Archive for April, 2009

Nation’s Restaraunt News

Monday, April 27th, 2009

Hotel cohabitation grows as brands, restaurateurs seek new opportunities

By PAUL FRUMKIN – (April 27, 2009) In their difficult journey to uncover growth opportunities in this lending-challenged marketplace, restaurateurs are finding there is still plenty of room for them at the inn.

Operators ranging from chain brands Dunkin’ Donuts and Beef ‘O’ Brady’s to fine-dining specialists Emeril Lagasse, Danny Meyer and Piero Selvaggio are targeting expansion in 2009 by partnering with hotel owners across the country.

While restaurateurs long have been mindful of the benefits of working with hoteliers—Las Vegas provides numerous examples—the scarcity of growth capital is propelling more foodservice operators into the arms of deep-pocketed hotel companies.

“This kind of partnership is a lot more prevalent than in the last couple of years,” said John Fox, senior vice president of PKF Consulting, a hotel advisory firm based in New York. “It provides a restaurant operator with an opportunity to open an outlet without putting up a lot of capital to do it.”

David Mansbach, co-president of HVS Executive Search in Mineola, N.Y., agreed, saying the typical restaurant franchisee is having trouble finding proper financing in the current market environment.

“As a result,” he said, “a lot of franchisors are considering hybrid strategies where a restaurant concept is aligned with a hotel brand.”

Mansbach said HVS is working with a number of foodservice brands, notably Beef ‘O’ Brady’s, the 263-outlet “family sports pub” concept based in Tampa, Fla. So far the chain has opened locations at the TradeWinds Island Grand Resort in St. Pete Beach, Fla., and in the Best Western Hotel and Conference Center in Brandon, Fla.

“Hotel food and beverage is a headache for [hotel] operators and in most cases is unprofitable,” Mansbach said. “Bringing in a branded foodservice operation often increases revenues by attracting customers who already know the [brand]. At the same time, it gives the restaurant operator the ability to grow from a franchise perspective when many franchisees are having trouble getting financing.”

But Mansbach also advises restaurant franchisors to be flexible when it comes to partnering with hotel owners.

“Some larger restaurant chains have very specific standards about design and square footage that make it hard for a hotel owner to work with,” he said. “That has forced us to create a toolbox of restaurant concepts that allow for more flexibility. Beef ‘O’ Brady’s can go into a hotel and convert a space for as little as $110,000, as compared to $1 million for some major dinnerhouse chains.”

Dunkin’ Donuts, which is owned by Canton, Mass.-based Dunkin’ Brands, also has several store models—including full retail shops, kiosks and self-serve hot-coffee stations—to help with its planned expansion into the hospitality sector. The brand’s first hotel outlet just opened in the Great Wolf Lodge in Concord, N.C., one of the biggest indoor water park resorts on the continent. The outlet serves Dunkin’s full menu of foods and beverages, including baked goods, oven-toasted breakfast sandwiches, and selections from its DDSmart menu.

To add to the hotel units’ flexibility, Dunkin’ officials say bakery products also can be prepared in a hotel’s kitchen that has been outfitted with a few pieces of specialized equipment.

Dunkin’ plans to grow first in larger airport hotels and resorts in the East, Midwest and Southwest. Rival Starbucks already has a number of locations open in hotels across the country.

But while chain operators are taking a more serious look at hotel partnerships, the longstanding romance between celebrity chef-restaurateurs and hoteliers continues unabated with new pairings.

In January Michelin-starred Parisian chef Guy Martin opened his first U.S. location in the Fairmont Battery Wharf in Boston.

The owner of Valentino in Santa Monica, Calif., plans to open a version of the Italian fine-dining concept in the Hotel Derek in Houston.

Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group agreed to create a restaurant for Ian Schrager’s Gramercy Park Hotel in New York, and run all of the property’s food and beverage operations.

Celebrity chef-restaurateur Emeril Lagasse will debut Emeril’s Chop House at the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem in Pennsylvania in May.

In addition, Piero Selvaggio, the owner of the award-winning Valentino in Santa Monica, Calif., and Las Vegas, plans to open a new generation of his Italian fine-dining concept in the Hotel Derek in Houston in September.

The partnership between Selvaggio and the Derek’s owners was arranged by Robert Nyman, founder of The Nyman Group Ltd., a foodservice and hospitality consultant based in Scottsdale, Ariz., and an early advocate of chef-hotelier pairings. But Nyman, whose company has worked with a number of hotel operators and also was instrumental in organizing several high-profile partnerships at The Venetian Resort-Hotel-Casino in Las Vegas, cautions that not all pairings are destined to hit the jackpot.

Restaurateurs Piero Selvaggio, Left, and Emeril Lagasse will introduce the latest additions to their fine-dining portfolios later this year in hotel properties.

