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Hotel F&B magazine
 Hotel Banquet & Catering Trends
Special Edition: December 2008
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photo gallery Buffet Inspirations
Langham's Chocolate Bar easily adapted for banquet
and catering programs

By Ashley Brown Allen

At the Langham Boston hotel, an idea to attract local customers on Saturdays has grown into a phenomenon. Twenty years ago, the hotel’s French executive chef suggested a Saturday afternoon chocolate buffet based on the French tradition le gouter de quatre heures, a sweet and chocolatey afternoon Langham Boston Chef Costello photo
Pastry Chef Trena Costello
snack for schoolchildren. The Chocolate Bar now runs from September through June, showcasing more than 125 desserts and attracting visitors from all over the world.

“About six years ago, we began crafting and staging desserts around a different annual theme,” says Executive Chef Mark Sapienza. “These themes have become greatly anticipated by guests and have ignited enthusiasm in the hotel staff.”

Examples of past themes include International Chocolate Bar, offering desserts from around the world, and Air, Fire, Water, and Earth: Elements of Nature, using props such as dry ice, a faux silk flame machine, a water feature, and natural wood and marble displays, paired with desserts in each category. This season’s theme is Decades of Decadence, which celebrates the Chocolate Bar’s 20th anniversary and divides displays into desserts of the past, present, and future.

Pastry Chef Trena Costello says the future category, based on desserts suited for everyone, especially those with dietary restrictions, is close to her heart. “I have Celiac disease, causing a gluten intolerance, so I wanted to create desserts for people who can’t eat indiscriminately,” Costello says. “I came up with items like chocolate banana vegan cake, gluten-free cupcakes, and a make-your-own chocolate candy bar station with plenty of toppings for every diet.”

This combination of creativity and confection has translated into a 45 percent increase in sales from 2000 to 2008 and has attracted media attention on the Food Network and the Travel Channel. Sapienza and Costello say they’ve already received glowing comment cards about this year’s Chocolate Bar, with feedback from guests from Germany, France, Venezuela, and North America.

At $38 per adult and $20 per child, one could assume the locals use the Chocolate Bar solely for special occasions and holidays, but Sapienza says he sees many of the same people week after week. “Don’t get me wrong,” he adds, “we have plenty of people flocking here just for the holidays. We deck out the Chocolate Bar with Halloween props in October; lights and greenery in December; and chocolate fountains, hearts, and roses in February. The Chocolate Bar is always evolving, and that’s why people keep coming.”

Milliken napery

Tea Service Treatment
Omni upgrades tea service for groups
By Mckenzie Brown

The success of the rapidly growing World Tea Expo tradeshow is evidence that demand for quality tea service is on the rise. Tea drinkers have felt overlooked, with hotel banquet service in particular failing to distinguish coffee drinkers from tea drinkers at meeting break stations.
Omni Hotels tea banquet

According to Stephen Rosenstock, senior VP of F&B and brand standards at Omni Hotels, tea is a trend that gradually increases every year. Since it’s here to stay, Omni decided to create a separate tea program for breaks.

“Many customers who drink tea feel they’re forgotten and are given a second-rate product as a result,” says Rosenstock. Because of this, Omni now partners with Tea Forté ( to offer a separate tea break with its own section on the table. So tea mugs won’t be confused with coffee mugs, Omni uses special mugs with no handles for tea. In fact, nothing related to coffee is allowed near the tea area.

“The Tea Forté brand is a strong fit for Omni,” Rosenstock says. “With handcrafted silk infusers, unique china pots, teacups with lids, and other serving pieces, their packaging and presentation stand out.”
Omni Hotels cafe cup

A standard tea setup for a meeting group of 50 people at Omni includes about 15 tea cups and a one- to three-gallon urn of hot water. Omni typically offers six Tea Forté flavors, including English Breakfast, Black Currant, Earl Grey, Flora, Chamomile, and Jasmine Green, and the tea setup includes a selection of sugars, honey, and lemon. Additionally, Omni offers a variety of foods to complement the tea, including fruit skewers with a mint dipping sauce, a trio of chocolate truffles (dark, milk, and white chocolate), baby crabcakes on brioche, and beef teriyaki.

Positive customer feedback has increased from tea drinking guests and helps with repeat business. “When we offer it to clients, they love it,” Rosenstock says, adding that there is no additional cost on the break package for the tea service.

After the Vows
Huntsville Marriott keeps weddings on schedule by serving wine and cheese
By Michael Costa

It is not uncommon for wedding guests to find themselves with nothing to do after the bride and groom say “I do.” While newlyweds are busy taking pictures between the vows and the reception, there is usually an hour or more when guests have nothing structured to occupy their time. Consequently, attendees can scatter and put dinner behind schedule.

