2002 Tabletop Performance Award Winners

Without question, this past year has been unsurpassed in terms of uncertainty and, in many areas and markets, a drop in business volume. Generally speaking, it has been anything but a banner year for our industry, with virtually all segments affected by weakened demand.

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With the first anniversary of 9-11 just now having passed, it is heartening to be able to turn our attention to one of the beautiful and positive aspects of our business ... namely, how operators present themselves to their customers through the design of their tabletops.

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The response to our call for entries in FE&S' 2002 Tabletop Performance Awards competition was especially strong, with 40% more entries than in the prior year. Once again, we divided the universe of end-users into five categories: independent restaurants with check averages between $15 and $40; restaurants whose check average exceeded $40; on-site foodservices; banquet/catering facilities; and multi-unit operations. Our panel of judges, tabletop experts all, decided upon worthy award winners in all but the final category (which was then deleted) and, additionally, cited two honorable mentions in the most popular (in terms of entries) $15-$40 restaurant category and two co-winners in the $40-plus category.

Edward Don & Company, a winner last year, had three winning installations this year. In addition to Meridian Banquets in the banquets/catering grouping, Don was also cited for its Capital City Club, a co-winner in the $40-plus restaurant category, and for Tom Tom Noodle House, honorable mention in the $15-$40 group. Three Don branches - North Riverside, Ill., Atlanta and Dallas - shared the honors. As was the case in the 2001 competition, S.S. Kemp & Company, Cleveland, won two awards - for Pittsburgh Rare ($15-$40 restaurant category) and for Weils of Bainbridge, an adult residence recognized in the on-site category. Other dealers with winning installations were Ford Hotel Supply, St. Louis (Smith & Slay's), and The Boelter Companies, Milwaukee (Sticks & Stones). So, to see for yourself the Tabletop designs that won most favor with our judges, please read on.

PITTSBURGH RARE Award Winner Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

According to Gordon Seaman, G.M. of Pittsburgh's Sheraton Hotel at Station Square, his team made the decision during the hotel's total renovation in 2000-2001 to change its restaurant from a "Steel City" diner to a "downtown contemporary elegant" operation. The team filled in their swimming pool, which occupied 50% of the lobby space and sits under a 60-foot-high atrium, and replaced it with a signature 130-seat restaurant. With the hotel located directly across the Monongahela River and facing the city, it was decided to make the new facility a high-end steak house, since there were none on that side of the river. In a poll of the readers of Pittsburgh Magazine, the steak house was honored as the best new restaurant of 2001.

The name of this year's award winner in the $15 to $40 restaurant category, Pittsburgh Rare, has an interesting origin. Aside from describing a way of preparing steak (charred on the outside and blood-rare on the inside), the story goes that, years ago when the mills were running, steelworkers would take their lunches to work. Since these were hard-working guys with big appetites, they brought large slabs of steak and, lacking cooking facilities, would slap the meat on a piece of molten steel which would sear the outside black.

The only restaurant in the hotel, Pittsburgh Rare serves all three daily meals, but sets out its striking tabletop to instill the identity of the steak house at night. To reflect the structural steel building elements, as well as its "Steel City" home, the designers selected a number of steel components for the tabletop. Laura Irish, who was the DSR for S.S. Kemp & Company, greatly assisted management's team in the selection of the tabletop elements. Among these were the wire-sculptured vertical bread holders, hand-made and custom-designed by the artist Kendall LeCompte, that create a focal centerpiece for the tabletops, which is reinforced by stainless-steel triangular salt and pepper mills by Olde Thompson. The "pièce de résistance," however, is the jumbo all-stainless steak knife by Walco with the restaurant's eye-catching logo etched on its blade. The knives are also used as a corporate gift item for V.I.P. clients.

Undecorated china from Oneida's Rego Royale line is offset by a color accent from square glass plates by Woodmere - a 50 for bread & butter and a 120 for salads and appetizers. A unique 131/2-oz. coffee mug by Schonwald is used at breakfast and lunch. Flatware and glassware were also sourced from Oneida. The flatware, post-modern in its clean, architectural styling, is Oneida's Etage, while the pulled stem Mondial by Schott Zwiesel is the glassware of choice.

CATEGORYPer person check average $15 to $40

Specifiers: Laura Irish, S.S. Kemp & Co.; Gordon Seaman, G.M., Sheraton Hotel at Station Square

WINNING ELEMENTS China: Oneida Rego Royale; Woodmere square glass plates; Schonwald coffee mugsFlatware: Oneida EtageGlassware: Schott Zwiesel Mondial; Oneida DiscoAccessories: Walco logo'd jumbo steak knives; Olde Thompson s/s salt & pepper shakers; Kendall LeCompte bread holders; Oneida spring lamps; Diversified Ceramics sugar packet holders, creamers

SMITH & SLAY'S RESTAURANT Honorable Mention St. Louis, Missouri

In St. Louis, Ozzie Smith is the widely esteemed former Hall of Fame shortstop for the home-team Cardinals and David Slay is a celebrity chef who was honored in 1992 as one of the 12 best American chefs by The Finest Dining Awards.

