The $40 Million Embassy Suites Opens Near Chattanooga, Tennessee
Shelly Bradbury | Chattanooga Times Free Press, Tenn. | June 28, 2013 12:59am
June 28, 2013 --General manager Paul Mezick stands in the parking lot of Chattanooga's new Embassy Suites and points at the signs emblazoned high on the wall.
One reads Embassy Suites. The other, Ruth's Chris Steak House.
"Two signs," Mezick said. "That's us. That is the unique offering that we have, right there. I love that."
The $40 million luxury hotel is celebrating its grand opening today, and the Ruth's Chris Steak House that shares the building will open Monday at 5 p.m.
"I want to be the No. 1 choice for travelers in Chattanooga," Mezick said. "And our competition has great offerings. So my offering has to be that much better."
The still-new smelling hotel starts with a soaring 40-foot lobby centered around a flowing fountain. Walls and plush carpets are colored in earth tones, with wooden oak and cherry paneling throughout the seven-story building. Six suites on the top floor feature balconies.
It's not all finished yet -- workers were still painting, plastering and wiring a few spots this week -- but guests are already filling rooms. On June 14, the hotel's soft opening night, 85 of the 203 suites were full.
"It's been great," guest Brent Hogue said. "The hotel is nice, the staff has been excellent, the rooms are great."
Hogue was staying at the Embassy Suites from Memphis for a regional business meeting -- the first-ever business meeting hosted by the hotel. But not the last.
The hotel features 10,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 6,000 square-foot ballroom that can fit around 500 people. Mezick hopes the combination of space, location and catering from Ruth's Chris Steak House will pull business people to the Embassy Suites.
"We are uniquely positioned for upscale business travel," he said. "And let's face it, the growth that's going on now is out here. That's not a shot at downtown at all, but the fact is that the mountains out there prohibit any further growth there, and it's happening out this way."
So far, the hotel has performed well, owner Ken DeFoor said.
"This has been a long process, but it all came together with Ruth's Chris and the hotel is doing very well at this early stage," he said. "We're very pleased with it and happy with the way things turned out."
Suites are selling for between $129 and $209 a night, Mezick said, although he expects that price to go up the longer the hotel is open. This week, occupancy has been sitting at 70 percent. During the first year, Mezick is aiming to average 65 percent occupied.
To hit that mark, he's looking beyond the sparkling new building and emphasizing customer service among his 50 employees.
"Above all else is the customer experience," he said. "I can train you to carry a tray, I can train you to use the computer system, but I can't train you to have a smile on your face."
In addition to the 50 employees on the Embassy Suites side of the development, Ruth's Chris Steak House has hired another 90 people, franchise co-owner Nancy Oswald said. The Chattanooga restaurant is her and husband Mark Oswald's 10th Ruth's Chris -- and six of those are in Embassy Suites.
"We like the formula of coming into a property and having the ability to do food service for the entire property," she said. "To do the meetings, do the suite service, just being the sole food provider for the property. And we work really well with Embassy Suites."
She expects her Tennessee debut to be one of her busiest restaurants, with about $4 million in sales the first year. About 21 percent of that will come from private party banquets, while the remainder is brought in through individual dining, she said. Suite service is only a tiny portion of sales, she added.
The restaurant, which features both a public entrance and an entrance from the hotel's lobby, seats about 250 people. Its specialty is USDA prime steak, cooked in a broiler at about 1,800 degrees and served on a 500-degree plate.
"All we use is salt and pepper and at the very end we add a little bit of butter," Oswald said. "And the butter hits the steak and that plate and it sizzles. You can hear your steak coming to you."
Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6525.