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  Expotel-Hospitality Finds the “Holy Grail” in Hotel
F&B Operations: a Profitable Restaurant
New Orlean LA (March 12, 2003) – Expotel-Hospitality has found the “holy grail” in hospitality F&B operations: a profitable restaurant. The Lafitte’s concept: “New Orleans Food and all that jazz” has been implemented at five of Expotel’s owned and managed hotels, with launches at an additional three locations scheduled for this Spring. The results have been even better than expected.

“We started developing Lafitte’s in answer to the perennial question: How do you make money with a hotel restaurant?” commented Tico Bevier, President of Expotel Hospitality.  “We looked at a variety of options and asked ourselves how we could take the basics that work so well for the Denny’s at our Best Western Airport here in New Orleans, and move it upscale a notch or so, to serve the customer who stays at our Embassy Suites and Holiday Inn properties.”

The answer was a fabulous food product under strict portion, quality and prep control. Expotel found that combination in Culinary Institute of America graduate/American Culinary Foundation past-president, Chef John Folse and Sysco Foods. Chef Folse is the owner and executive chef of Chef John Folse & Company, a group of culinary businesses intended to take "a taste of Louisiana" worldwide. Folse's "corporate gumbo" includes Lafitte's Landing at Bittersweet Plantation, Chef John Folse & Company Publishing, Chef John Folse Culinary Institute, a pastry division called Exceptional Endings, an international television series "A Taste of Louisiana" and his radio cooking talk show, "Stirrin' It Up...The Best Tasting Show on Talk Radio" and now, the development concepts behind Expotel’s Lafitte’s restaurants.

Because New Orleans home cooking is suited to preparation in a commercial kitchen the results – some 24 items on the Lafitte’s menu – are outstanding, largely thanks to technology that delivers better results, faster packaging in more manageable quantities and a rapid distribution and delivery mechanism. “We taste tested our gumbo by offering samples from a kiosk on St. Charles Avenue during the Mardi Gras parade last year. People loved it,” said Bevier. “Then, when we introduced the concept in Phoenix one of our regular guests said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding! Gumbo in Phoenix? I’m from New Orleans and you can’t fool me.” He loved it, too and now brings in business colleagues to sample what he fondly considers food from home.”

Some things, like the bread for the authentic Po’boy sandwiches took longer. “I hate microwaves,” said Bevier. “They absolutely destroy the bread. Our rolling-belt oven takes our bread from freezer to table in 8 minutes, and 20 minutes later when the guest reaches for another slice, it’s still good.” The passion for the product is contagious.

The next step was to apply the concept to kitchen operations in Expotel’s hotels. In the course of implementation, the company has been able to reduce payroll significantly, first by evolving the requirement from Chef to Kitchen Manager.  “With Lafitte’s it’s more important to know how to schedule and train your staff and understand what areas in room service and banquets can be totally supported by Lafitte’s and where other resources need to be applied. That single change has the potential to save us $15,000 per operation, not counting the reduction in kitchen labor we can realize over time.”  All of the kitchen managers now in place resulted from normal turnover. Nick Agostinelli, Phoenix Embassy Suites’ F&B Director, became so enamored of the Lafitte’s menu, food preparation process and bottom-line results that he is now Expotel’s Corporate F&B Director.

The best proof of Lafitte’s success is in the numbers. Although standard hotel accounting does not separate restaurant plant operating expenses such as HVAC, lights, mortgage and real estate taxes from the hotel in which it operates, when the Expotel accounting department analyzes these numbers, Lafitte’s could stand on its own as a profit center.  “Lots of hotel restaurants claim profitability,” says Bevier. “But Lafitte’s is the first hotel F&B concept I know of that actually is profitable, start to finish. In addition to reducing costs, the existing Lafitte’s have increased covers and revenues. We continue to pursue more of the in-house market (the company puts Lafitte’s menus in every guestroom for roomservice) as well as modifying entrances and signage where we can to capture more of the walk-in market.”

Agostinelli echoes all the enthusiasm.  “We all have years of experience in F&B. Tico started his career as a hotel F&B Director. It’s clear to all of us that Lafitte’s is a winning idea, and why. Customers love the food and the New Orleans atmosphere. The kitchen loves the quality and cost control aspects. And we love the profits. We’ve covered all the bases in developing this concept so it works superbly well in a hotel environment. We’re shattering the illusion that hotel restaurants can’t be profitable.”

Expotel Hospitality is currently offering the Lafitte’s concept as a deal-sweetener in their quest for additional hotel management contracts.  Changing the physical plant of an existing restaurant to Lafitte’s is simple and requires a $20-40,000 investment in signage, uniforms and marketing (menu, etc.). If an owner chooses to adopt the entire Lafitte’s model, including carpet, chairs and table-top specifications, Expotel is happy to share the master specs.  “It’s amazing how well Lafitte’s can be retrofitted,” said Bevier. “In a couple of cases, the tables or chairs were already the same as our spec, so it was just a matter of adding those great New Orleans murals to the walls.”

“We have three goals with Lafitte’s,” he continued. “The first is to reduce costs. The second is to increase sales. The third is to demonstrate the capabilities of Expotel Hospitality. Lafitte’s is our hook.”

For more information about Expotel Hospitality and the Lafitte’s concept, contact Nick Agostinelli at 602-375-4103.

Headquartered in New Orleans, Expotel Hospitality is a hotel management company with 11 hotels (9 owned and managed, 2 managed) operating under Hilton, Holiday Inn, Embassy Suites, Hampton Inn, Doubletree and Best Western flags as well as the historic Ponchartrain Hotel and a resort in Belize.

Contact:

Stephanie Seacord
Leading Edge
PO Box 960
Newfields NH 03856
T: 603-772-1835
F: 603-772-7066
stephanieseacord@hotmail.com


Also See The Restaurant Waiting Area; Looking at the Physical Spacewith a Fresh Set of Eyes / Lee Simon - Drawing Conclusions / September 2002
Canadian Hotel Income Properties (CHIP) Develops botanica*, A New Restaurant Concept their Hotel Dining Outlets / April 2001
Branding and Repositioning Food & Beverage - the case for outsourcing partnerships / Arthur Andersen / Summer 1998

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