On Hotel Restaurants

While we’re on the subject of the hospitality industry, a recent Wall Street Journal article reported on the facelift many hotels are giving their restaurants—not just renovations, mind you, but conceptual restructuring and rebranding with the help of celebrity chefs. Writes Andrea Petersen,

Over the past three years, Four Seasons has overhauled 13 of its hotel restaurants in the U.S. It found that in many markets its traditional style of fine-dining restaurant had “ceased to be relevant,” says Guy Rigby, vice president, food and beverage, Americas for Four Seasons.

Sales were slipping and “guests were going to the concierge saying ‘where do the locals dine?’ ” Mr. Rigby says. The company started working with restaurant designers. (In the past, the restaurant would have been planned by the same designer as the hotel.) It gave its spots specific cuisines and identities (i.e., steakhouse, modern Italian). Tables were squeezed closer together, and bar and restaurant areas were combined to try to create more of an energetic vibe.

In order to lure even the locals, some of these new hotel restaurants have separate entrances and addresses to distinguish themselves.

The change has been in the works for some time—Steve Wynn was one of the early pioneers. Today it seems as if every hotel-casino on the Strip in Vegas has a celebrity chef attached to it: Emeril is at the Venetian, Wolfgang Puck is at Cut in the Palazzo, Central Michel Richard has opened at Caesars Palace, Tom Colicchio’s Craftsteak is at the MGM Grand, to name just four. In the Washington area, Michael Mina is at the Georgetown Four Seasons (Bourbon Steak), Jean-Georges Vongerichten has a steakhouse at the W, Michel Richard is at the Tyson’s Ritz-Carlton, and Eric Ripert is at the Ritz-Carlton downtown.

The Mayflower on Connecticut Avenue is one of the last holdouts—the Promenade Cafe is still a quiet place for lunch and dinner (breakfasts are busy). The menu is without personality—pedestrian but expensive. And yet some people like this. The Journal notes:

There are certain things hotel companies say they can’t change. Comfort food, often desired by travel-weary hotel guests, is one of them, says Christopher Cowdray, chief executive of the Dorchester Collection, a company that partners with celebrity chefs including Alain Ducasse and Wolfgang Puck, for many of its hotel restaurants. Among the must-have items: Caesar salad, a hamburger, club sandwiches and tomato soup.

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