New hotel dining program creates culinary buzz, elevates consumer awareness, increases revenue
A CONNECTICUT-BASED hotel management company has created a way to give guests at its full-service hotel restaurants a memorable dining experience while branding each of its restaurants with a unique identity.
The Chef’s Tables of Meyer Jabara Hotels has differentiated its nine full-service hotel restaurants from other hotel and stand-alone culinary venues in their markets. The program has elevated consumer awareness of each hotel’s Celebrity Chefs and its catering and restaurant offerings. It has forged valued relationships with their respective communities, and increased F&B revenue.
The Chef’s Tables are private, six- to seven-course culinary dining experiences for up to eight people. Menus can be customized or left to the imagination of each chef. For three hours, groups are entertained by tableside presentations and educated on meal preparation and beverage pairings. Each chef honors local food products from their specific regions, focusing on freshness, origins and sustainability.
Meyer Jabara Hotels developed the concept find a new way to sell catering and service accounts, said Justin Jabara, vice president of development and acquisitions.
Company leadership introduced Chef’s Tables to a gathering of about 70 general managers and staff from the hotels last spring. The chefs prepared tastings and explained the program during the event. “The response was phenomenal,” Jabara said. The program was born that day and got underway in about six weeks. “We never looked back, and today these events are raising the bar for culinary excellence.”
Each chef delivers a fine-dining experience.
At Arthur’s Bistro in the Hilton Hotel in Ocala, Florida, Chef Josue Torres takes his Chef’s Table guests on a gastronomic adventure. Working in tandem with Food & Beverage Manager David Lewis, diners learn about culinary trends and why a particular wine was selected to accompany each course.
“We use the Chef’s Table as a way to immediately differentiate ourselves from other hotels in the market,” said General Manager Angelo DePeri. “Our culinary abilities are stronger than most, and the Chef’s Table provides a unique experience our customers won’t find anywhere else in this area. Chef Torres is very personal and interactive. Our Chef’s Table is like bringing a world-class chef into the privacy of your own home.”
DePeri calls the Chef’s Table program “energizing” because it gives his staff a blank canvas to showcase their talents and get excited about using different products indigenous to the market.
Torres agrees. “Having two Wagyu farms in Ocala, I am able to create menus featuring proteins that I typically don’t get to cook,” he said. “No matter what the main dish is, I always try to include local produce, honeys and cheeses from local farms.”
Torres likes to talk while guests eat. “What I enjoy best about the Chef’s Table is the beginning dialogue with each customer. I want to learn about the group, their food preferences, and what they want to take away from the experience.”
Chef’s Tables at Arthur’s Bistro have gone from being a marketing tool to a sales tool, DePeri said. “The revenue numbers are validated. We’ve seen increases across the board in rooms revenue, catering and the restaurant.”
Fostering community engagement
Chef Tim Twiford invites guests into the heart of the kitchen at Prime Steak & Wine, the main restaurant at the Crowne Plaza Reading Wyomissing in Pennsylvania. VIP guests can watch the culinary staff in action from the Chef’s Table in a private glass dining room in the center of the kitchen.
According to General Manager Dan Withrow, the Chef’s Table has helped close at least 20 events valued at $200,000 in new business. In addition, nearly $30,000 in Chef’s Table donations have been presented to the local community. It is not uncommon for Twiford to host multiple Chef’s Tables daily – sometimes three a day on the weekends; one at lunch, one in the late afternoon and one for dinner.
“We use the Chef’s Table as a way to take care of the community,” Withrow said. “Chef Twiford is extremely talented. As a former chef myself, I have never seen someone of his capacity so actively involved with the public. The Chef’s Table gives him a venue where he can continue the great work he does while bringing contacts to our hotel and giving them a different dining experience.”
The Crowne Plaza Chef’s Table has morphed into something much bigger than originally planned. Non-profit organizations are constantly requesting Chef’s Table donations to be auctioned off for special events; each six-person dinner at auction is selling for $1,000 to $1,500.
Elevating culinary expectations
Chef Franco Paterno opens his Chef’s Table at Bluefin Grille at the Providence Marriott Downtown in Rhode Island to guests who want a total immersion experience. Hotel Manager James Paulon said although the Chef’s Table is designed for eight, he hopes for the day when they can bring the concept to 150 to 200 people in the hotel’s meeting space.
“With the Chef’s Table program, the sky is the limit as to how it can be executed,” Paulon said. “It’s a unique way to bring all food to all people in an intimate setting. Word-of-mouth is spreading and the bookings keep pouring in. No one else is providing this type of culinary experience.”
“Providence is a competitive restaurant town,” Paulson said. “There are a lot of outstanding restaurants in the immediate area. Chef Paterno and the Chef’s Table is enabling us to compete head on with other fine-dining establishments in the market.”