|By Leon Stafford, The Atlanta
Journal-ConstitutionMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
April 02, 2011--Operators of some of the city's most well-known hotel restaurants say their establishments are just as edgy and creative as their free-standing counterparts.
The problem is, many diners don't know it.
While restaurants such as Park 75 at Four Seasons Atlanta, Paces 88 at the St. Regis Atlanta and Au Pied de Cochon at InterContinental Buckhead enjoy great reputations among foodies, many think the establishments are exclusive to the well-heeled or only for special occasions, said the eateries' chefs.
In addition, hotel restaurants still suffer from an outdated perception that the food is uninspired and meant only for a quick bite for breakfast before a day of meetings, the chefs said.
To combat that, they have created Hotel Restaurant Week (www.hotelrestaurantweek.com), which runs Saturday through April 9. Like the popular restaurant weeks that spotlight dining in towns like Buckhead or cities like Decatur, the idea is to lure customers with a prix-fixe menu at a standard price: $25 for a three-course meal.
"It doesn't have to be stuffy," Zeb Stevenson, executive chef at Livingston restaurant at Midtown's Georgian Terrace, said of hotel restaurants. "It can be fun. God forbid that I say that it can even be lively."
Getting that message across is important because hotel restaurants are expensive and can often lose money, industry leaders said. Many are tucked away inside buildings and lack street access like standalone restaurants. That throws off potential customers who may pass them up because they think the facilities are open only to guests.
Other issues include costly parking, high menu prices and dishes featuring unfamiliar food.
"Losses within the [food and beverage] department are no longer tolerated by owners," Atlanta's Robert Mandelbaum, director of Research Information Services for PKF Hospitality Research, wrote in an industry paper recently. "F&B managers struggle to contain costs and grow revenues. The ability of management to attract local patrons, boost catering revenue, and increase beverage sales within their restaurants are examples of successful tactics that have generated profitable revenue."
But Four Seasons Atlanta chef Robert Gerstenecker, who came up with the idea for the week, said it doesn't have to be that way. Hotel restaurants are re-inventing themselves, adding dishes that are approachable, but also distinct enough to bring out diners. Most are working to hold down prices because they want to be a neighborhood eatery.
"We have a very clear goal [with Hotel Restaurant Week]," he said. "We're trying to make hotel restaurants much more attractive to the modern consumer."
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