“We kept seeing this trend,” says Jamie Jones, sales and catering manager, Huntsville Marriott in Huntsville, Alabama, “so we decided to offer a cheese and fruit display during that time and make it part of the overall wedding package.”

Local Touch

During the break, guests can choose from a variety of artisan cheeses and seasonal fruit selected by Jones, Banquet Manager Sonja Koonce, and Executive Chef Debra Glass. The food is often displayed symmetrically on butcher blocks with white table linen underneath. “The simplicity of everything appeals to guests,” says Jones.
Marriot Huntsville Cheese Display
The Huntsville Marriott offers artisan cheeses
and seasonal fruit for wedding guests.

When the break debuted about a year ago, the hotel offered wines from around the world to accompany the cheese and fruit. Earlier this summer, they incorporated Alabama wines from Calera’s Vizzini Farms Winery into the package and, in the process, created a regionally focused hit. Jones says nearly 25 percent of the cheese and fruit packages now feature Vizzini wines. “It’s a draw, especially for out-of-town guests curious about local wines."

During the break, Huntsville Marriott Sommelier Tom Good is on hand to answer questions about Vizzini wines, which include Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Pinot Grigio, Viognier, Apple Riesling, and Paulina, a blackberry-flavored dessert wine.

Jones says the next step is to expand the idea to all event menus at the property. “We plan to let clients choose the cheeses they want and match them with different wines,” says Jones. “I think it will get bigger, and we will be able to allow more one-on-one with guests through action stations instead of a buffet. It will be a phenomenal draw for this hotel.”

Story of the Setup
Haunted house entertains guests at fundraiser
By Michael Costa

Potawatomi Casino Haunted House Image
Chef Avila-Favela's chocolate creation
(click on image to enlarge)
Every picture tells a story, and that’s especially true at holidays. This issue’s photo is from an offsite Halloween-themed fundraiser catered by Potawatomi Bingo Casino in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Sergio Avila-Favela, Potawatomi’s executive pastry chef, explains how his chocolate haunted house came to life and was eventually auctioned off for charity.

What was the event surrounding this setup?
It was the "Absolutely the Best Party 13" fundraiser for the Wisconsin AIDS Fund, held on Halloween night.

How did you come up with the blueprint for such an elaborate haunted house?
I looked around on the Internet for something scary, and I found a picture of a very detailed haunted house. I liked the challenge of recreating it. I try to make things big for parties so you get more detail. The tallest part is the tower at 32 inches, and the area around the house is 25 inches by 25 inches.
Inspiration image for Chocolate Haunted House
(above) haunted house inspiration image

(below) Potawatomi's chocolate haunted house
Potawatomi Casino Haunted House Image 2

Is the entire display made of chocolate?
Yes. The entire thing, including the stones, the brick wall, and the trees, is made of modeling chocolate. It’s about 45 pounds of chocolate, but the house is hollow.

How many hours did it take to build it?
About 100 total hours. My assistant helped me, and we put it together in about three weeks.

Because the event was offsite, how did you move it?
The base was moved on a truck, and I put the top part in my car. When we work on pieces like this, it is tested by moving or shaking it. If it falls apart, we know where the weak parts are, and it can be fixed before the event.

What was the guest reaction at the fundraiser?
I heard comments like, “Is that really all chocolate?” and “You can’t eat that, can you?” I covered it with food shellac, so it’s preserved but still edible, and I think it looks scarier that way.

What eventually happened to it?
It was auctioned off at the event for $650, with the proceeds going to the Wisconsin AIDS Fund. The house itself cost about $350 to make.

ROI Through Renovations
Renaissance Austin transforms outdated nightclub into a
successful ballroom

By Michael Costa

For more than a decade, Tangerines nightclub at the Renaissance Austin Hotel was a hot spot in the Texas capital. But, like many food and beverage concepts, business at Tangerines eventually cooled off. In 2007, the hotel was looking to reconcept the space. Instead of creating another nightspot or restaurant, management saw bigger potential in the 5,000-square-foot space.
Renaissance Ballroom Image
Glass Oaks Ballroom at the Renaissance Austin,
formerly Tangerines Nightclub (click on image to enlarge)

“We’re not in this just for a good concept,” says GM Rob Gillette. “We’re in it to make money, and banquets and catering is a high-profit area. The nightclub business diminished, and we felt we had a better offering for that space in terms of flexibility and revenue by appealing to clientele staying at the hotel.”

