Getting to Know Keri Burns – Women’s History Month

Keri Burns, Central Florida FRLA Regional Director

Tell me a little bit about your background personally and professionally.

My professional background includes 15 years in non-profit association business where I worked with the International Society of Refractive Surgeons, the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials, and the Urban Land Institute. I also served as a brand ambassador and business development manager for YUM! Brands and most recently was the VP of Business Development for Ballantine Management group, where I consulted with hotels, convention centers, and special event venues on everything from food and beverage operations to show content development, as well as sales and marketing.

In my spare time, I am completing a Doctorate degree in Community Care & Counseling with a focus on the sandwich generation, and, along with two of my gal pals, I started a 501©(3) organization called LILAC (Ladies In Leadership And Community) supporting causes related to women and dedicated to creating a positive impact on the community. My husband and I have three remarkable children and three amazing rescue pups. We like to travel and enjoy going to concerts.

How did you get into hospitality? 

I got into hospitality because I needed a summer job to help pay for college and worked for RTM, Inc., a major franchise owner in the quick service market which led to other restaurant leadership roles. As my career expanded, I took a role in business development for an allied member company that supported hotels and event venues nationwide.

How did being a woman affect your professional path/path to leadership?

As a woman, I find relationship building to be my strongest asset. My ability to nurture and protect clients and customers has served me well. Knowing how to be a strong presence without being intimidating while also prioritizing the growth and development of my teams has also contributed to my success. I’ve also made choices that benefit my family whether with my time or resources, which means sometimes saying no to specific opportunities.

What qualities make a great female leader?     

Compassion, inspiration, thoughtful and mindful speech are all important attributes for a female leader. It’s also important to encourage those around you and lift others up as much as you can. You never know who you influence through your words.

What does Women’s History Month mean to you?

It’s a time to truly celebrate where we are today and reflect on those who helped pave the road forward. Its also a perfect time to think about the roads we can pave for future generations and to never take for granted those who came before us.

Why is it important for more women to be recognized in leadership roles?

Having female leaders in positions of influence who serve as role models is not only vital to the career advancement of women, but it also stands to generate broader societal impacts on pay equity, changing workplace policies in ways that benefit both men and women, and attracting a more diverse workforce.

What piece of advice would you give to women coming up in hospitality?

Embrace your strengths and never underestimate your abilities. As women, we can be critical of ourselves while we should be elevating one another.

What professional, personal or community service driven accomplishments are you proud of?

Professionally, I’m proud of how FRLA impacted the industry during COVID and how we continue to work together to support the community in such a meaningful way.  Through our legislative, educational, and community involvement, we truly helped our partners and members. I am also extremely proud of LILAC, which celebrates women and women’s causes throughout Central Florida. Inspiring leadership, philanthropy, and professional development is the mission of LILAC and we work hard (and have a lot of fun) making a difference.

Is there a woman from history who you admire? Why?

Catherine Hershey has always been someone I admired. While Milton Hershey built an empire, Catherine taught him to care for others and his community. She was the force behind the Milton Hershey School which started as a home for orphaned children. Her love for children provided a safe haven for families who struggled to support their children and through her selfless dedication to children, provided free childcare services through MHS and was the driving force behind so many programs and services for at risk youth.