a Wolfgang Puck steakhouse. There's a really fun vibrancy happening here at the hotel, and it's so encouraging to see people traveling, hotels being patronized again. It's really a wonderful time to be in the hotel industry.”
“One of the key things here is the longevity of the staff. We have staff here who can recall the early visits of dignitaries, who know Mr. and Mrs. So-and-So are in the ballroom and know what they want to eat, who have personal profiles on guests and know that they like feather pillows, or have allergies. It's wonderful to have such caring employees who give it their utmost.”