Katie Zamarra is the founder of Venue Communications and Marketing which specializes in creative communications for community lifestyle industries and place-making. Venue was founded in 2003 and continues to provide Media/Influencer Relations, Product Positioning & Opportunity Evaluation, Event Marketing, and many other services. The experience Katie accumulated in her hospitality marketing career has made her passionate about the communications field. She was inspired to start Venue as she realized the importance of media relations in order to stay successful. During the post-pandemic period, she helps her clients understand market trends and creates communications plans to realize their full economic potential.
Apart from her career, she believes in giving back to her community such as assisting the New Orleans tourism industry after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the NYC restaurant industry after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and the Metropolitan Opera’s efforts to create a younger generation of opera lovers. She recently relocated to Park City, Utah from Manhattan with her son, daughter, and husband, acclaimed chef Galen Zamarra. After successfully running several of New York City’s top restaurants, her husband was offered an incredible opportunity to open a new luxury resort with Auberge Hotel Collection. Though she and Galen have different areas of expertise, they have a great deal of respect for each other’s accomplishments.
Katie is a huge Opera lover and calls The Metropolitan Opera her cultural home. She believes that her secret to success is always looking for inspiration everywhere. She believes that if people were more open-minded and willing to learn from others, the world would be a better place.
Katie, you started your career in hotel and restaurant management. How did you crossover into communications and marketing?
When I graduated from college, I was offered a position with Hyatt Hotels as a corporate management trainee where I spent time in each department of a hotel and immediately connected with the marketing department. After finishing the training program, I was offered my first position as a marketing manager. I went on to work for three Hyatt hotels in Houston, Greenville, SC and Atlanta, private clubs including overseeing 120 global Navy Officers clubs when eventually, I ended up in NYC at The Cornell Club – New York as Director of Marketing. After moving around the south and frequent business travel, I found my home in NYC. Being passionate about restaurants and the dining scene, I thought of attempting work in restaurant operations at a new bustling restaurant which was a complete disaster and I quickly went back to marketing. Though, this brief stint introduced me to so many incredibly talented industry people- from chefs, sommeliers to restaurant owners and managers. These contacts began asking for communications and marketing assistance. My closest friend in NYC, who worked in communications for a large pharmaceutical public relations firm, gave me guidance about how to approach media and formulate agreements. She has degrees from Yale, Wesley and Dartmouth and gave me a crash course in starting a PR firm. She continues to be my mentor, best friend and performance coach 24 years later.
What made you leave the hotel and restaurant management sector?
Having a good public relations partner is critical for business sustainability in New York, especially in the restaurant world. With the ever-changing landscape, it is crucial to stay in front of the media on a regular basis to stay successful. With Venue’s track record and reputation, we started taking on liquor clients, which led to more corporate work and finding our niche. My brother, another mentor of mine and strong advocate of public relations, lives in Wilmington, Delaware, which quickly became my “home away from home” to NYC. Delaware has now become our largest client base. With over two-thirds of Fortune ranked companies headquartered there, the communications opportunities are endless. Delaware is an uncovered gem where assisting the clients has been extremely rewarding.
How difficult was it for companies in the hotel and restaurant management sector to find high quality communications and marketing firms, like yours, prior to launching Venue Communications and Marketing?
During the early 2000s, there were only a few public relations firms with larger staffs. Many times, a very junior public relations person would be assigned to an account with little success. Our clients were high-end new up-and-coming industry experts and also friends. Due to these relationships and how Venue began serendipitously, there was a trust level on both sides with the client and the media.
What are some of the services you provide clients?
We offer a multidisciplinary approach to communications by deriving a strategic plan that best meets client’s demands. We specialize in:
- Traditional and Digital Earned Media Relations
- Product Positioning & Opportunity Evaluation
- Collateral Development
- Event Marketing
- Influencer Relations
- Unique Programming
- Trend Forecasting
- Concept Extensions
- Diverse Marketing Techniques such as: brand collaborations, philanthropy, cultural partnerships.
With margins so fine in the hotel and restaurant sector, what are some of the areas you target to increase growth?
I believe professional communications is essential for everyone. From cities, states, small businesses and large corporations, it is crucial to use experts and engage in continual public relations. I am particularly excited about growing the market for economic development and community engagement in secondary cities and corporations.
How did Venue Communications and Marketing survive the COVID-19 pandemic? A number of hotels and restaurants struggled. How did it affect yourself?
