Create the Ultimate Power Breakfast Setting
Turn your hotel’s morning meal into a powerful profit center by attracting the deal making elite of your town.
Monday, April 21, 2014
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The symbols of power inside 250 Franklin St. were once the financial instruments of the U.S. Treasury, and as the one-time home of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, the downtown building at this address helped shape the backbone of business and commerce for the New England states, starting in 1921.
The Renaissance Revival structure has been a hotel since 1981, and its symbols of power now are more likely to be smoked salmon, fried eggs and sausage or pastries, culinary instruments of the Café Fleuri, whose kitchen inside the luxury Langham Hotel transforms morning meals into power breakfasts for bankers, lawyers, insurance executives and other players in the surrounding financial district.
Getting down to business at the Langham - as in a growing number of urban business district hotels - often means breaking bread while sealing deals. And often, as early in the morning as possible.
“It is a big item for us,” said Mathias Weigman, director of operations at the Langham, where the a la carte business breakfast is a fixture in their big opening dining room. “The hotel is located in downtown Boston’s financial district and all those businesses around us, they need to have their meetings. I have seen a lot of people come in the morning, as well as for lunch, to discuss business.”
Polished pros themselves, the staff knows just when to deliver personal service, Weigman said, and when to step away and let business unfold without interruption. “People know they can come and sit down, get their breakfast, get their order done, the server comes and then they get left alone,” he said.
“In a conversation when you talk about business and billions and taking over other companies, you don’t want to be interrupted. This is where our servers, our colleagues, know what to do. And this is why our guests come back for our breakfasts … This is something our colleagues have somehow mastered.”
Equal helpings of privacy, along with good food, are essentials as well in Washington, D.C., where power and politics often walk into the dining room hand-in-hand. Just outside the door of the Hay-Adams Hotel is a view of the White House, one of our nation’s ultimate symbols of power.
“We often say, ‘you can’t get closer to the White House without being invited by the President’ ,” said Julien Surget, director of Food & Beverage at the Hay-Adams, where a good many members of the staff are longtime veterans who have served a generation or two of senators, congressmen and others in public service.
“What is interesting about it is the list of personalities … politicians and movers and shakers of Washington” who are power breakfasters under the hotel roof, Surget said. “One of the reasons I think they really like coming to see us at the Lafayette and the Hay-Adams is they are going to be amongst peers. They are going to get extreme privacy, they are going to be served professionally and swiftly. And they don’t have to make any extra effort to have private conversations.
“A lot of our guests are extremely high-profile people, some in the political world but some in the business world. This is all taken into consideration when we see where they are going to be sitting, or where they will not be seated.”
The power breakfast crowd is very different from the dinner patrons, Surget said, and there is an intensity over the morning meal that evening diners, out for a more leisurely supper, don’t replicate.
And demand for the early business meal keeps growing. “More people are moving back to the city and that obviously opens the door to more people going out for breakfast,” Surget said. “The diners we see for our breakfast we see them sometimes for lunch as well but we never see them for dinner. We may get companies doing dinners, things of that nature, but not so much any ‘Power Dinners,’ the counterpart to the power breakfast. That takes time, and service is more slower-paced. There are expectations that guests want to take their time. Power breakfasts are about getting out within an hour with results done.”
Although Washington, D.C. and Boston may have more longstanding traditions of power breakfasts, the act of doing the deal while enjoying the meal began transforming the dining room at San Francisco’s Hotel Vitale around the time of the 2008 recession, said Kory Stewart, executive chef.
“We have always been a restaurant where influential people broker deals for lunch and dinner, but breakfast has definitely become the meal period where we see the most of this now. Many of our business dinners are trending more towards celebrations or team-building experiences,” Stewart wrote in a recent email.
Breakfast tends to be more casual, but the hallmark of the power breakfast is that it is especially focused and has a clear-cut objective. “The lack of alcohol may contribute to this,” he added.
“I think a meal with someone has always been a key way to build trust with someone. Breakfast seems a good time to accomplish this without the excess that can sometimes accompany the old fashioned business dinner,” he said.
And, Surget said, it doesn’t take much detective work to know when the staff has gotten the balance just right, for the delicate business at hand: “You feel the buzz on a good day,” he said. “Today was one of those days when you feel there was a lot happening, a bit of tension in the air, when it is fast and quick and you can tell. You do sometimes wonder, when you look at your dining room and the people there and the network created – you cannot help but think that something is being created, right there.”