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A comprehensive redesign and renovation of this lobby restaurant and bar are part of Hyatt's brand positioning and strategy to highlight food and beverage within its properties.
Creating excitement about food and beverage operations challenges most U.S. hoteliers. The Hyatt Regency San Antonio's solution is Q on the Riverwalk, a restaurant and bar featuring an interactive station that offers an international barbecue and beer menu. A $3.5 million renovation debuted in November 2010, transforming an antiquated space in the hotel into a lively venue that attracted nearly 76,000 customers during its first year of operation.
The barbecue (hence the name Q) and beer theme was selected by Hyatt executives following extensive demographic and financial research and competitive analysis. "We gravitated toward international barbecue because we liked its versatility — there are so many types of popular barbecue around the world," says Susan Terry, vice president of Hyatt Culinary Operations for North American properties. Terry has been with Hyatt for 21 years, the past five in the corporate office. "The dining experience is sophisticated but casual, offering varying price points and seating options, including everything from a communal table to soft seating in the bar. This translates into a friendly dining option for business travelers and tourists, including those with families. This concept supports a beer beverage program versus a wine program, and the food matches well with beer. Our style is casual and approachable."
The new restaurant and bar are part of Hyatt's global brand positioning and desire to highlight food and beverage within its properties. "Since the Hyatt Regency San Antonio has the best address on the historic River Walk, our goal was not only to update the space, but also to gain a closer connection to the River Walk," says Victoria Hardy, interior designer at Looney & Associates.
"The idea of continuity within the restaurant and bar was a must," Hardy says. "As part of the renovation, we raised the bar to the same level as the restaurant, which created a common energy from the lobby to the restaurant and bar. We replaced concrete railings that made the bar feel separated from the River Walk with clear glass railings so guests can visually connect with the River Walk experience."
When renovating the hotel space, the architects added a dedicated entry from the hotel's porte cochere to give Q its own identity. "Guests are greeted by oversized, stained woven-wood doors with a metal and wood cantilevered awning suspended above," Hardy says. "The restaurant is infused with materials like exposed concrete, honed stones and hickory woods. The loud and expansive atrium space at the center of the hotel presents a challenge to achieve a sense of intimacy within Q. To create privacy for the diners, handcrafted screens woven from pecan tree branches march down the restaurant facade."
Inside Q, customers see a semi-open kitchen with a display action station. "We're very proud of the attention to detail given to this project and the amount of equipment that we were able to put in this space," Terry says. "Customers can see what the cooks are making, and they can interact with them. We strongly believe that when our staff connects with customers, customers will become loyal to us and want to come back."
Spanning about 16 feet, the display kitchen is comprised of a cooking wall containing various cooking formats. "The goal for the front-of-house kitchen was diversity in cooking capabilities, not capacity," says Lee Simon, principal, Innovative Foodservice Design Team.
The cooking wall contains a rotisserie for roasting free-range chickens used in many breakfast, lunch and dinner menu items. "We purposely undersized the rotisserie, because we wanted to be sure it was constantly full and utilized versus big and sitting dormant," Terry says.
To the right of the rotisserie stands a two-section, 48-inch charbroiler. "We put manual cranks on the charbroiler so cooks can raise and lower the grates, which were custom designed with different grate sizes and spacing in 12-inch sections," Simon says. "This ensures that the culinary team can adjust the heat and positioning for different types of meats and fish." The two sections rise and lower independently. Many menu items, such as ribs and brisket, are smoked in the back kitchen and finished on the cooking wall's grill. Simon adds that the cranks were also installed to enhance the customers' visual interest in the cooking process.
A churrasco broiler sits under the charbroiler and cooks Brazilian skewers with sirloin, shrimp, sausage, chicken and vegetables. "This is the smallest churrasco I've seen and maximizes the use of space here," Terry says.
The lower levels also contain plate shelves, refrigerated drawers and utility chases for electrical and plumbing connections.
At the end of the cooking wall, a double-stacked convection oven cooks short ribs and pork belly.
