Seeing Is Believing
Looking At Demonstration Kitchens For Post-Pandemic F&B Revenues
Imagine you have a clean slate on how to remodel operations coming out of the pandemic and knowing what pandemic-born behaviors or guidelines are here to stay. What would you do to deliver more F&B revenues and get prominent word of mouth to overcome any potential issues with maximizing guestroom occupancies (such as a weak return of the corporate segment)?
This is the basis for the Epicurean Hotel opening this summer in Atlanta, GA. The Atlanta property follows the 2014 launch of the Epicurean in Tampa, FL. Built by Mainsail Lodging & Development, both properties are operated within Marriott’s Autograph Collection.
A Zoom call with Marc Bauer, the Epicurean Atlanta’s General Manager, gave us some insight into the new property. We met Marc several years ago when he was the GM at the Hotel Duval in Tallahassee. His enthusiasm was both contagious and encouraging.
In brief, the property occupies one of three towers that comprise a full city block (3.5 acres) just south of the city’s Marriott Suites and Four Seasons properties. The other towers—one being offices, the other a condominium—all surround a public plaza. Consistent with the trend towards development of the downtown core, these structures replace a dubious collection of parking lots and light commercial ventures.
The 16-story Epicurean Atlanta features 178 rooms, including 22 suites. At the core of the property is a culinary demonstration kitchen capable of ‘enter-learning’–a clever portmanteau of entertainment plus learning. With its classroom-style configuration, the room can host 100 attendees. Reverence, the signature restaurant, seats 127, and is ably curated by Executive Chef Ewart Wardhaugh, who brings an international hand to the kitchen.
In the following interview, we look at how to create a food-centric hotel through the lens of the expected travel recovery as guests re-emerge from the pandemic restrictions.
Is this a culinary adventure wrapped in a hotel or a hotel that features great F&B?
If we’ve learned one thing from the past year, it’s that a hotel has to be more than a place to grab a few hours of rest. We like to think of our property as culinary-centric. Hotels must create experiences and generate revenue beyond the guestroom, and the best way to do this is through food and beverage. Another great advantage of being a food destination is community presence in that we want the property to be a destination for locals.
So, does the restaurant pay homage to food?
Yes, absolutely, but more importantly the origins of the food and beverage. The growers, makers and fishers. At Reverence, diners will experience regional cuisine with a locavore focus. Being blessed by our location in the heart of Georgia, we can furnish just about everything that is consumed within an easy driving distance. Our menus will reflect this with seasonal revisions as well as specials based upon immediate availability.
Tell us about your demonstration kitchen.
We call it a culinary theatre. To be successful, you have to deliver an experience to your guests. Picture a typical group event. Delegates meet for the business part of their get-together, usually followed by a social function such as a dinner. Now imagine the effect when the social function is replaced by mixology or a cooking demonstration where everyone is participating. There are demonstration kitchens in the area, but we believe we will be the largest and certainly the most modern from a technological standpoint.
How are you welcoming guests?
First, we reimagined the arrival experience. The Epicurean journey begins with a complimentary glass of wine or craft beer, check-in is completed on a tablet in the guestroom. The kitchen is not hidden but behind a glass partition wall, so diners can gain a better understanding of preparation techniques.
What new technologies are you incorporating?
We want to be contactless, but at the same time, retain a personalized touch. As mentioned, arriving guests will be checked in on tablets. We will also adapt many guest-centric technologies, such as in-room Google Nest and Volara voice-based activation allowing for customizable experiences.
What about your guestrooms?
Modern and comfortable, of course, but we also wanted to extend the foodie experience here as well. Instead of the usual minibar with outrageous pricing, we are offering an artisan pantry which will feature local producers’ products—soft drinks, craft beer, snacks and so on—at prices that are more reasonable.
Any last words?
The pandemic has afforded us the opportunity to capitalize upon a wealth of great talent in the city. As we are building our team from scratch, we’re going to search out those individuals who are committed to both exceptional service and who identify as food centric. We’re excited about the opportunity.