Earlier this year, the two joined together to open Smith & Slay's Restaurant, our co-honorable mention winner, in St. Louis' upscale Clayton on the Park neighborhood. Modeled after the kitschy supper clubs of the '40s and '50s, the goal was to create a sleek design with a Euro-contemporary twist to appeal to bon vivant younger professionals, as well as wealthy older patrons.

Working with the two principals, DSR Donna Jones of Ford Hotel Supply based the tabletop design around Homer Laughlin's Sahara Desert Winds, a bright white china pattern that was selected to contrast with the room's peacock blue and green décor. Slay chose a sapphire-blue glass base plate by Cardinal to add a contemporary look and, for specialty seafood dishes, he selected Villeroy and Boch's La Mer decorated 120 service plate. Walco's slim, rope-like, 18/10 Vogue flatware pattern, Libbey's Perception goblets and wine glasses, and Hollowick's blue-green table lamps complete the setting.

CATEGORYPer person check average $15 to $40

Specifiers: Donna Jones, Ford Hotel Supply; Ozzie Smith, Owner; David Slay, Owner/Chef

WINNING ELEMENTS China: Homer Laughlin Sahara Desert Winds; Villeroy and Boch La Mer fish plate; Cardinal International Sapphire plateFlatware: Walco VogueGlassware: Libbey PerceptionAccessories: Oneida Jazz water pitcher, coffee server; Hollowick table lamp; Tablecraft salt & pepper shakers; Buffalo sugar packet holders, creamers, Crisa vase

TOM TOM NOODLE HOUSE Honorable Mention Carrollton, Texas

Tom Tom Noodle House, located in Carrollton, Texas, and co-recipient of an honorable mention award in the $15 to $40 restaurant category, is the creation of Royce Ring and Michael Bratcher of Dallas-based Triple R Group. Our sources described this restaurant as a "modern New York-style noodle house with a menu of quick, healthful street food, including rice bowls, broth noodles and grilled items, as well as stir frys." According to Edward Don's DSR April Mogollen of the company's Dallas branch, the project began with sketches from Ring of pieces he had seen and been inspired by during his travels abroad.

The goal of this restaurant's tabletop elements was to provide a sleek and low appearance with an Asian flare, while performing with durability and functionality. The principals chose five items (100 and 90 coupe plates, 12-oz. rice bowls and 29-oz. soup bowls, and 90 by 40 sushi trays) from Syracuse China's Chi Fu pattern and melded in 3-pt. entrée bowls from Hall China, black Geometrix "share" plates from Dudson and an 80 by 50-deep charcoal Kessho plate from Kotobuki. Sauce dishes in sienna and ebony from BIA Cordon Bleu completed the china service. The Islet pattern by Oneida was selected for its simple elegance and is complemented by Sirakaba chopsticks in logo'd sleeves. The glassware, by Libbey, includes a wineglass in Perception that is used for white and red wines, and Napoli glasses for signature drinks.

CATEGORYPer person check average $15 to $40

Specifiers: April Mogollon, Edward Don & Co.; Royce Ring and Michael Bratcher, Triple R Group

WINNING ELEMENTSChina: Syracuse Chi Fu plates, bowls, tray; Hall noodle entrée bowl; Dudson Geometrix plate; Kotobuki Kessho plate; BIA Cordon Bleu sauce dishesFlatware: Oneida Islet; Sanko Sirakaba chopsticksGlassware: Libbey Napoli and PerceptionAccessories: Bon Chef Pewterglo creamer; Lincoln bell pitcher; Kotobuki teapots; Jacaman infusion jars

CAPITAL CITY CLUB Award Winner Atlanta, Georgia

Identified by a misnomer, Capital City Club is really three clubs, two of which are country clubs. A traditional Southern club, it was founded in 1883 by a group of men who wanted a place where they could play pool. It now has 2,200 members and an eight-year waiting list. The main golf club, Brookhaven, was purchased in 1913 and is located on 200 acres in Buckhead, an upscale section of Atlanta. The urban club occupies a full city block and the new country club, Crabapple, which opened in late August on 600 acres in Alpharetta, completes the trio. A prominent organization in the club field has placed Capital City among its top 10 U.S. clubs for the past eight years.