In order to give the equipment a uniform and integrated look, Simon says, the rotisserie and convection ovens were designed with the same dimensions and exterior aesthetics to symmetrically anchor the cooking wall on the left and right above the work counter.
"Since the cooking wall was the visual anchor of the space, it was imperative that the unit achieved the residential look requested by the owners," Simon says. "To achieve this objective, all visible components of the cooking wall were powder coated for a softer finish. Stainless steel was limited to the interior spaces of the cooking equipment. We also designed all drawer faces to incorporate panels of bonded metal that were coordinated with the finishes specified by the interior designers in the front-of-house areas.
"The full-height chains used at the charbroiler provide a modern, sophisticated twist on a rustic-style piece of cooking equipment that was essential to the menu offered," Simon adds. "To further enhance the residential-style aesthetics, the back wall was finished with large tile."
Sitting in front of the cooking wall, a counter serves multiple purposes. During the breakfast meal periods, it functions as the hot buffet supported by fresh, a la minute production of eggs and other breakfast items from the display kitchen. During lunch and dinner periods when the buffet isn't offered, this stone-top counter serves as the hot pick-up counter for food produced in the display kitchen.
On either end of the counter, open plate shelves give customers easy access to self-service during the buffet meal periods. These plate shelves also serve as back-up plate storage for the culinary team during a la carte use of the display kitchen during dinner. Additional plate storage is located on both the staff and guest sides of the counter.
Beneath the countertop sit mounted induction units. A food guard with heat lamps sits over the induction units so customers can help themselves to displayed food. During non-buffet times, staff remove the trivets above the induction units and convert the space into a hot pick-up station for the service staff.
The center of the hot buffet/service counter includes a plancha that staff use to make Mediterranean sea bass and tamarind-glazed salmon at dinner and other daily specials depending on the meal period. The staff also make omelets, pasta dishes and seared fish on a four-burner range during lunch and dinner hours. A refrigerated rail between the plancha and range holds mise en place. The lid for this refrigerated rail slides into the counter wall. "Special attention was paid throughout this project to integrate storage locations for equipment covers within the equipment's own footprint to avoid long-term loss or damage," Simon says.
Refrigerated and ambient storage space and electrical and plumbing connections sit below the counter.
Also incorporated into the unit are undercounter shelves that hold the POS printers so they are hidden from public viewing. Hand sinks beneath the counters aren't visible to guests but still give the culinary staff direct access as needed.
"Powder coating was also used for this counter, including the staff side, which is visible from some areas of the dining room," Simon says. Drawer faces include bonded metal panels, and undercounter lighting is integrated into the plate shelves.
The cold buffet and community dining counter, which is in the center of the Q space, changes by meal period. "A glass refrigerated display case with LED lighting and drawers in the center of the counter was inspired by a refrigerated, jewelry-style, full-service case seen at the HOST show in Milan," Simon says. "The idea was modified for self-service access (as opposed to full-service access only). The glass enclosure serves as the food guard, so guests can consider their options while the drawers remain closed and therefore reduce the refrigeration load." In the morning, it displays fresh-cut fruit, cereal and yogurt, and in the evening, barbeque-style antipasti and desserts. The central island in this counter also holds a bread station with toasters. Outlets are concealed in a nonconspicuous location. Toasters are removed during non-buffet times; the space they occupy can be used for bread display.
"With the customized refrigerated case, we wanted to explore new methods for displaying cold foods in buffet applications," Simon says. "While advancements have been made in display configurations on the hot side with induction, and heated shelves with heat lamps above, little advancement has been achieved on the cold side. Equipment currently available that mechanically ensures HACCP-compliant temperature holding generally looks very institutional. This unit displays cold foods during buffet times but can be transformed during non-buffet time periods."
The two tables that flank the center counter display cold buffet menu items during breakfast and lunch. Within the center of each table, an insulated ice trough with an undercounter-mounted flange detail sits so that the iced cold pan, which holds everything from juices to yogurt and toppings, is flush with the countertop. During non-buffet meal periods, the troughs are covered with cutting boards that are used to present food.