Recently, for example, Thompson Hotels and Todd English—the Boston-based chef-restaurateur who has several high-end restaurants in hotel properties—agreed to discontinue their partnership in The Libertine in New York.

“You have to marry the [chef-restaurateur] to the property,” Nyman said. “Anybody can lease a space, but a lot of places don’t work out. If you make the wrong move, you can end up with a vacant space in the hotel.”

To facilitate what Nyman calls “a new kind of niche marketing,” his company weighs several factors, including demographics of the local market, the property’s corporate business and social catering potential, and the type of cuisine.

“You have to look at it all and then match it to an operator who can perform and bring credence to the hotel and attract a certain kind of guest,” he said.

In turn, because the development costs often are wrapped into the overall hotel project, the chef-restaurateur gets to open a restaurant in a prime location that might otherwise have been out of his financial reach, he said.

Nyman said Selvaggio’s vision for the new Valentino offered a good fit with the Derek, which previously had housed an underperforming restaurant. Selvaggio said the restaurant—to be called P.S. Valentino and VinBar—will feature several components. In the front will be a regular bar with many wines by the glass together with a raw bar that will feature small-plate selections like crudo, salumi and antipasti. The area will seat about 100.

The restaurant also will house a 90-seat dining room reflecting Selvaggio’s more contemporary interpretation of his high-end Santa Monica restaurant. According to the management contract with the property, Selvaggio will provide breakfast, lunch, dinner, private catering and room service.

In addition to defraying the costs of opening a new restaurant, Selvaggio said he likes being in a hotel for other reasons.

“You have a built-in audience,” he said. “Also, the Derek is right in the heart of one of the busiest areas in Houston.”

He said that he anticipates opening additional P.S. Valentino and VinBar concepts around the country, but each will be tweaked to the local market.

Great Press!

Monday, April 27th, 2009

Happy Monday everyone!  I hope that you all had a wonderful weekend and aren’t struggling too much this Monday back to work.  Came across a fantastic article this morning that was just published in the latest edition of Nation’s Restaurant News.  ‘Professor’ Paul Frumkin’s piece is a great take on what’s happening in the restaurant business lately and a wonderful mention for The Nyman Group, but I will let you read more for yourselves!  Take a look at the link below:

http://www.nrn.com/article.aspx?id=365988

Enjoy the read and let us know what you think!

UNLVino Experience & Vegas Weekend

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

Is it hot enough for you all yet?  Las Vegas is in the 90′s this week and is getting warmer!  So much for the beauty of Spring and a fantastic April, but I’m sure we’ll make the best of it.

Last week there were all sorts of adventures in town, but the definite highlight overall was participating in UNLVino.  Thursday evening I assisted my dear friend, Tawny who works with Terlato International (www.TerlatoWines.com) by helping her pour at the Bubblicious event at The Palms.  We started the evening with a quick bite at the bar at N9NE Steakhouse (www.N9NEGroup.com) -  fresh burrata with white asparagus and white anchovies was divine, an aged New York Strip was a perfect medium rare and the side of multi-colored cauliflower with hazelnuts was a wonderful Spring-time compliment.  Fortunately, we were enjoying a bottle of 2003 Terlato Angel’s Peak, a Bordeaux style blend with just enough age and great balance to pair with the meal.

At Bubblicious we were pouring the Bollinger Brut (James Bond’s favorite), Ca del’ Bosco Cuvee Prestige Brut and the Langlois-Chateau Cremant de Loire Brut Rose (Bollinger’s Loire property).  Obviously, the Bollinger was the biggest hit of the night due to it’s popularity and well-known flavor profile, however the Cremant surprised many of the attendees with it’s nose, full mouthfeel and reasonable price.

Friday my buddy Dan who works for Hess (www.HessCollection) flew in from Napa for the events of the weekend.  We were fortunate to start the evening off sampling some wines from his company’s newest venture, Sequana Vineyards (www.SequanaVineyards.com), all Pinot Noirs - which are being made by James MacPhail, a true talent in Sonoma Pinot Noir and overall.  My favorite right off the bat was the 2007 Sarmento Vineyard from the Santa Lucia Highlands – not too much acid, great red fruits and a gorgeous perfumed nose.

We then continued to the Auss-Some and Then-Some event at The District, where Dan was pouring from three wineries from the Hess Portfolio - Peter Lehmann (Australia), Glen Carlou (South Africa) and Bodega Colome (Argentina).  It was a gorgeous Friday evening here in Las Vegas and all of the wines showed tremendously, however the big hit was the Colome, a Malbec with a little Tannat 8% and Cabernet Sauvignon 7% to round it out.  This wine comes from the highest vineyards in the world, starting at over 7,000 ft. above sea level.  Also, this wine was recently rated #38 in the Wine Spectator Top 100 Wines of the World and it’s an absolute bargain!  Go out and buy some now!!!

