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Person of Interest: The Man with the Plan




By Selena Fragassi

 

Andrew Hodd was working in the financial services industry in Boston in the early 2000s when he got a call from his father asking him to come help pilot a dramatic shift for the family business. The Hodd family owned and operated Corporate Seminar Centre in Toronto since 1987—but when the gorgeous St. Andrew’s Hall became available across the street in 2001, the family jumped at the chance to move operations.

“They were ready to demolish it and turn it into corporate office space, but we came along and said ‘Hang on, we can really use this for our business,” says Hodd, who now is managing director of the IACC-certified space, which they renamed to St. Andrew’s Club & Conference Centre, inspired by its unique location. It sits across from the famed St. Andrew’s Church and above a subway station of the same name.

At that time, the conference centre was ahead of its time utilizing a full-service kitchen that was inherited and launching a successful catering arm as part of the business. That same entrepreneurial, forward-thinking spirit is at the center of the latest rebranding campaign that will launch later this fall, beginning with a name change to Vantage Venues and accompanying logo and website. “There’s the vantage point of all our great window space,” says Hodd, “and the ad-vantage of booking with us.”

UV: What was behind the decision to shift the business this year?
AH: “We really wanted to move toward something that allows us to cast a wider net as far as our capabilities go. Sometimes a ‘conference centre’ can have a connotation of being stuffy and not as capable as putting on higher-end events. And ‘club’ we thought might confuse people who might wonder if we are private club and if they need to be a member or sponsored. The idea of an old stodgy club isn’t really new or innovative, and that’s the opposite of what we have become. In this day and age, it’s so easy to skip past a name when there are so many choices.”

UV: What is it that you do differently from the standard conference centre?
AH: “When my dad started this business, he was actually an engineer in the oil industry but had to start looking for new opportunities when oil prices started to plummet. He was staying at hotels in and around Toronto and attending conferences and thought these are not run very well, I think I can do this better. We have built on that idea continuously. We built a conservatory in 2007, a garden hall in 2012, and the financial suite and executive suite in 2014 that doubled our space to 40,000 square feet. But what really sets us apart I think is our people, our spaces, our food, and our technology. We have such low turnover in staff so they are really able to build relationships with our clients. Every room has a view with natural light and quality tables and comfortable chairs. Our food is also top-notch—one of our sous chefs won the IACC Golden Skillet Competition in 2016. Our continued investment in technology has led to tremendous growth: We offer a convenient plug and present package and technical support, which simplifies the meeting planners job. We also invested in robust Wi-Fi with private networks and a proprietary webcasting program, and these are all in-house solutions.”

UV: How do these changes reflect any trends you see developing in the meetings and events industry?
AH: “One of the things we got lucky with when we inherited our space is a great lounge area, and we have expanded on that to have private lounges adjacent to meeting rooms. Our clients really appreciate this and it’s becoming a big trend especially with the younger market that really wants a relaxing and different space to go. It’s about making meetings and breakouts a bit more dynamic because today it’s just as important to be able to network in a lounge as it is to take in content in the presentation. Another trend with events is going beyond the standard cocktail reception. Planners want to give experiences nowadays, mostly with unique activities. We are partnering more and more to offer unique experiences. We have a fantastic relationship with the Wine Sisters for tastings, and operate the food service at Radical Road Brew Pub. Early in 2018 we will be partnering with a team launching a venue with an exciting new game concept. It is all part of our quest to remain innovative within the industry.”

Get Connected
St. Andrew’s Club & Conference Centre
Toronto, ON
UniqueVenues.ca/standrewsclub
(416) 366.4228 
Talk to a Venue Specialist: 1-877-244-6110