Another multipurpose table positioned within the buffet and dining area holds ambient-temperature menu items and offers additional flexibility for expansion of the buffet as needed. When not required, this table functions as a community dining table within the center portion of the kitchen.
All flexible counters contain portable food guards that match the décor of the restaurant space. Carts store and transport these food guards.
The Bar and Beer Wall
The new bar, located directly across the atrium from the front desk check-in area of the hotel, contributes to guests' first impression when they enter the updated public space. With the raising of the bar area, the bar and restaurant facilities are now connected, allowing guests to move easily from one space to the other.
"Because the existing atrium design and location of the bar area provided numerous free sight lines from a variety of different angles—including from the atrium elevators, which allows for direct views into the internal bar—and the hotel's desire to provide a more sophisticated, upscale guest experience, the bar required special attention," Simon says.
Since beer was selected as the main beverage to complement the international barbecue menu, a glass display refrigerator for the beer and some wine was incorporated into the design as a featured element. Measuring 11 feet long and nine feet high, glass on both the front and rear connects the bar and restaurant areas. Colored and textured glass, internal LED lighting and shelving that varies the height and depth of bottles displayed enhances the display's dramatic effect.
While visible from both sides, the refrigerated display case is only accessible from the bar side. "Given the display case's location on a main guest egress path, security was a concern," Simon says. "So, a special lock system was installed with keypad access. Servers enter their code, and all 17 doors unlock simultaneously. After the beer or wine is retrieved, the doors automatically relock. All access information can be recorded and accessed in the event of a security concern."
Refrigerated wine storage is below counter height and behind solid doors so it won't detract from the comprehensive beer display. Additional ambient wine storage is located within the restaurant's private dining room.
"Though the exterior bar die wall finishes would complement the interior design, it was feared that the standard underbar equipment typically used would detract from the guest experience." Simon says. As a result, the Innovative Foodservice Design Team conceived what they refer to as underbar "furniture" so the interior bar consists of counter and cabinet designs that incorporate the same finishes on the exterior of the bar. The concept of underbar furniture has a patent pending.
Among the features incorporated into the Q bar are finishes integrated into the front door/drawer faces and backsplashes, residential-style hardware, glass rack drawers (in lieu of slides) to hide the appearance of the glass racks, integrated locations for soda-system equipment
(beyond the cold plate), liquor step covers that collapse and store within the footprint of the equipment, decorative cover panels for equipment by others (such as the glass washer), and integrated storage for items such as menus, salt and pepper.
In order to achieve a consistent appearance within the bar, the refrigeration matches the height of the bar equipment. An integrated, drop-in drip pan within the bar top at the server pick-up station catches spillage and provides a sanitary workspace.
As Hyatt executives assess the new Q on the Riverwalk restaurant and bar, they are considering where this concept can be replicated. "It is a first of its kind," Terry says, "and we intend to replicate it elsewhere." This transformation of restaurant and bar space where equipment is an integral part of the design will help Hyatt with its brand positioning and the enhancement of its food and beverage programs.
Q on the Riverwalk, restaurant and bar, at the Hyatt Regency San Antonio was designed in 2010 as part of a renovation to attract more customers into a lively, action-station environment. These operations are part of Hyatt Regency's global brand positioning and strategy to highlight food and beverage within its properties. Located on San Antonio's River Walk, the 632-room hotel directly overlooks the Alamo and offers views of the River Walk and downtown. The 16-story lobby is visible from the restaurant and bar. Q contains 152 seats; the bar seats an additional 58. The restaurant and bar register 75,840 transactions annually. Q serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, operating from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m. The bar, which serves a full menu, is open from 11 a.m. until midnight. Staffing at Q includes a restaurant manager, chef de cuisine, two cooks at the wall during peak periods and three employees in the back of the house. The total cost of the project was approximately $3.5 million. The equipment cost was $1.1 million.