Beverly Martin’s first assignment as the executive director of the Gulf Coast Chapter of the Mississippi Hospitality and Restaurant Association is the exact same one she got when she took the job the first time: relocate the office.
That’s also the same task she had when she took over the Casino Operators Association.
“I found that funny,” she said of the three office moves. “It sounds like, ‘Beverly and 2 Guys and a Truck.’”
It’s all familiar territory for Martin, who has worked in the hospitality arena her entire career before taking a break to accompany her husband on his work travels around the Pacific Northwest.
She began her career with the Mississippi Coast Restaurant & Beverage Association, and also previously worked as executive director of the Mississippi Casino Operators Association and served as a member of the Harrison County Tourism Commission and the Mississippi GoCoast 20/20 Commission.
“The timing was actually perfect,” she said of accepting the reins of the restaurant association a month ago. What she found on her return was a mix of some familiar faces from her previous stint and some new members.
“What I hope to do is bring more adhesiveness to the association,” she said. The Coast group was autonomous at one point but is now part of the state association. “That seems to be working well,” Martin said. Coast restaurateurs “like having somebody here on the ground. It puts a face on the association, somebody they can see and call.”
She left the restaurant group in 1993 to start the casino association. That group moved back to Jackson, the year she and businessman Bernie Berkholder got married on the not-to-be forgotten date of Nov. 11, 2011.
Martin said one of her goals is to have meetings in which members will get reports from various entities such as the Coast Coliseum and the hotel association on upcoming events that will affect the staffing at restaurants. “If there’s a huge convention or sports tournaments, they need to know ahead of time. It helps them consider staffing levels as well as product supplies,” she said.
In turn, Martin will attend meetings of the Coliseum Commission, the hotel association and other related groups to stay ahead of what may affect her restaurant members. “Issues with traffic or health inspections, whatever is facing them at the time, so we can facilitate some kind of solution,” she said.
On top of her to-do list is preparing for Chefs of The Coast, the association’s main event.
The annual fundraiser, held in the fall, is in its 32nd year and has spawned all sorts of copy cat tasting events.
“It’s a great event and the board members have done an outstanding job,” she said. “The board members are participating much more now, they’re more hands on. It’s unusual for any association to have a board like that. They’re very passionate about what they do,” she said.
After Chefs of the Coast, Martin will turn her attention to growing the association’s membership. “Every day it seems there’s a new restaurant opening up so there’s plenty of opportunity to sign up new members,” she said.
Membership stands around 240 statewide and includes restaurants, bars and vendors. “Anybody that supplies services or products to restaurants and bars,” she said. “That’s everything from ice to legal services.”
Twenty-five years ago, Martin said, the Coast restaurant association was the leader among the hospitality industry and it’s credited with bringing legalized gambling to Hancock and Harrison counties.
Social media, which didn’t exist back then, is now helping restaurateurs in a variety of ways including getting more customers by having their menus available to smartphone users. “It’s helping grow their customer base at no cost to the restaurants,” she said. “Blogging, Tweeting, these are the type of things that the new guard can bring.”