|Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Texas|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Feb. 11, 2005 - GRAPEVINE -- When the Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center on Lake Grapevine opened in April, officials proudly proclaimed that it would bring new business to the Metroplex.
Now it's also luring more Metroplex residents than expected to its three upscale restaurants.
Hotel officials won't say exactly how good that restaurant business is, but they point to a $9.4 million parking garage being built at the north end of the property as evidence.
The crowds have also led Texan officials to table plans temporarily for the roughly $11 million Glass Cactus, an entertainment complex originally scheduled to open this year.
"You cannot put in another venue when you can't get to it," said John Imaizumi, the hotel's general manager.
The 1,511-room hotel doesn't have enough parking spaces to accommodate its out-of-town guests, employees and restaurant customers. So it has temporarily moved employee parking two miles away to the sprawling Grapevine Mills mall.
When it opens in July, Gaylord's second parking garage will be more than twice the size of the current one, offering 1,700 spots on three levels.
Meanwhile, the hotel is enduring other growing pains.
To handle around-the-clock shifts of its 1,900 employees, Gaylord Texan is running a 24-hour shuttle to mall parking. And on extremely busy nights, guests have to park down the road from the hotel at an overflow lot on Texas 26 and Ruth Wall Road.
The hotel has also had to turn people away because it didn't have enough parking, said Kathryn Goldstein, the hotel spokeswoman.
"That's a great, positive thing that we have so much traffic," she said. "We truly have become a destination for local folks to come and hang out."
After about 9,000 people crammed into the hotel one night during the holidays, the Gaylord Texan began turning people away because there was no more room to park, she said. Many were there just to see the Christmas display.
But Greg Crown, vice president of PKF Consulting in Dallas, said the Gaylord Texan is building the garage for more than just restaurant customers and locals.
"I think they're thinking of the future," he said. "You don't build a garage that big and decide later that you want to add on to it. They may not get another shot at it logistically."
Hotel officials said the additional parking will be needed once the Glass Cactus is built. The 20,000-square-foot entertainment complex, to be perched on an outcropping overlooking Lake Grapevine, will feature nightly musical acts, steak and seafood, and 1,000 seats.
"The plans have been tweaked a bit. The casual atmosphere originally planned has morphed into a more high-tech image," said Kathryn Goldstein, a Texan spokeswoman. "It will be a nightspot not only for our guests but the locals as well."
A construction date for the Glass Cactus has not been set.
After the garage is built, the hotel will have about 2,700 parking spaces on site and 1,100 more off-site.
The largest local competitor, the Wyndham Anatole in Dallas, has 2,400 spaces.
The Gaylord Texan also has more spaces than the Gaylord Palms in Orlando, Fla., said Greg Rossiter, spokesman for Gaylord Entertainment, which operates properties in Grapevine, Orlando and Nashville, Tenn.
Colin Reed, president and chief executive of Gaylord Entertainment, has said he's pleased with the early results of the restaurants in Grapevine.
"The Texan has become quite a draw for local residents in the Dallas-Fort Worth market, which is consistent with our strategy of developing revenues outside of the rooms," Reed said in an October conference call with reporters and analysts.
Though it doesn't break out specific restaurant numbers, the company reports a statistic that measures average revenue per available room that's spent on everything but the room itself. That includes things like restaurants, banquets, room service and gift shops.
That number is $140.29 for the nine months that ended Sept. 30, according to the company's third-quarter filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. A more current figure will be released next week.
Reed also said in the conference call that the company was working on improving the parking situation.
"These types of issues are much more easier to address than not having sufficient revenue," he said.
To draw local business, the Gaylord Texan is leaning on three of its restaurants: the Texan Station, a sports bar with a 52- by 15-foot TV screen; Ama Lur, a restaurant run by the renowned Texas chef Stephan Pyles; and Old Hickory Steakhouse.
Besides the parking garage, the Gaylord Texan is working on building a children's arcade. The size and design is still being determined, but it will most likely be in the basement of the Texan Station restaurant space.
It's not unusual for large resort hotels like the Gaylord Texan or the Wyndham Anatole to use their upscale restaurants to lure local customers, Crown said.
Tom Faust, vice president of sales and marketing for the Wyndham Anatole, said: "We do a lot of local business. Everybody can't go to Orlando for vacation."
The 1,610-room Dallas hotel mostly promotes its 24th-floor restaurant, called Nana.
The restaurant, which offers 360-degree views of nearby downtown and the surrounding area, recently snagged a chef from the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Barcelona, Spain.
Although the Wyndham Anatole can't give specifics on its restaurant business either, it is part of the overall food-and-beverage department, which experienced its best year ever in 2004, Faust said. Sales of food and beverage grew 18 percent from 2003 to 2004, he said.
With all the competition for dining out in the Metroplex, it will be interesting to see how well the 10-month-old Gaylord Texan performs in the future, Crown said.
The hotel could be having success with its restaurants partly because it's still in the honeymoon period, he said.
"I suspect there's a lot of trial going on -- people going out there to check it out," he said. "Whether that continues on is anyone's guess."
By David Wethe and Ellena F. Morrison
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