After a $2.6 million renovation, Tangerines became Glass Oaks Ballroom, a 600-person capacity venue named after the trees visible through the room’s floor-to-ceiling windows. Glass Oaks opened in August, and Gillette says they’re “already seeing returns. We have 50 weddings booked, and meeting planners are wowed by the room.”

Venue Versatility

Glass Oaks was created for year-round versatility beyond banquet and catering events, and Gillette says they have frequently used the space for corporate meetings and presentations. Since opening last August, it has been occupied nearly every day.

“All indicators point to Glass Oaks doing four or five times the volume of business Tangerines did,” Gillette says. “The ballroom definitely complements our hotel much better.”

In this issue:

ROI Through Renovations
Renaissance Austin transforms outdated nightclub into a successful ballroom

Story of the Setup
Haunted house entertains guests at fundraiser

After the Vows
Huntsville Marriott keeps weddings on schedule by serving wine and cheese

Tea Service Treatment
Omni upgrades tea service for groups

Buffet Inspirations
Langham's Chocolate Bar easily adapted for banquet and catering programs
(with photo gallery)

Shoes for Crews

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Hotel F&B
Corporate Editorial Advisory Board

Kris Beck
Director, Brand Operations Support, Embassy Suites Hotels

Terry Bickhardt
Waterford Hotel Group

Phil Beilke
Sr. Director Brand Management, Choice Hotels/Cambria Suites

Don Billings
President and CEO, Incentive Marketing Inc. (iMi)

Elizabeth Blau
President, Blau & Associates

Pete Boyd
VP F&B, the Venetian Resort Hotel Casino, Las Vegas

Tom Brija
President, Spring U.S.A.

Brian Carney, Corporate F&B Director, Cooper Hotel Services

Nicholas Clayton
President, Kor Hotel Group

Paul Daly
Assistant VP F&B, Hyatt Hotels

Fred DeMicco
University of Delaware

Giorgi DiLemis
VP F&B, Gaylord Hotels

Andy Dolce
Chairman and Managing Director, Dolce Hotels & Resorts

Marion Edwards
Corporate Director F&B Experience/Concept Development, Great Wolf Resorts

Matt Engels
VP Hotel Operations,
Red Lion Hotels

Steve Enselein
VP, Catering and Convention Services, Hyatt Hotels

Richard Faeh
Corporate Exec. Chef, Starwood Hotels & Resorts

Don Fisher
President/CEO, Fisher-Nickel Inc.

Frank Fraser
Catering Director, Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas

George Goodrich
Corporate Director F&B,
Red Lion Hotels

Steve Hedberg
VP Operations, Carlson Hospitality International

Michael Heeb
VP, Paragon Gaming

David Henkes
Senior Principal, Technomic Inc.

Menze Heroian
VP F&B, Tishman Hotels

Dave Hoemann, VP F&B,
Joie de Vivre Hospitality

Jean-marc Jalbert
VP F&B, Accor North America

Dieter Kadoke
President, PointSource LLC

Steve Kirsch
Director of Culinary Operations, Holland America Line

Niki Leondakis
COO, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants

David McIntyre
VP F&B, MGM Grand

Scott McMinn
VP, Benchmark Hospitality Corporation

Bart Mahoney
VP, MGM Project City Center, Las Vegas

Tobias Mattstedt
VP Development, MGM Grand

Mitch Mehr
VP of F&B Operations, Destination Hotels & Resorts

Sue Morgan
VP Franchise F&B, InterContinental Hotels Group

Vito Palmietto
Corporate Director F&B,
John Q. Hammons Hotels

Stephen Rosenstock
Senior VP Business Development/Brand Standards, Omni Hotels & Resorts

Gus Sader
Hospitality Asset Services

Fernando Salazar
VP F&B, Wyndham Worldwide

Martie Sparks
VP Catering & Convention Services, Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino

Roger Taylor
VP F&B, Columbia Sussex Corporation

Frederick M. Tibbitts, Jr.
President, Fred Tibbitts & Associates

Rob Underwood
Corporate Executive Chef,
Great Wolf Resorts

Ellen Burke Van Slyke
Corporate Creative Director F&B, Loews Hotels

Matthew Von Ertfelda
VP Restaurants & Bars, Marriott International Inc.

Brian Yost
VP, Harrah's Entertainment

Bob Zappatelli
VP F&B, Benchmark Hospitality

Doug Zeif
VP F&B, Hilton-Americas

Hotel Banquet & Catering Trends is edited by Michael Costa and published in affiliation with Hotel F&B Magazine and Hotel F&B Online ( To submit story ideas or images, contact Michael at

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