Internship Spotlight: CPS Events at The Plaza
March 10, 2016

The following post was written by sophomore, and Tisch Center social media assistant, Camille Aké. Camille will graduate in May 2018 with a B.S. in Hotel and Tourism Management, and a minor in Food Studies.

“Oh wow! So you intern at The Plaza?” said everyone to me after I told them I had landed a Spring 2016  internship at The Plaza Hotel. While yes, I do now work at The Plaza Hotel, I do not work for The Plaza Hotel (or Fairmont, the hotel group that owns the property). This semester I am an intern for CPS Events at The Plaza Hotel, the events company within the hotel’s walls that schedules and operates all of the events in the hotel’s 3 major spaces. The company’s description, as defined by their official website, is as follows:

“An incredible event starts with an incredible team—one with vision, experience and passion. It is the mission of CPS Events to deliver a new standard in catering and service that pays proper homage to the world-famous property while honoring a commitment to sustainability. Plaza menus have elevated impeccable culinary skill and thoughtful sourcing of the freshest ingredients possible. CPS Events at The Plaza is a joint venture between Great Performances, New York’s prestigious event and catering company, and Delaware North Companies, one of the world’s leading hospitality and foodservice providers. CPS Events creates custom experiences in the Grand Ballroom, Terrace Room and The Plaza meeting spaces. “Source

Outside The Plaza Hotel on 59th Street and Grand Army Plaza.

My go-to phrase for explaining my internship is, “I work at The Plaza in their events department,” because that sort of covers all the ground and prevents me from having to explain myself in further detail when I’m in a rush. I can say though, that working here on this property is the coolest thing I’ve done in my hospitality career thusfar.

My journey to working here actually dates back a long time ago. Being a hotel student, it’s natural for us to have a “favorite hotel.” It may sound cheesy, but ever since I was little and my family, friends, and I would make day-trips to New York City and visit Central Park, we’d either go inside the lobby, or just walk by The Plaza. Of course, when I was 12 years old I didn’t understand, or take the time to appreciate, just how intricate and detailed the property really was. However, I just knew that there was something obviously special about it.

Smiling after the 2015 HSMAI tour!

Fast forward to freshman year, spring 2015 semester. HSMAI-NYU hosted their annual Intercollegiate Conference, which featured exclusive hotel tours on the third day. To my joy, The Plaza hotel was listed as an option. The tour was simply amazing. We saw just about every major area of the hotel except the guestrooms, and we even got treated to a free meal in the new and high-end Todd English Food Hall! I just knew I had to work in here once in my life.

Fast forward once more to sophomore year, fall 2015 semester. Fellow HSMAI club members, and past CPS interns, told the club members that, “CPS Events at The Plaza is looking for spring interns!” I immediately jumped at the opportunity. Which brings me to…

Present day. I am working 22 hours a week with CPS to complete one of my Internship I (TCHT1–UC 2000) 300-hour credit requirements. I envision myself working every semester I have left at the Tisch Center, but I’d rather get in as many hours as I can while my schedule permits.

Being my first professional internship, I was not used to waking up at 7:30am each day to put on my work heels, pencil skirt, and my most loved, yet equally most hated article of clothing, my blazer. It’s weird each morning walking to the subway and actually blending in with the crowd of bankers, accountants, and lawyers all taking the uptown 6 train like me.

My position with CPS is perfect for me, having no prior hospitality experience, since I am a rotational intern. I rotate every other day between the sales department and the operations department, so I’m definitely learning almost every aspect that goes into events (minus culinary and accounting, which have other interns!).

In the sales department, I have spent a lot of time in my beginning weeks shadowing the sales coordinators and learned how events get turned from a phone call from a client with an idea for an event, to a concrete, detailed plan for the ceremony/conference/etc. I’m currently enrolled in Conferences & Special Events, an intro events course at the Tisch Center, and it’s great because I’m applying what I learn in the classroom to my job. There have even been instances where concepts I’ve learned at work haven’t even been discussed yet in my class, so it feels like I’m occasionally ahead! This has confirmed for me that the courses I’m taking at the Tisch Center really do have real life applications and are helping me become a better intern in the process. In sales, I’m learning about BEOs, or banquet event orders. These are detailed summaries of events and they include the menus, the client contact information, time breakdown (including which room, set up style, and function), set up times and set up locations, monetary information, outside caterers, A/V, florist, information…and just about every little detail that goes into an event! Like I said before, I had no idea what a BEO was, and definitely did not know how to make one, so it’s been great shadowing coordinators, asking questions, and taking notes. As time goes on, they are giving me more responsibilities when it comes to creating and editing BEOs for clients.

On the other days, I am in the operations department. This means I am working with banquet and catering managers and directors. It’s a great friendly and social atmosphere, but the staff definitely know how to keep their professionalism on display, especially when there are events going on in-house. Operations is a great learning place especially because the housemen, stewards, and kitchen staff are all unionized employees. I’m thus learning about how important scheduling, in regards to seniority, is and how this can impact how much money the company pays out to their employees. Additionally, I’m creating and analyzing a lot of cost comparison sheets (Excel has become my new best friend!) to see how the company can save money if they switch buyers for certain products. I’ve shadowed managers a couple of times for inventory counts (and then made an excel spreadsheet afterward). Now that I have been working here for month, the managers are letting me walk around with purpose during events to see how the BEOs have transformed from information on paper to an actual beautiful display of luxury.

And that’s just what it’s like working in the events department at The Plaza: beautiful and luxurious. The event spaces are just incredible. There are three main event spaces CPS operates: The Terrace Room, the 4th floor meeting spaces, and the extravagant Grand Ballroom (a personal favorite).

I feel lucky that each day I have the opportunity to exit the subway and follow the sign that reads “To The Plaza Hotel”, push through the revolving doors above the red velvet stairs, step into the tile elevators with The Plaza logo, and emerge into a space that only few would have the lucky opportunity of ever seeing in person.

The Plaza logo on the elevator to the event spaces.

I’m so incredibly thankful to NYU and CPS for giving me this opportunity to truly start my journey into the hospitality world and for teaching me so much. I hope that this experience turns me into a more confident and educated hospitality professional, and that I will be able to eventually transfer these skills to future hospitality endeavors. Hopefully my experience will inspire future Tisch Center students to aspire to work with CPS Events one day!