For our competition, Capital City's "Seasons" dining room at the Brookhaven club, was named a co-winner in our $40-plus-check-average restaurant category. This room was renovated three years ago to lure younger, active members away from independent restaurants, and the venture has succeeded in the form of greatly increased F&B revenues for Capital City. The Seasons is an elegant room that features numerous French doors and windows to bring the outside surroundings - a pond as well as the finishing 18th hole - inside. According to Manuel DeJuan, the club's manager, his French-trained chef has modernized the menu and changes it seasonally with innovative creations. DeJuan added that the room, green and gold in decor, was "zipped up," with the totally revamped table setting the focal attraction.

Designed by Ricky Meakin, a DSR with Edward Don & Company's Atlanta branch for the past 16 years, the tabletop here is built around Villeroy & Boch's French Garden pattern, selected because its four "mix-and-match" patterns adapted well to the different seasons: yellow-banded service plate for the summer; ferns for the fall; green and yellow pieces for winter; apples for the spring. Villeroy's salt and pepper shakers and sugar packet holders complete the china service. Capital City Club, requesting oversized wine glasses, selected hand-blown 16-panel optic pieces by Judel Glass. The setting was completed with the traditional Kings pattern from Reed & Barton and again included oversized pieces, as well as fish forks and knives.

The overall effect is very high-end and modern, but avoided the stodginess of other Atlanta clubs, according to Meakin. She added that in this total redesign, "the club breathed life back into itself."

CATEGORYPer person check average $40 and above

Specifiers: Ricky Meakin, Edward Don & Co.; Manuel DeJuan, G.M., Capital City Club at Brookhaven

WINNING ELEMENTS China: Villeroy and Boch French GardenFlatware: Reed & Barton KingsGlassware: Judel wine glassesAccessories: Villeroy and Boch salt & pepper shakers, sugar packet holders

STICKS & STONES Award Winner Brookfield, Wisconsin

The owners of this new dining establishment, Joe and Pam DeRosa, are no newcomers to the Wisconsin dining scene. As owners of the 14-unit Chancery chain, as well as Eddie Martini's, a popular local dining operation, the DeRosas fulfilled a dream by opening this 144-seat, upscale restaurant in Brookfield, a suburb of Milwaukee. As G.M. Dan Powers described it, the owners were trying to achieve a "rustic, Ralph Lauren-type country feel" that fit with the operation's woodsy setting. He added that "our goal was to introduce new ideas while retaining a comfortable, uncomplicated atmosphere." Prominent designer Marv Cooper of Chicago was chosen to head the project and was assisted by Pam DeRosa, herself an interior designer.

Occupying a site that formerly contained shops and a tea room, the Sticks & Stones project spanned 11/2 years and was completed in July 2001. Sticks & Stones, co-winner in our $40-plus-check-average category, was positioned to offer upscale, fine dining, with sophisticated food served in a relaxing, casual atmosphere. The seasonal menu expresses varied preparation methods of regional American cuisine, with emphasis laid on the quality of ingredients. With the assistance of Vita Carini, a table-setting specialist, and Joe Anderson, DSR of The Boelter Companies, the tabletop design was anchored by a 140 hammered charger plate by Lawrence Essentials. Pam DeRosa felt that the charger, which has brass edges and decorative slashes, made the statement she wanted, one which she re-emphasized with Hammered Antique flatware by Reed & Barton and striated Stratus drinkware by Libbey. The stemware is Mendocino by Cardinal; the steak knives are by Tramontina.

Chinaware consists of two patterns by Dudson - the cream-colored Omega and the chocolate brown Camelot, both of which are accented by Hall China pieces in custom brown and ivory tones. Stained-glass table lamps by Candle Corp., salt and pepper shakers by Tablecraft, and coffee pots by Corby Hall complete the table setting.

CATEGORYPer person check average $40 and above

Specifiers: Vita Carini and Joe Anderson, The Boelter Cos.; Joe and Pam DeRosa, Owners, Sticks & Stones; Dan Powers, Manager, Sticks & Stones

WINNING ELEMENTS China: Dudson Cream Omega, Camelot; Hall custom brown and ivoryFlatware: Reed & Barton Hammered Antique; Tramontina steak knivesGlassware: Cardinal Mendocino stemware; Libbey Stratus tumblers and rocks; Schott Zwiesel SelectionAccessories: Candle Corp. table lamps; Tablecraft salt & pepper shakers; Dudson creamers, teapots; Corby Hall coffee pots; Lawrence Essentials charger plates

WEILS OF BAINBRIDGE Award Winner Chagrin Falls, Ohio

As Vice President/Operations Shelly Skodny sees it, "Weils of Bainbridge is the 'Ritz Carlton' of assisted-living facilities." Located on rural, forested grounds and surrounded by protected wetlands east of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland, Weils was chosen as the 2002 FE&S Tabletop Design Award winner in the category of on-site foodservice. S.S. Kemp of Cleveland, a two-time award winner last year, was represented by Marguerite Marini, the DSR who handled this account.

