‘Chef’s Tables’ Driving Market Differentiation for Meyer Jabara Hotels
Private culinary dining experiences are showcasing the talents of Celebrity Chefs and honoring local foods with tableside preparation, education and beverage pairings for VIP guests
"We wanted to change the way we were selling catering and servicing accounts, and the Chef's Tables is a concept designed to do just that," said Justin Jabara, MJH VP of Development and Acquisitions. "It's a fresh way to reward VIP customers, showcase a hotel's catering offering to prospects, and raise awareness of the culinary caliber of our restaurants and chefs. We introduced the Chefs Tables concept to General Managers and staff during an executive session last spring. On stage and in front of an audience of about 70 hoteliers, our chefs prepared tastings and explained the program. The response was phenomenal. At the conclusion of the session, company President and CEO Richard Jabara announced that all full-service hotels would feature the program, and it was to be up and runningwithin 45 days; checks for needed equipment were cut that day. From that moment on, the Chef's Tables of Meyer Jabara Hotels was born. We never looked back, and today these events are raising the bar for culinary excellence."
Chefs of Meyer Jabara Hotels are highly-credentialed culinary experts with intriguing personalities and passions for creative cuisine. Each delivers a fine-dining experience unlike any other.
The Hilton Hotel in Ocala, Fla., is home to Arthur's Bistro, recipient of the "Diners' Choice Award" from Open Table 2015. There, Chef Josue Torres takes his Chef's Table guests on a gastronomic adventure that delights the palate and amuses the audience. Working in tandem with Food & Beverage Manager David Lewis, diners learn about culinary trends and why a particular wine was selected to accompany each course.
"We use the Chef's Table as a way to immediately differentiate ourselves from other hotels in the market," said Hilton General Manager Angelo DePeri. "Our culinary abilities are stronger than most, and the Chef's Table provides a unique experience that our restaurant customers won't find anywhere else in this area. Chef Torres is very personal and interactive. Our Chef's Table is like bringing a world-class Chef into the privacy of your own home."
DePeri calls the Chef's Table program "energizing" because it gives his staff a blank canvas to showcase their talents and get excited about using different products indigenous to the market. Chef Torres agrees.
"Having two Wagyu farms in Ocala, I am able to create menus featuring proteins that I typically don't get to cook," Chef Torres said. "No matter that the main dish is, I always try to include local produce, honeys and cheeses from local farms. What I enjoy best about the Chef's Table is the beginning dialogue with each customer. I want to learn about the group, their food preferences, and what they want to take away from the experience."
Chefs Tables at Arthur's Bistro have gone from being a marketing tool to a sales tool, DePeri said.
"The revenue numbers are validated," DePeri said. "We've seen increases across the board, in rooms revenue, catering and the restaurant. We give Chef Torres creative freedom. We consider him to be an integral part of the executive leadership team, and we rely on him to make culinary decisions that drive revenues and repeat customers. In all, the Chef's Table at Arthur's Bistro is a huge success."
Fostering Community Engagement
Chef Tim Twiford invites guests into the heart of the kitchen at Prime Steak & Wine, the main restaurant at the Crowne Plaza Reading Wyomissing in Pennsylvania. VIP guests can watch the culinary staff in action with the Chef's Table located in a private glass dining room in the center of the kitchen.
According to Crowne Plaza General Manager Dan Withrow, the Chef's Table has helped close at least 20 events valued at $200,000 in new business. In addition, nearly $30,000 in Chef's Table donations have been presented to the local community. It is not uncommon for Chef Twiford to host multiple Chef's Tables daily – sometimes three a day on the weekends; one at lunch, one in the late afternoon and one for dinner.
"At the Crowne Plaza Reading Wyomissing, we use the Chef's Table as a way to take care of the community," Withrow said. "Chef Twiford is extremely talented. As a former chef myself, I have never seen someone of his capacity so actively involved with the public. The Chef's Table gives him a venue where he can continue the great work he does while bringing contacts to our hotel and giving them a different dining experience."
Today, the Crowne Plaza Chef's Table has morphed into something much bigger than originally planned. Non-profit organizations are constantly requesting Chef's Table donations to be auctioned off for special events; each six-person dinner at auction is selling for $1,000 to $1,500.
"People love being a part of the action," Chef Twiford said. "Even though I am preparing a tableside meal, I can still keep my eye on the staff behind me. Our kitchen is nonstop, and our staff is in synch. Whether we are bringing in new business or giving back to the community, the Chef's Table at the Prime Steak & Wine is an experience people never forget."
Elevating Culinary Expectations
A few states over in Providence, Rhode Island, Chef Franco Paterno opens his Chef's Table at Bluefin Grille at the Providence Marriott Downtown to guests who want a total immersion experience. Hotel Manager James Paulon said although the Chef's Table is designed to serve only eight guests, he is hoping for the day when they can bring the concept to 150 to 200 people in the hotel's meeting space.
"With the Chef's Table program, the sky is the limit as to how it can be executed," Paulon said. "It's a unique way to bring all food to all people in an intimate setting. Word-of-mouth is spreading and the bookings keep pouring in. No one else is providing this type of culinary experience."
With seafood indigenous to Providence, Chef Paterno often makes it a main ingredient in his dishes, pairing the meal with wine from local distributors and side dishes from local farms.
"The Chef's Table really pushes me to think outside the box when it comes to foods, flavors and trends," Chef Paterno said. "It pushes my staff as well; they enjoy a new culinary experience and preparing items that typically aren't on the menu. If you want something VIP, the Chef's Table at the Marriott Providence will deliver."
Paulson said Chef Paterno has achieved nothing short of "Rock Star Status" in the ocean state. Not only is he a graduate of the Johnson & Whales College of Culinary Arts, but he often hires University students to bring new techniques to the table.
"Providence is a competitive restaurant town," Paulson said. "There are a lot of outstanding restaurants in the immediate area. Chef Paterno and the Chef's Table is enabling us to compete head on with other fine-dining establishments in the market by delivering a quality, high end, consistent experience."
To see a video of a Chef's Table at the Bluefin Grille at the Marriott Providence Downtown, click here.
Phone: (440) 930-5770
About Meyer Jabara Hotels
With headquarters in Danbury, Conn., Meyer Jabara Hotels is an award-winning hospitality company owning, operating or leasing hotels and restaurants in 10 states throughout the eastern portion of the United States. The company was formed in 1977 as Motel Hotel Associates through the partnership of William Meyer, a specialist in real property law, and Richard Jabara, a second-generation hotelier. Their portfolio of hotels includes Marriott, Hilton, Sheraton, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn and Hyatt Place brands, as well as several independent hotels. The company culture, referred to as "The Journey," is considered by Meyer Jabara Hotels to be their strongest competitive advantage because it challenges and encourages each team to create special relationships, or heart connections, with the key stakeholders: business partners, associates and customers. For more information on Meyer Jabara Hotels, visit www.meyerjabarahotels.com.