Four Hotel Group F&B Observations from Zee Bell
Top-of-mind thoughts from the director of events at Sportsmen's Lodge.
The iconic Sportsmen’s Lodge in Studio City, California pre-dates the golden age of Hollywood film but grew up along with it. Today, it includes a variety of outdoor spaces for events, featuring six acres of gardens, water features, and towering redwoods. Inside the hotel are several elegant ballrooms, banquet spaces, and boardrooms.
Sportsmen’s Lodge Director of Events Zee Bell oversees group business at the boutique hotel (which is privately owned by broughtonHOTELS). Before arriving at the San Fernando Valley property a little over four years ago, her experience was at branded hotels including Marriott, Hilton, and Starwood, all in the greater Los Angeles area.
We talked with Bell about four notions that are top-of-mind for her in operating a successful events business at Sportsmen’s Lodge.
1. Get Focused
“Sometimes breaks can be all over the place if you don’t have a focus,” Bell says. “Where do you want to take the attendees? If they’re coming to a meeting in the Valley, they’re not always necessarily Los Angeles or California residents. First, we pull a lot of Southern California cuisine. There’s a lot of Latin flavor out here. For example, we have a Latin break we call La Vida, and we’re pushing corn esquites. In Latin culture, there’s a dish that’s corn on the cob with mayonnaise and cheese, but we’ve kind of deconstructed that. It goes into a dish, and it’s baked. You still get that flavor of the region, but in a different way. Then, we have a little nod in our Santa Monica break package to the ahi poke trend.”
2. Stay On-Trend With Stations
“We have a large social market here. We get to have a lot of fun with menus for bar mitzvahs and weddings, for example. You’re probably familiar with the trend that instead of a cake, people are all about their stations. First it was the ice cream station, then candy, then cupcakes. Right now, we know people want these fun stations, but we’re pushing the cereal stations. We’re getting excitement from groups. People are really having fun with that, versus a donut or ice cream station. We’re also pushing a waffle station and a biscuit station, because you can have an assortment of toppings, so it’s interactive. And it can be sweet or savory. Everyone might have a different thing they want on a waffle.”
3. Planting a Flag With Plant-Based Cuisine
“I see a trend everyone is looking at, which is plant-based cuisine. The Impossible Burger is huge right now, so we have the product here. It’s more than burgers; you can make tacos and anything else that people would traditionally want. We have more and more requests for plant-based. Before, a group might have a few vegan people coming to an event. Now, they want an entire vegan concept at a wedding or meeting. That’s the trend we all have to pay attention to. There are so many products coming out to support plant-based cuisine, and it’s a lot of fun.”
4. Give Presentation a Makeover
“I see a lot more groups wanting to be wowed. They want a different presentation of vehicle than they’re used to. For example, I could have someone order three dozen deviled eggs, which before you might put on a platter. But, if I put it on a mini Ferris wheel, that’s what they want. We also have incorporated a really cool space at the hotel that is going away from the traditional ballroom space; people want a different experience. Our big social event space is primarily outdoors in a really cool tent, and we’ve incorporated a fire pit lounge. We’re doing incredibly well with weddings for that reason.”