Restaurant Development & Design

September-October 2017

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4 2 • 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 • S E P T E M B E R / O C T O B E R 2 0 1 7 hotel dining experience, so, too, is an intense focus on local. As with the broader restaurant community, it's the overarching trend and it's being tapped at every turn by hotels large and small. Dan Kwan, chief creative officer and regional managing director at Wilson Associates, a global design firm with an array of marquee hotel projects in its portfolio, says much of what's happen- ing in the segment is Millennial driven. Unique, local, authentic: These are the key words driving development, and large hotel chains that once relied on cookie- cutter strategies are changing things up to compete for Millennials' business. "My advice to hoteliers is that their brands will all cease to exist physically. Gone are the days when a Marriott in D.C. can look like a Marriott in Calcutta," Kwan says. "Hotels have become social hubs, and their buildings have become reposi- tories of local culture. They're parts of the neighborhood, of the local landscape. Even big-brand hotel chains have started to develop smaller, more boutique proper- ties and sub-brands that more easily play into this shift." Kwan calls the philosophy that drives his team's hotel and hotel restaurant proj- ects "urban camouflage." "Your hotel and its public areas should look like part of the neighborhood," he says. "That's now happening a lot with hotel design. If it's in Williamsburg, the public areas and the restaurant really look like they belong in Williamsburg. That has really affected the way we service the hotel guest. Especially in larger cities with lots of options right outside the door, it's important to bring elements of that neighborhood inside via local products, local flavors, local chefs, local concepts." Mining Local Culture Joshua Scott, director of restaurants at the Marriott Marquis Houston, which opened last December, agrees that localizing, even — or perhaps especially — on the part of big hotel brands, is important. It's a trend he says has been reshaping the hotel dining segment for several years and is gaining momentum. Marriott is focused on creating local appeal in part by developing its own locally influenced concepts, such as the Houston property's Walker Street Kitchen. One of six diverse F&B venues within the hotel, it serves continuously throughout the day. Its menu and design play off of the hotel's Gulf Coast location. "It has a very clean, coastal feel with a lot of natural light," Scott says. "The featured artwork is of Gulf region birds, and subtle design touches throughout pick up on that regional feel." Scott admits, however, that while Walker Street Kitchen's performance over its first few months in operation has been good, the hotel's most successful con- cepts are those that have even stronger and more personal local connections. Biggio's, the Marriott Marquis' upscale sports bar/restaurant, is affiliated with beloved Houston Astros Hall of Famer Craig Biggio. And Xochi, an upscale, authentic Oaxacan restaurant helmed by James Beard Award-winning chef Hugo Ortega and his H-Town Restaurant Group are creating a big buzz. In the case of Biggio's, Marriott struck a deal with the star baseball player for the rights to develop the concept around his name. In the case of Xochi, the restaurant is 100 percent leased to Chef Ortega and his organization. "They developed the concept, did the design and renovation, the build- out; they handle all operations," Scott says. The Marriott Marquis Houston's all-day dining con- cept, Walker Street Kitchen, was designed to portray a clean, coastal feeling with lots of natural light and artwork depicting Gulf region birds. Photo courtesy of Marriott Marquis Houston The Pearl, which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, has a dual focus on celebrating the city's coastal seafood- driven culinary vibe and on delighting travelers and locals alike with its sophisticated yet comfortable design. Photos by Shannon O'Hara Hotel Restaurants Shine

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