It was heartbreaking to watch the hospitality industry crumble, but it has also been thrilling to watch the resilience and intelligence of those rebuilding and creating new opportunities for revenue streams. Once things started reopening, an entirely new market opened to us with city reopenings. Places whose government and visitors’ bureaus acted fast with funding from outlets such as the CARES Act allowed for marketing dollars to help them rebuild. This is a growth segment that we are most excited about. The model that we built for Wilmington, Delaware sets the standard and can be used for any city anytime, not just coming out of a pandemic.
Now, with the pandemic coming to an end, how can Venue Communications and Marketing help clients rebuild, refocus, and reestablish themselves?
We help clients understand market trends, assess their strengths and weaknesses, engage local communities, plan for the future, and create communications plans to realize their full economic potential. Earned media is an organic way of building credibility and heightening brand awareness. We expand their reach to many different audiences, introducing new media opportunities.
Katie, you have been a part of a number of charities over the years. What inspires you to give back to the community through charitable work?
Giving back to people and places I care about is what inspires me. The resilience of my New Orleans community after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the restaurant industry after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Metropolitan Opera’s efforts to create a younger generation of opera lovers, and my daughter’s work with the National Charity League are just a few examples. It is both exhilarating and gratifying to work with others who share the same passions to see the success of any charitable involvement.
Your husband is renowned chef, Galen Zamarra and you were named one of “NYC’s 10 Coolest Culinary Power Couples”. Can you tell us about your experience as a culinary power couple?
Ha- this is a fun one! It’s always a special honor to receive recognition from one’s peers, and in the restaurant industry, the Zagat accolade was especially prestigious. I believe to be successful in this business as a couple, both partners must be extremely passionate about the industry with the willingness to put in long hours and endure the constant stress factors. My husband and I have different areas of expertise, and I have a great deal of respect for him and his accomplishments. Galen won a James Beard award at 24 and owned a top 10 restaurant in NYC, Mas (farmhouse), at 28. We differ in opinions a lot, but at the end of the day, we’re able to learn from each other and come to solutions that help us both grow.
You recently relocated to Utah from Manhattan, where you had spent over two decades. What inspired your move to the mountains from the hustle and bustle of New York City?
My husband’s flagship restaurant had a fire after a 14 year successful run. He took some time to figure out his next career step and was offered an incredible opportunity to open a new luxury resort with Auberge Hotel Collection, The Lodge at Blue Sky in Park City. When we flew out for the interview Galen saw the 3500 acres property offering several dining operations, an organic farm, and huge kitchen space, I knew we were making the move. We have a 13 year old son and 15 year old daughter who were reluctant to leave NYC but when we told them they could get a dog, they were on board. Living in Park City for the past 3 years has been an incredible experience for all of us and having moved 6 months prior to the pandemic we feel very grateful to be there.
Katie, how is a day in your life?
I’ve never been a morning person ever so when I wake up, I immediately need my one cup of daily coffee. My husband has set the standard very high for this one cup, so I really take the time to embrace it. While enjoying that, I make sure my kids are off to a good start and then I exercise – usually a run where I mentally prepare for the day. I first sort through urgent emails and then check in with my team and clients. With so much being remote, my daily calendar gets full rather quickly but I still love an in person meeting and make an effort to do this a couple times a week. My favorite part of the work is the creative process. I’m always looking for inspiration everywhere. Being my husband works most nights, I always make sure to be there for my kid’s dinner, homework and sports activities. Netflix an hour before bed to escape, then a good night sleep.
What is something most people don’t know about you?
I’m a huge Opera Geek. When I moved to NYC, The Metropolitan Opera quickly became my cultural home as well as my relaxation space. My husband and I share this passion and love to experience performances during our travels. We’re working very hard to pass this down to our kids but it’s difficult.
What makes you smile?
When I see my clients in print or broadcast – it never gets old! Also seeing my husband and two children smile.
What scares you?
I have a serious fear of heights. Moving to one of the greatest ski towns at 8K feet of elevation, I work hard every season on the mountains to overcome this. It’s getting better but it’s definitely not easy.
If you had the power to change just one thing in the world what would it be?
Instant judgment. I believe that if people were more open-minded and willing to learn from others, the world would be a better place.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I’m always happier when I love my outfit. Even when I’m working from my home office, I get dressed every day. A huge aspect I miss about being in NYC on a daily basis is the constant street style and inspiration of fashion. One of my favorite fashion quotes from icon Iris Apfel “When the fun goes out of dressing, you might as well be dead.”
To know more about Katie Zamarra and Venue Communications and Marketing, please visit https://www.venuecomms.com/
Photography: Joy Conneally Photography
Location: The Goldener Hirsch, Deer Valley, Utah