A recently opened, not-for-profit senior citizens facility now home to 120 residents, Weils has the additional challenge of maintaining a Kosher meal service, which requires complete and separate table settings - two distinct sets of chinaware, flatware and glassware - to serve meat and dairy dishes separately. Breakfast and lunch at Weils generally feature dairy menus, while dinner, presented in a more formal style, is always a meat meal. Each china pattern had to include a full selection of service pieces to meet the presentation requirements of full traditional meals, including soup, appetizer, main course and accompaniments. It is interesting to note that only 20% of the residents are Jewish, yet most are generally not conscious that the meals they receive are Kosher.

As an upscale retirement facility, Weils uses its dining room, food and service as prime selling points for prospective residents. In planning the tabletop, the designers were seeking to establish a clean, crisp look while selecting items to complement the rural setting. In addition to appearance, each piece had to be easy to recognize and handle by the elderly residents. After reviewing more than 35 different table settings provided by S.S. Kemp, Chateau Damask by Churchill was selected since it was felt that this embossed pattern with just a hint of light green on its border provided a proper "easel" for the food, as well as being extremely durable. This china is used at dinner, while Steelite's more casual and "fun" Ceylon was the choice for lunch, and its Kolors is the ware used in Weils café, which serves light meals, ice cream and coffee drinks. Since Steelite had only three standard items in this "tea service" pattern, the manufacturer specially made four additional items to satisfy Weils' needs.

A more formal glassware pattern, Oneida's Twist, was chosen because the stem pieces added height to the table, while the heavy-based Tango tumblers, used at dairy meals, were sturdy and easy to handle. The flatware patterns, also by Oneida, are both 18/8. Marquette, which features a beaded rim framed by a flared, fluted tip, was the choice for dinner, and Paradox was selected for breakfast and lunch service.

CATEGORYOn-site foodservice

Specifiers: Marguerite Marini, S.S. Kemp & Co.; Shelly Skodny, V.P./Operations, Weils of Bainbridge

WINNING ELEMENTS China: Churchill Chateau Damask; Steelite Ceylon and KolorsFlatware: Oneida Paradox and MarquetteGlassware: Oneida Tango and TwistAccessories: Walco Soprano sugars, creamers; Tablecraft bread baskets; Cardinal water pitchers; Artex table linens

MERIDIAN BANQUETS Award Winner Rolling Meadows, Illinois

This premium-level banquet facility, our judges' selection in the banquets/catering category, is located in Rolling Meadows (about 30 minutes from Chicago) and opened in November 2001, after being designed to attract both weddings and corporate events. Based on its advance bookings for 2003, about 80% of its functions are weddings, which are on the increase. John Komotos, the facility's owner, has over 42 years of experience operating restaurants and catering halls in the Chicagoland area, during the last 19 of which, prior to opening Meridian, he operated Wellington's, a very successful restaurant in nearby Arlington Heights, Ill. He purchased, gutted and completely renovated the 50,000-square-foot facility, formerly a Loew's movie theater, which features 20-foot ceilings, a 15,000-square-foot lobby with an eye-arresting 12-foot water fountain, vaulted cathedral ceiling and five function rooms that were constructed with soundproof walls in lieu of moveable partitions. To give a sense of the project's scale, more than 10,000 rolls of wallpaper in a soft hue were needed to cover its walls.

Meridian was designed with the purpose of attracting and impressing wedding clients - brides and their mothers - as well as area corporate customers. Komotos was assisted by Dennis Turf, a veteran DSR working out of Edward Don's headquarters in North Riverside, Ill. Komotos' vision was to provide affordable pricing and good food in elegant surroundings. Natural colors were chosen for the décor and it was decided that Meridian's tabletops would be predominantly white. With table linens usually white linen but occasionally satin, the undecorated Alvo pattern by Steelite was chosen. With three swirls embossed in its body, this high-alumina pattern combines a pristine white delicacy and translucence with excellent durability. Meridian selected a 120-diameter dinner plate after bowing to client requests for a larger (than 103/40) food presentation.

The swirls in the dinnerware are echoed in the Excalibur Optic glassware by Cardinal International that also adds a crystal-like look to the setting. Seeking a heavy-weight 18/10 quality flatware, Meridian selected Victoria, a classic design by Bon Chef. Fresh flowers and tea lights, seated on mirrored panels, provide additional atmosphere. Sugar packet holders and cream pitchers by Steelite and salt and pepper shakers by Cardinal complete this understated yet elegant tabletop design.

CATEGORYBanquets/Catering

Specifiers: Specifiers: Dennis Turf, Edward Don & Co.; John Komotos, Owner, Meridian Banquets

WINNING ELEMENTS China: Steelite AlvoFlatware: Bon Chef VictoriaGlassware: Cardinal Excalibur OpticAccessories: Steelite sugar packet holders, creamers; Cardinal salt & pepper shakers

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