Pictured above: Michael and Hailey Rosenstein
by Christopher Polis
“Success is best when it’s shared.” – Howard Schultz, former CEO of Starbucks
There is another story of shared success and great coffee right within the tradeshow industry: the story of Crêpes à Latte–the leading experiential hospitality provider serving the tradeshow industry nationwide.
Based out of Vernon Hills, Ill., Crêpes à Latte employs 28 people who manage more than five hospitality events daily across the country. Starting with signature dessert crepes and cappuccinos, the menu has expanded to include nitrogen ice cream, right-out-of-the-oven cupcakes, freshly squeezed lemonade, savory street tacos and sliders. The company now offers more than 200 unique flavors prepared with premium high-quality ingredients in each client’s booth. This variety is unusual for in-booth catering, and that’s why Crêpes à Latte, which supported 2,290 events in 2017, is so popular in an industry that thrives on innovation. A leader in experiential hospitality in the medical tradeshow industry, Crêpes à Latte has a diverse client portfolio including companies like Pfizer, Procter and Gamble, Nissan and Microsoft. Many clients utilize Crêpes à Latte for 15-plus services a year and collaborate with the company when designing new booths to incorporate a successful hospitality experience.
More than just a caterer, Crêpes à Latte plays a crucial role in helping clients deliver their messages to customers by building traffic. Each client receives a custom hospitality experience aligned with their exhibit and product goals. According to Hailey Rosenstein, owner and chief marketing officer, who leads the business in partnership with her husband Michael, this is part of their collaborative strategy, to be “a client’s brand ambassador through excellent service and brand consistent giveaways.”
“We make it both seamless and memorable,” she says. “Often, in a tradeshow setting, you can have a lot of excellent content, visual designs and aesthetics. By providing an attendee with a delicious treat or refreshing beverage, we make their engagement with our client’s brand a positive and memorable experience. From an exhibitor perspective, it’s an opportunity for their sales reps to talk about their product or service as prospective clients wait for their beverage. It’s not just about the giveaway, it’s about the time our clients now have with a captive audience. By building traffic, we help our clients realize an ROI on their booth spend by creating opportunities to engage with customers and prospects.”
The Rosenstein’s story is one of hard work and grit, but also of love and passion.
In 2001, Michael started the business utilizing his background in fine dining restaurant management, training and operations, and creativity with food R&D. Meanwhile, Hailey was managing event marketing for TAP Pharmaceuticals (Takeda Abbott Partnership)–gaining experience in logistics, advertising and tradeshow marketing in general. Growing up, she attended many tradeshows with her father–the tradeshow industry was in her blood.
The Rosensteins met in 2003 when Hailey was one of Michael’s first clients. At that time, Michael had only one laptop computer, a dry erase board for scheduling and a 10 x 10 warehouse. He was doing everything himself, working all the events and doing all the sales – truly humble beginnings compared to today’s 28 employees, a 17,000 sq.ft. facility and 100-plus cappuccino stations.
They married in 2005 and she joined the business full-time in 2008. Of the many things they have in common, like the entrepreneurial spirit they both inherited from parents who ran their own businesses, most importantly they share a passion for excellent service and people. Together, they focused on building a company dedicated to quality service and continued innovation. Clients have come to expect a high-touch hospitality partner that introduces new services each year, can custom color match food and beverages to their brand colors and ensures unlimited quantities for each of their services.
Without a doubt, that passion is also shared by the employees who come from varying backgrounds as well. Across the senior management team, there’s a mix of skill sets and expertise–whether it be culinary training in Paris, management consulting, hospitality entrepreneurship, training, or general management. Some employees have known and worked with the Rosensteins for more than 25 years.
Hailey credits much of the company’s success to the employees. “Systems and structures allow you to grow, but our people are our biggest differentiator,” she explains. “Our team is passionate about serving their clients. Being detail oriented is a natural trait. Everybody loves serving people and creating memorable experiences through food.”
Another important aspect of the company’s success is their organic growth.
“All of our growth has been natural,” says Hailey. “We have not sent email blasts out to our clients or potential clients, no cold calling, only a few networking events a year, and our website was only recently updated. Our growth is based on word of mouth, satisfied clients returning each year, and companies seeing our great service in action.”
Adds Hailey, “That is something the team should be proud of. We didn’t plan for such ambitious goals. We got to this place by being diligent, always putting the customer experience first, and having fun doing it. We exceeded our own expectations.”
The Rosensteins now plan to share the value of their company with their employees through an “employee stock ownership plan” or an “ESOP.” The company recently became 100 percent employee owned. Structurally, it will remain the same since the Rosensteins will continue to lead the company and serve as members of the board.
What’s the inspiration for this change? Hailey explains, “It supports our plan to build a long-term sustainable legacy that rewards employees. After thorough research, we knew that an ESOP provides a structure where Crêpes à Latte’s employees can benefit from the company’s long-term success. By giving our employees an ownership stake, we are incentivizing the team to continue our track record of innovation and award-winning service. We are proud of continuing to invest in an ownership culture that will serve our clients at tradeshows across the country.”
Studies confirm the success of an ESOP. Some leading companies with ESOP programs are Herman Miller, Publix Super Markets, Clif Bar, Gore Tex, Medtronic and Paychex. Now, Crêpes à Latte will be joining that list.
This news was first revealed to employees August 22 at a party on the Chicago Elite Yacht. The Rosensteins rolled out a campaign called “Own It,” giving employees shirts with “I have a piece of the pie!” printed on the back. Multiple employees were recognized for their above and beyond contributions with trophies, and everyone received gifts. Additionally, they announced the news of Crêpes à Latte being added to the Inc. 5000, the annual ranking of the fastest-growing private companies in America.
Crêpes à Latte is the leading experiential hospitality provider serving the tradeshow industry nationwide that excels in providing unique tradeshow booth hospitality services that build traffic and captivate the attention of attendees. For more info, visit www.crepesalatte.com.