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Humans of the Science Center: Timothy Rissel

Timothy Rissel’s extensive experience in the hospitality industry has equipped him with an important insight: empathy is everything when it comes to building and maintaining strong customer relationships. The Science Center’s Quorum event space serves as a nexus within the uCity Square community and beyond, and Timothy is right at the center of it all – leading with compassion and asking the important questions so that no one is left out of the inclusive and vibrant community we strive to create.

Tell us a little bit about your story.

Well, I am originally from Chester County, PA. I went to school at Temple University for theater and communications, and just fell in love with Philadelphia while attending college. Throughout my college years, I worked as a server in one of Stephen Starr’s many restaurants and made the move to management and event sales at an independent farm-to-table establishment once I graduated. I spent about three years in Washington DC, managing concepts for both GuestCounts Hospitality and Starr Restaurants before moving back to Philadelphia to take a director of sales & local marketing role with GuestCounts Hospitality.

Tell us about your role as Customer Experience Manager of Quorum.

My role with the Science Center is unique and exciting. As customer experience manager of Quorum, I book, manage, and help facilitate a variety of events. These include our own Science Center events such as the Nucleus Awards and our 5-day Capital Readiness Program, to events with external clients and partners who rent our space for conferences, meetings, and receptions. There’s never a dull moment here in Quorum.

Tim at the 2022 Chinese Lantern Festival
Tim at Event Camp 2023

What made you decide to make the leap to the Science Center?

When COVID shut down the hospitality industry in 2020, I spent a lot of time thinking about what my next career move would be. After 7 months on furlough, I decided to pivot to the nonprofit world and took a development position with Action Wellness, which is a public health agency that assists folks living with HIV and other serious chronic illnesses. As COVID restrictions lifted, I wanted to get back into the world of events with a focus on helping our community. The position with Quorum at the Science Center was the perfect fit.

So you’ve spent a lot of time in the restaurant and hospitality industry. What’s one major lesson about client service that you took away from those experiences?

I think the main lesson is understanding that you must have empathy for others. When we interact with clients, we don’t know immediately what kind of day they’ve had or what stresses they are currently facing. With our meeting and event clients, my focus is to listen to their needs and what they are trying to achieve with their function, and then determine how we are going to exceed their expectations. We’re crafting experiences that create connections and memorable moments.

Tim at Banksy Art Exhibit 2022
Tim and his fiance Travis at Diner en Blanc 2022

Why are you passionate about helping people and making sure they have a great experience while in your care?

I really think it comes from my Italian family on my mom’s side. A key point of hospitality is making people feel welcome. My Italian relatives always received everyone, whether they knew you or not, with love and kindness. It was always, “How are you? Good to see you! Ya hungry? What can I get for you?” I bring a lot of that energy into how I work with clients.

What’s unique about Quorum, and what are your hopes for how the 2024 year will build on that?

Quorum is unique in the fact that it offers both free use coworking space with the drop-in lounge, and rental space for meetings and events. For 2024, we’re working on initiatives that will bring additional free-to-access programming and events into the space for the community.

Tim hiking at Wissahickon
Tim and his fiance Travis at Tinsel Town 2023

How does your understanding of diversity and inclusion inform how you handle customer experiences?

I think we always have to ask ourselves, “Who is missing?” when thinking about equitable experiences. This includes every aspect of events, from who we choose to partner with on donated space to which caterers and vendors we recommend to our clients. Bringing more diverse voices into the mix only enhances the overall experience we are able to offer here in Quorum.

What’s your favorite thing to order at Elixr?

The caramel black salt latte has a special place in my overly caffeinated heart these days. It gives me toasted marshmallow vibes.

What is your superpower?

Creative problem solving. I love working with challenging events and finding unique ways to bring a client’s vision to life.

What do you love about Philadelphia?

Many things, but particularly the culinary scene in Philadelphia thrills me. We’re very much a food town. Whether it’s an award-winning restaurant or a corner sandwich joint, I think our collective love of food and eclectic cuisine really brings people together.

When you’re not at Quorum, what can you be found doing?

Most likely in my kitchen cooking! I love culinary experimentation and I am always working on new recipes for my fiancé and I to enjoy.