Leonard Cuasay was working in Orlando, Fla. when his company, Centerplate, a food, beverage, and hospitality organization, received a contract for the Music City Center.
So in 2013, he was offered the position of director of banquets and moved to Nashville.
“When I first moved here it snowed, and I was not ready for that,” he said. “I had lived in Orlando for over ten years. My blood thinned out from all the Florida heat.”
into the HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY
Originally from Virginia Beach, Va., Leonard’s father was in the Navy, and said he and his family were lucky to spend all of their time in Virginia.
“I started off as a busser, and grew into the industry and the fast pace life, I really couldn’t imagine doing a desk job,” he said.
When he went to college at Virginia Tech, Disney was recruiting for their internship. Drawn by the extra credit to attend the presentation, he ended up interviewing.
“When I interviewed, they said if I get the job I’d have to cut my hair. I told them to give me the job, and I’ll cut my hair. They went for it,” he said laughing.
Leonard spent the summer after his freshman year in college with Disney. After he graduated from Virginia Tech in 2000 with an undergrad degree in hospitality and tourism management, he was offered a full-time position.
“Disney was amazing, but it was a lot of work,” he said. “We had one season where we had three hurricanes so, I basically lived in the hotel for a while just to feed all the people because the theme parks were closed.”
At the time, he didn’t have much experience in banquets so, it was crazy trying to keep everything organized. He said now he’s used to it.
“I like running around. It’s nice, and I get my 10, 000 plus steps on my pedometer, so I like to keep active and stay busy. I’m not one to sit still for too long,” he said.
As the director of banquets, Leonard does a lot of planning. He collaborates with the Music City Center’s events managers and sales team to make sure everything is set up for success when it comes to organizing an event.
“It’s a lot of logistics, but it’s fun.”
“It’s amazing how the city is expanding so quickly,” he said speaking of rapid changes that have been happening all over the city. “A lot of people are coming here and everyone’s noticing Nashville now. We’ve got all the amazing restaurants and more and more options.”
Leonard said he thinks the big changes in the city are great. Living in East Nashville and working downtown, he sees so many changes, new construction sites, and improvements.
“The city is becoming more diverse, and it’s a great thing to have all these companies bringing in new people to Nashville with different perspectives and ideas.”
He said the city gave a lot of incentives for new, big companies to come to Nashville but said that might need to slow that down.
Some of his concerns include controlling the growth and finding the right infrastructure to fix the areas where there is a lot of traffic. Leonard, like many others, called for a more efficient public transportation system to give people options when it comes to mass transit.
Leonard said what matters to him most is his three-year-old son, getting involved in the community and having fun. Outside of work, he likes to hang out with friends and spends time downtown having a good time dancing the night away.
“A community is a group of people working together to accomplish different goals.”
Leonard said being a part of a community means being involved. He participates in volunteering for various organizations like Second Harvest Food Bank and the Ronald McDonald House.
Along with local organizations, Leonard is also involved in Dreamflight and has been working with them since 2007.
“Dreamflight is a UK charity that changes young lives through taking children with a serious illness or disability, without their parents, on the holiday of a lifetime to Orlando,” he said. “The children are in Orlando for over a week. While there, they learn about themselves and gain a sense of independence being without their parents and families.I still drive down when they visit Orlando in October and help escort the children through the Central Florida theme parks.”
He called his experiences in the community rewarding and said he’s just happy to help where he can.
“Not everyone has money. I have a son so, I know it’s not always easy to afford to donate but time is a great resource to give too.”
Leonard said the Music City Center and Nashville Rescue Mission have a partnership so that all of the leftover food goes straight to them. He said he often heads over to the Mission to volunteer after work.
“Hospitality is people a driven [industry]. We need the support of the community to be successful. People want to do business with places that have positive public opinion, work in a place that helps the community and is a part of an active contributor to the community.”
Leonard said when the hospitality industry thrives there are economic benefits to the community and more revenue produced to support the community.
The Music City Center is LEED Gold certified and is involved in green initiatives to minimize its impact on the community and environment. Excess materials are donated to various charities along with food to the Nashville Mission. Earlier this month, the city announced the Music City Center generated $1 billion in direct economic impact for the city in its first three years open.
Visit the Music City Center to take a look around or to plan an event!
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