Restaurant Development & Design

September-October 2017

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S E P T E M B E R / O C T O B E R 2 0 1 7 • r e s t a u r a n t d e v e l o p m e n t + d e s i g n • 4 1 BY DANA TANYERI, Senior Contributing Editor I t might seem like simple se- mantics, but "hotel restaurant" and "restaurant in a hotel" have come to signify very different things. That's true, at least, in the minds of hoteliers, concept developers and de- signers leading a charge to put old-school, humdrum hotel restaurants to rest. Their focus now is on developing exceptional, chef-driven, local, relevant, design-forward restaurants that happen to be in hotels. "For us, the term 'hotel restaurant' is almost a dirty word," says Danny Bortnick, vice president of restaurant concept devel- opment at Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, a boutique hotels pioneer that in 2014 became part of the InterContinental Hotels Group. "That's because we work very hard to ensure that our operations aren't per- ceived as the hotel restaurant. Unlike many of the big-box chains, whose restaurants historically have been almost 100 percent an amenity for their guests, we want to be considered to be one of the best restau- rants in the city. We know that our hotel guests want to go where the locals go." Shifting the hotel-restaurant para- digm from one that's guest/traveler driven to one that's locally driven is liberating, Bortnick adds. "If your focus is primarily on catering to hotel guests, you're immedi- ately handicapped: You pretty much have to have a burger, a turkey sandwich, a three-meal-a-day vanilla restaurant. But when your focus is on developing a locally relevant concept, you're freed up from those types of constraints because that's not what locals are looking for. And if they are, they're probably not going to a hotel to find them." One of Kimpton's recent restaurant projects, Dirty Habit at the Monaco Hotel in Washington, D.C., illustrates the degree of liberation and creative license the com- pany's development and design teams are taking with its new restaurant venues. Opened last fall, Dirty Habit's cuisine is globally influenced and geared to sharing. The vibe is high energy and social; the design edgy and stylishly dark. It's the type of concept that erases just about any lingering stereotypes of hotel-affiliated dining being middle of the road. Says Bortnick, "Instead of a catch-as-many-demographics-as-possible approach, hoteliers are getting more spe- cific with their concepts and their designs. It's being driven by consumer trends, by competition from restaurants outside — and frankly, it's just a lot of fun." Another new Kimpton Hotel & Restaurant project, opened this summer, is the Aertson Hotel in Nashville, Tenn. Bortnick describes its signature restau- rant, The Henley, as modern American meets Nashville soul. Its menu, overseen by James Beard Award-winning chef R.J. Cooper, showcases local and regional ingredients in seasonal, Southern-inspired dishes designed for sharing. "We had a lot of fun with the devel- opment of The Henley," Bortnick says. "It has many layers, and we needed a chef with R.J.'s talents to be able to pull it off." Those layers offer guests a variety of ways in which to experience the restau- rant. Inspired by the rooms of a mansion, it progresses from a terrace dining area outside the front entrance to a petite salon (lounge), a bar, a grand salon (main dining room) and finally, an intimate, library-like space dubbed the Snooker Room, which doubles as a private dining room. "As you go through the space, the design gets a little darker, a little moodier; the furniture gets a bit more leathery and brooding," Bortnick says. "From a menu programming standpoint, we're just add- ing a chef's fixed-priced tasting menu, which will be served only in the Snooker. It's served family-style, like a Sunday supper, and involves tableside carving from a rolling cart we found at a vintage shop in Nashville." If such concepts are redefining the With design inspiration taken from the rooms of a mansion, The Henley at the Kimpton Aertson Hotel in Nashville, Tenn., includes a stylish petite salon and bar area. Photo by Andrea Behrands Forget the tepid stereotypes; they've become lively local hot spots.

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