Post-event we headed back towards the Strip for a late-night bite over at BLT Burger (www.BLTRestaurants.com).  We caught up with my buddy J.P. who is the manager at one of my fast-becoming favorite restaurants in town.  I enjoyed a flavorful Turkey Burger with a side of Sweet Potato Fries and to wash it down a much needed pint of Hoegaarden White Ale.

Saturday morning we fueled the fire at a local breakfast spot, The Cracked Egg – definitely needing a good base prior to the ‘main event’.  At UNLVino, being held at the Paris Hotel, Resort & Casino there were over 90 booths with over 350 wines represented.  Dan decided to pour a total of 11 wines from his porfolio with the Hess Collection, Glen Carlou, Peter Lehmann and Bodega Colome all represented.  The event starts with a 2-hour trade tasting and is then opened up to the general ticket holders for another 3 1/2 hours!  It is a wonderful fundraiser for UNLV and a great chance to taste wines that usually aren’t opened in such settings.  Our most successful/favorite wine that we were pouring was the Hess Collection, Mt. Veeder 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon – a true example of mountain fruit, a ripe vintage and care in both the vineyard and at the winery.  The favorite wine that I was able to sample when walking around was from Nickel & Nickel, their 2005 Sullenger Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon – powerful, rich dark color and what a nose!

Post-event we headed over to visit a good friend, one of the owners of The Dolce Group (www.DolceGroup.com), who had just opened his newest restaurant, Rare 120 at the Hard Rock Hotel.  When you’re in town, be sure to come check out this modern take on the Steakhouse – it’s a gorgeous room, offers up Prime Steaks (my 16 oz. New York Strip was tremendous) and is just a cool place.  I can’t wait to head back and dine again!

Well friends, that’s just a quick wrap-up of my UNLVino adventures, there are more stories but some of them I can’t publish!  More to come very soon, lots more food and wine along the way – and remember, Keep Eating and Drinking!

Just another night in Vegas…

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

Greetings all!  I hope that you have all enjoyed the Passover and Easter season, avoiding the April showers and looking forward to the May flowers!  We enjoyed a fantastic Sunday here in Las Vegas a few days ago, combining the two holidays and hosting a BBQ with great friends, outstanding food (it was a potluck) and gorgeous weather.  Highlight dish of the day was a Dill Ricotta Cheesecake made by our friend Korby – she rocks!

Last night I had the pleasure of joining a dear friend of mine here in Vegas to run around town a little bit.  We started over at Planet Hollywood, cocktailing at Koi, where drinks were quite a bit more reasonable than we thought.  Also, they had a great snack mix (random, I know) which had Asian flavored Macadamia Nuts, Cashews, Almonds and Pistachios – what a great surprise.

After a quick drink at Strip House, we left the hotel and headed over to the Four Seasons for a late dinner/snack at Charlie Palmer Steak (www.CharliePalmerSteakLV.com).  They treated us like royalty and were extremely accommodating, especially when I requested Steak Tartare, which isn’t on the menu.  Chris, the Executive Sous Chef, stepped up and created a wonderfully delicious version with Filet Mignon as the base.  Wow, I can taste it now and can’t wait to go back! 

My friend enjoyed their Tuna Tartare, lightly spiced with Asian flavorings – nice and light!  We then split two entrees – the new addition to the menu was the Veal Flat Iron Steak with homemade Tagliatelle (Wow, Wow and Wow!) and the Halibut with Artichoke Bariogule, very nice dish for Spring.

To accompany our entrees we were poured a killer 2002 Tempranillo from Spain – just the right hints of Chocolate and mint.  Then to finish the evening we enjoyed a Ramey Claret, with good tannins, dark berry fruit and a little earth.

It was another great night in Vegas and I can’t wait to go back!  Stay tuned for my notes from this week – dinner at Bouchon tonight, dinner at Caffe Giorgio tomorrow and UNLVino events Thursday, Friday and Saturday!  Woo hoo, hang on and don’t forget to keep eating and drinking!

Tis the season for chefs!

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Hey friends! 

I hope that all of you are enjoying the Springtime around the country and that the weather in each of your home cities is getting as nice as Las Vegas!  It’s going to be a sunny 82 degrees today here in Sin City.  I promise to keep you all posted with my adventures and details soon. 

However, I first wanted to introduce you to a good friend of mine, Chef James Clark.  I have listed a link to James’ blog below of some of his latest food/chef adventures in his native South Carolina.  Take a look:

http://marinainnchef.wordpress.com/

I hope that you enjoy his blog and updates.  Looking forward to speaking/seeing each and everyone of you very soon.  All the best, happy Spring and keep eating and drinking!