Jose Andres’ Agua Viva in The Conrad LA is on a 10th-floor roof deck./Photo courtesy of Hilton.
Business travelers are back, and hotels are returning to pre-pandemic levels for banquets and other food and drink occasions.
So said Adam Crocini, the global head of food and beverage for Hilton, who was in Los Angeles this week for the Americas Lodging Investment Summit (ALIS). In an interview at the new Conrad Los Angeles, a location of Hilton’s growing luxury brand that opened in July, Crocini outlined Hilton’s investments in F&B across its 19 brands, from the very high-end Waldorf Astoria to the newest hotel brand called Spark.
The Conrad LA , which is still under construction and part of the splashy downtown development The Grand LA designed by famed architect Frank Gehry, is an example of Hilton’s partnerships with globally known celebrity chefs. The food-and-beverage at the hotel is operated in partnership with José Andrés, whose ThinkFoodGroup last year was rebranded as José Andrés Group.
In the Conrad, Andrés last year opened the new concepts San Laurel, which puts an upscale Spanish twist on California produce; as well as a lobby bar called The Beaudry Room; and a poolside roof terrace outlet called Agua Viva, offering stunning views from the 10th floor.
Coming later this year is Andrés’ Bazaar Meat concept. Andrés opened the first Bazaar location in Los Angeles at the former SLS Hotel, but that unit closed in 2020.
And The Grand LA will also be home to a location of Estiatorio Milos, founded by Greek chef Costas Spiliadis, which has nine other locations globally.
The Grand LA also has a residential component, so “it’s a live, play, work, eat environment and we’re trying to bring some energy and life to this part of downtown LA,” said Crocini.
The complex is across the street from the Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall and it’s the only location where two structures by the famed architect are located across from each other, he noted.
In this case, the Conrad LA is not only hoping to draw in travelers looking for great dining on site, the restaurants are also positioned as a regional destination, and about 50% of guests come from the local market, Crocini said.
“For many years, the hotel industry at large lost its focus on food and beverage and didn’t put a lot of energy and attention to what that experience should be,” said Crocini. “Over the past 10 to 12 years, we were outpaced by independent restaurants and lost our way.”
But Hilton is looking to reclaim “its rightful place as a leader in the industry,” he added. “Our restaurants will be just as competitive as you’ll find on the high street.”
In addition to partnerships with known chefs, that investment includes in-house developed brands.
At the new Conrad coming to Orlando, for example, which is scheduled to open in late 2023, there will be four food-and-beverage outlets, including one in-house concept called Papaya Club.
It will offer “lagoon-side” all-day dining with a Polynesian theme, with classics like a pu-pu platter and other dishes from south Asia, Hawaii and American Samoa. Developing the cocktail program is Paul McGee, co-owner of the former bar Lost Lake in Chicago, which was known for its tropical island-inspired drinks.
In fact, bar experiences will be a focus for Hilton more broadly in the coming months.
This year, for example, Hilton announced a partnership with Proof & Company, the beverage team behind 28 Hong Kong Street in Singapore, often listed as one of the best bars in the world.
Proof & Company is designing a “beverage ritual and bar concept” for Waldorf Astoria hotels’ Peacock Alley, which will debut in New York at the original “Grand Lady” of the hotel chain. That storied hotel is undergoing a massive renovation scheduled to be completed next year.
Peacock Alley—literally the corridor that connects the Waldorf Hotel to the Astoria—serves as a bar, lounge or café space. It’s where The Old Waldorf Astoria Bar Book of cocktail recipes was developed, now considered a master guide for mixologists.
Working with Proof & Company, Hilton officials plan to re-envision the Peacock Alley experience at the hotel group’s 30 Waldorf Astorias around the world. Crocini couldn’t reveal details but said the offering will be theatrical and beverage focused and will include new branding.
Hilton in 2021 also signed a deal with the coffee chain Bluestone Lane to bring signature food and drink offerings to a new brand of lifestyle hotels to be called Tempo by Hilton. The first Tempo is scheduled to open this year on New York’s Times Square at TSX Broadway, and at least 11 more locations are under development.
Cafes within the new Tempo locations will include Bluestone Lane coffees and the iconic avocado toast. Some will be branded as Bluestone, and others will be “soft branded” under another name “created by our mates at Bluestone,” he said.
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