EMP Summer House is the hottest place to be in the Hamptons, but good luck scoring a reservation—unless you have an American Express card, that is. The partnership with Eleven Madison Park was developed by Janey Whiteside, the executive vice president and general manager of global charge products, benefits, and services at American Express. Meet the powerhouse who is ensuring that American Express card members are enjoying the best possible experiences—in the dining realm, and far beyond.
How long have you been with American Express?
Twenty years this year, which really dates me! I grew up and went to school in the U.K. I worked at HSBC right out of college, and then joined American Express in the London office. Since then, I’ve had myriad jobs across almost every business unit—marketing, product development, business development, sales, general management, international business, consumer business, small business, large business, and global travel. Now, I lead the global charge product management and service team. It’s a combination of a little bit of everything I’ve learned put together across my 20 years.
What makes the Platinum Card so unique? How do you describe the culture of the card?
One of things that makes the card so special is that is has been around for such a long time. It’s 30 years old. It has always been about security, service, access, and experience. Fast-forward to now, the card is about a modern interpretation of those qualities. We have 30 years of staying with our card members, looking at their spends, and being able to grow and move the card in line with those [trends]. It’s a vibrant, fast-growing portfolio, and it’s bigger than it has ever been. We have all this legacy, and we can use that to make sure we’re evolving our product in line with the passions of our card members.
How do you see those tastes and passions evolving?
One of the things we talked a lot about is the rise of desire for experience. Our program has become global, so now we are looking at how we provide access to different sources of experience around the world, creating one global program. We know where our card members are—at Coachella, out in the Hamptons, at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen—so we are popping up Platinum Houses to elevate those experiences for them.
I love the new card design. What was the concept?
It’s a more modern interpretation of a design classic. It was important to have something that people really wanted to pull out of their wallets. It really came from the desire to represent the modern card member.
What’s the story behind the Platinum Collective?
As we looked at Platinum, I wanted to make sure we got an outside-in perspective. I thought it was very important to bring together a group of tastemakers and influencers who themselves were brands that were resonating with the next generation of card members, or who were important to brands that would resonate to the next generation of card members. The notion of the collective is that we have about 20 people, all of whom are leaders in their field, and they really help us as we are thinking about how to bring the product to market, what the benefits should be, how we should communicate them, and who we should partner with. They really act as a great sounding board for us, and they will give us their input and advice, and talk about what they think works and doesn’t work. That helps us from a marketing perspective, and we also create partnerships with them.
The Global Dining Collection also falls under your purview. How does that program work?
It’s a series of benefits and exclusive experiences for our card members across a range of restaurants around the world. We have exclusive relationships with some of the top chefs in the world—Thomas Keller, Stephanie Izard, Daniel Humm, José Andrés and Massimo Bottura—and with each of them, it’s about creating unique experiences for our card members, whether that is special menus, special nights, or events with the chefs. You will see more and more chefs start to join the Global Dining Collection.
For many of their restaurants, it’s very hard to get a reservation without booking through American Express…
Yes, in some cases they are booked out, but we have exclusive table access. That’s a very important part of our partnerships with the chefs we do business with. The program is about making sure our card members get to experience everything they want to experience, and to do so when they want to do it.
EMP Summer House is the buzziest restaurant opening in the Hamptons—and reservations are only available to card members. Is this type of reservation access the first of its kind?
Yes. When we were developing our partnership with Will [Guidara] and Daniel [Humm], we knew card members would want early access, whether that’s through booking online or through our concierge and relationship managers. This was the way we were able to think about partnering organically with the restaurant and bringing something really unique and special to our card members across the board. We have been extremely pleased with the response so far.
What can we expect from the restaurant?
It varies—the dining restaurant is more of a white tablecloth approach to fine dining. There will also be an outdoor area where you can expect fun takes on hot dogs, burgers, and great cocktails. It will be more casual and family-oriented.
Will there be any tables available for walk-ins?
Not in the main restaurant, but you will be able to walk in at the back.
American Express has also taken over the Grey Gardens estate for the summer. How did that happen?
We were looking for a space where we could put on events for card members. The Grey Gardens house is obviously an icon, and we thought it would be a really perfect place to create special moments.
Will we see you out on the East End this summer?
You will! I am lucky enough to have a house out in the Hamptons. We’ve been going out there for 12 or 13 years now. We have always been in the Southampton area, and now we have a house in between Southampton and Sag Harbor. To me, that’s the best of both worlds. You’re close enough to all the action, but it’s also really quiet.