Industry Voices: Michael Buono of Mulberry Development
A quick introduction to the New York-based hotel developer.
WHO: Michael Buono, CEO of Mulberry Development, a New York City-based construction management, general contracting, and real estate development firm within the luxury hospitality sector.
WHERE: In addition to work on the interiors of the NoMad and ACE hotels in New York City, Mulberry Development collaborated on the completion of hospitality areas of the Freehand Hotel. They also recently completed work at the Sound View Inn, a 1950s Greenport, New York landmark that is donning a new look reminiscent of the era’s. Every area was restored, including its picturesque lobby lounge, piano bar, and The Halyard, a light-filled dining room and sprawling deck above the Long Island Sound.
WHY: “The F&B space is a space we know well,” Buono says. “My first project in the business was the ACE Hotel in New York. Food and beverage is an incredibly important component.”
WHAT: “When we were planning the ACE space, I remember running the pro forma for the lobby bar—a small, portable bar. We projected about $800 or $1,000 a night. As soon as we opened, we were doing $10,000 to $12,000 a night, so we re-thought the whole program. The lobby bar started as this little corner concept and now takes up a large footprint in the lobby. It speaks to how important it is to execute a well thought-out lodging concept with cutting edge F&B. We added some cool, atypical food folks to the equation, and we were able to create magic. The Breslin (restaurant helmed by James Beard Award-winning April Bloomfield) continues to perform extremely well.
“We took that model and did the same thing at the NoMad. The only difference is that the audience we are targeting is an older, more sophisticated demographic. We brought in Daniel (Humm) and Will (Guidara) from Eleven Madison Park to operate that element of the property, and they did extremely well. It shows that you’re not just staying at a hotel; you’re going there for the entire experience.
“Right now, we’re repositioning AKA Tribeca, which is an extended-stay concept that has done extremely well here in New York and elsewhere in the tri-state area. We’re getting ready to reposition their entire lobby and bar.
“We just finished the Playboy Club at the Cachet Hotel (New York City). It’s 10,000 and well appointed, decadent, and rich. It has a massive bar on the ground floor couple with a very high-end, exclusive VIP bar in the cellar, known as the Rabbit Hole.
“Sound View Inn in Greenport, New York is a small motel that was converted, now with a massive food component with a library, café, several bars, large event space, and a restaurant. It was a full gut renovation. We repositioned the entire property. It comprises about 55 keys, in two of four preexisting buildings that are right on the Long Island Sound, with some of the most breathtaking sunsets I’ve seen in the north. The restaurant was an old sort of pub that was completely refinished. We have multiple outlets. That property is now responding to the demand in that area. Some folks just want to kind of get away from all the noise, and Greenport lends itself to that. It’s a cool lifestyle hotel.
“We continue to do display kitchens. They allow the guest to have that peek behind the scenes at what’s going on. If you’re dealing with a sophisticated, successful chef, a lot of thought goes into not just the layout and functionality but the finishes as well. A lot of folks walk through your kitchen; it’s no longer just the back of house. A lot of folks are paying close attention to the finishes that take place in a kitchen. And the functionality of your bar is a critical component that is sometimes overlooked. If you expect to be serving hundreds of people a night, the bar is the nucleus. Do you have the capacity to meet demand?”