Named 2019 Best Overall Boutique & Lifestyle Hotel Brand

The Woodlands (Houston), Texas, November 19, 2019… For the second consecutive year, BENCHMARK®, a global hospitality company’s signature brand, Benchmark Resorts & Hotels®, has taken top corporate honors in Northstar Meetings Group’s prestigious Stella Awards. Meetings and events professionals and a panel of judges named it the Best Overall Boutique & Lifestyle Hotel Brand. Benchmark spans 80 exceptional properties in prominent domestic and international destinations. In a highly competitive field, Benchmark Resorts & Hotels was chosen over internationally prominent lifestyle brands for the award. Benchmark was acknowledged for its new Food & Beverage initiative, The Banquet Playbook – which is a presentation guidebook focusing on driving creativity and relevance in the how Benchmark properties present to group and social clientele.

“We are very proud and honored to again be recognized by the meetings industry and Northstar as the Best Overall Boutique & Lifestyle Brand,” says Ted Davis, Benchmark’s chief sales and marketing officer. “A leader in the marketing and management of resorts, hotels and conference centers, Benchmark has always strived to meet the Stella Award’s rigorous criteria of overall excellence, superb food and beverage, professionalism of staff, technology innovations, and other critical aspects of the meetings and event experience,” he affirms. “Our second consecutive Stella Award is a tribute to the commitment, creativity and professionalism of our global culinary team and to Benchmark’s 40+ years of leadership and innovation in the meetings industry,” Mr. Davis said. He notes that Benchmark pioneered the concept of dedicated conference centers, was a founding member of IACC, and led the way in raising conference center food and beverage to new culinary heights.

Ted Davis also notes a key differentiator in Benchmark’s success is hosting both leisure and business travelers – its innovative Wanderlust program. “Since its inception, Benchmark has forged the concept of experiential travel, creating unique experiences in every aspect of the meeting or event. We offer transformative travel that stimulates guests’ imaginations and offers a strong sense of place, capturing the character, the favor and allure of the destination.”

The Banquet Playbook – Food & Beverage, which won the 2019 Stella Award for Benchmark, was developed under the leadership of Patrick Berwald, vice president of food and beverage, and his operations team, in partnership with several strategic partners. Designed to give property operators a clear edge in an increasingly competitive market, The Banquet Playbook – Food & Beverage provides step-by-step instructions on creating a variety of appealing and highly engaging presentations using the food and beverage and meeting set imagery as a blueprint. “It’s very much a ‘how to’ guidebook, designed to stimulate thought, prompt creativity and ultimately to drive value for price,” says Patrick Berwald. This hands-on, step-by-step practical guide showcases a variety of presentations for catering and banquet situations. Each layout lists specific product codes from Benchmark’s strategic partners, which the operators can order through the company’s procurement resources. “Using The Banquet Playbook at the property level, our operators can replicate all or some aspects of each image,” Patrick Berwald notes. He also notes that there is significant room for creativity and The Banquet Playbook has many useful tips on how to adapt presentations to best reflect the property’s ambiance, guest preferences, and distinctive setting.

User-friendly and comprehensive, The Banquet Playbook has been very well-received at Benchmark’s 80 properties. Mr. Berwald attributes this to the power of partnerships. “We are building relationships here and tapping into the exceptional resources, energy and expertise of our strategic partners. The program stimulates creativity, encourages investment and ensures a level of quality and consistency that is so important to the group and social catering experience.”

Mr. Berwald envisions similar initiatives designed to enhance Benchmark’s food and beverage positioning such as a Food and Amenity Playbook coming later this year. “If our Banquet and Catering operations are to stay relevant and profitable, we must invest in them, and provide our teams with the best tools and resources available,” Patrick Berwald asserts. “If we want to retain business and capture new customers, we must continually raise the bar; enhanced profitability will follow.”

The Stella Awards honor excellence within the meetings industry. The program distinguishes suppliers from around the globe that consistently deliver quality service and innovation to meeting and event professionals. Winners include the very best hotels, convention centers, conference centers, convention and visitor bureaus, destination marketing organizations, destination management companies, airlines and cruise lines. This year, nearly 10,000 votes were cast from around the world for the 508 destinations, hotels and service providers nominated in 18 categories within six regions in the United States and worldwide. A total of 278 organizations from around the globe were honored for consistently delivering quality service and innovation to meeting and event professionals. The list of winners, finalists and their profiles can be found at

“The real value of the Stellas is not just to those who are being recognized for their excellence, but to the tens of thousands of other planners who look to their peers for recommendations and advice,” said David Blansfield, executive vice president and group publisher, Northstar Meetings Group. “The Stellas provide an objective, curated and credible majority view on the best of the best in the meetings industry.”

Additionally, three Benchmark properties were recognized as 2019 Stella Award winners. The Wingspread Retreat & Executive Conference Center in Racine, Wisconsin, took top honors with a gold medal in the Best Conference Center Category, Midwest Region. The Abbey Resort in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, earned a Silver Medal in the Best Renovation category, Midwest Region. Willows Lodge in Woodinville, Oregon, netted a Silver Medal in the Best Boutique Property category for the Far West Region.