Pick a Loews property anywhere in the country, and artisan action is in play. “It’s not so much a program as a lifestyle of what Loews is,” says Beth Scott, VP F&B for Loews Hotels.
“Our chefs are charged with infusing themselves in their environment and doing their best to support the local environment.” And that means establishing relationships with local F&B artisans to create a unique sense of place on the menu. “Part of our brand promise is to deliver a uniquely local experience for our guests.”
It’s a fun, customized dip into local specialties. “We embrace the local culture, including the local agriculture. We want people in Tucson to know they’re in Tucson, not New York City. We have a local tribe that makes tortillas, so we hire them to make fresh tortillas at breakfast and as a banquet station at events.”
California hotels promote California cheeses: “there are little artisan makers in Sonoma and other towns. In New York we have Jacques Torres, so we feature his chocolates for amenities. We have fun with his chocolatecovered corn flakes and pretzels.” And the list goes on: local maple syrup at Canadian properties, fresh-baked cookies from Redding Terminal in Philadelphia, and Hudson Valley’s Ronnybrook Farms delivering fresh cream in old-fashioned milk bottles.
Is there demand though from the average customer? “Not only is it in demand, but it entertains and educates guests. Customers want to know where they are. They expect the F&B experience to reflect it, just like the décor in the hotel and the foliage outside. People are smarter, you can’t get away with less—they’ll call you on it. Can you close your eyes and know where you are? Can we achieve that with food or cocktails? If not, we haven’t done our job.”
One might imagine a trade-off in reliability or service, but it seems the very opposite may be the case. “The local guys are very reliable. They understand the importance of the order, and for the most part they give you better service. They know the big guys are out there. And with the largest vendors there are sometimes issues of requiring huge quantity orders, or their crazy computerized system, or wanting something after five o’clock. But the local vendor can put their product in the car and drive it over.”
The Banquet Hall Next
Scott is clear that the frontier for local ingredients and products still to conquer is the banquet hall. “Perfecting it for mass service is the next step. In banquets, we’re trying to move the restaurant experience into a group experience. We have done the tortillas for banquets. Meeting planners are always under pressure to come up with something new. They love it and guests love it. Our San Diego property is very good at replicating the spa experience at meetings.” Properties create tastings of local wines and cheeses. “Once we did a whole cheese presentation with a cow and goat at each table to demonstrate the cheeses—almost like a wine tasting for the local cheeses. It’s a win/win when we can help the local guy.”
John Paul Boukis Banquet & Catering editor for HOTEL F&B EXECUTIVE.