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Dean's List: The Secret Ingredient

By Selena Fragassi


Before Brent Mann took a role as manager of conference and event management at the University of Calgary he was the director of food and beverage service at nearby Mount Royal University. It’s here Mann says that he learned how to cook up great customer experiences. “In dining, the main focus is always around exceptional service and it’s been my mantra ever since.”

His personal passion has now led University of Calgary to become Canada’s first certified One-Stop Shop, continuing what he calls the department’s “care factor. …We’ve got people who care about the university, care about our department, and truly care about the customer experience, and that’s made our clients really happy.”

Unique Venues: How did you get started in the industry?
Brent Mann: “I was a student at Mount Royal University. I graduated with a degree in recreation and sport management in 1996 and then never really left. I got (or landed?) a job as the coordinator of summer programs after I convinced the Dean of Faculty I was the right person for the job and then worked to develop the Conference Services department before taking the role in food and beverage where I remained until I moved over to the University of Calgary.”

UV: What was it about food service that impacted you so much?
BM: “Food is a lot about relationships and it’s interesting when you do have positive relationships with people, the impact that can really have. Customer service can sometimes feel like a lost art, so when it came time to rebuild our client service model in the conference department I looked at all of the catering service operations and retrained all of the staff to really have them focus on creating personal relationships with customers and clients.”

UV: What are some examples of policies you have?
BM: “We have a client promise that the phone is answered every time it rings. Our e-mail has an automated response thanking the client for their inquiry and informing them we will get back to them within three hours, and generally when we do, we already have most of the event mapped out for them. Once you book with us, you also have an ‘event partner’ for life who will know your preferences and keep in personal contact. It’s that idea of relationship building again. We live in the Google age and we don’t want any potential customer to go to the next venue on the list.”

UV: Do you have any advice for planners who might be interested in booking an upcoming event on a campus?
BM: “I think sometimes there are preconceived notions about what a university events department can do, but it’s more than just booking rooms. I would put our team and our planners up against any of the event planning organizations within the city of Calgary. They have a lot of incredible expertise and are ready to get to work.”

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University of Calgary
Calgary, Alberta
(403) 220.3111