More on gastro-tourism

Enjoy more of our candid conversation with Kelley Jones
in this month's issue of Food and Beverage Today


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In This Issue

Food Trends
More with Kelley Jones of Société Hospitality
Kelley said Société Hospitality's Suite & Tender concept was built with gastro-tourism in mind.

Move Away From Rules

Suite & Tender, Société Hospitality’s debut restaurant, was created around this idea of gastro-tourism and is based, essentially, on choices. We wanted to create a personal journey for guests and move them away from restrictive restaurant standards and rules. This begins with the menu and continues throughout the dining experience with a series of unique choices. We offer an á la carte raw bar where guests can order as few or as many seafood options as they would like. If someone wants just one clam, we say go ahead and order it! Our wine program provides the same choice based approach. Each wine is offered as just a 3 oz taste to create your own flight, a 6oz glass or a bottomless glass that can be refilled all night, each guests creates their own wine program and so, each experience is a little bit different.

The idea of “food tourism” in its strict sense is about traveling the world finding the unique flavors and food of various regions. Over the years, I’ve opened restaurants around the world. Experiencing the different cultures and regional cuisines helped me to create the idea of gastro-tourism in an independent restaurant. Not necessarily through different regional cuisines, but through the idea of making dining its own travel experience. When a guest comes in to Suite & Tender, we want them to feel like they are making their own itinerary and actually creating an experience, not just dinner.

Personalize and Win

As the industry evolves and the at-home-chef concept continues its growth, restaurants need to be flexible with what they are offering to get people through their doors. The “no substitutions please” menu can be alienating and unfulfilling for many guests who look for a personalized dining experience. Strict menu restaurants will certainly always have their place, chefs like Wiley Dufresne who painstakingly craft each dish provide a specific experience that diners enjoy and expect from those venues. However, a number of restaurateurs and chefs alike are starting to realize that they would be better served by providing their clientele with the tools to create their own perfect experience.

suite & tender, société hospitality, kelley jones

Working with Jeffrey Chodorow, I helped open many China Grills and Asia de Cubas. Both of these restaurant concepts had the right idea and inspired me in opening my own restaurant. These venues succeed because they provide people the perfect venue to create a party or celebration. The emphasis on sharing has made both of these restaurants popular special occasion restaurants and has built them a steady clientele that come back again and again. While these restaurants offer family-style meals and larger portions, I think that more restaurants will start to follow the path of Suite & Tender, offering this family-style experience for just 2 or 3 people.

The way people dine and enjoy restaurants is starting to change. With the vast choice of eateries in every city across the country, diners are consistently bombarded with restaurant options. The ultimate truth is that everyone, in the end, is going to choose a restaurant that offers the experience that means something to them. By creating a place that can provide a unique and personalized experience with every visit, a restaurant can remain top of mind as people come to know they can make the visit their own. As we like to say at Suite & Tender, “The answer is yes. What’s the request?”

Kelley Jones is President and CEO of Société Hospitality, a multi-faceted company specializing in the creation and management of restaurants, bars and lounges.

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