The Villains are doing something a little different this Friday. We’ve gathered a number of promotions and operational elements that may inspire other operators and managers.
From dining and music events to catering to parking fees, here are some of the things that caught our eyes this week. Cheers!
Housemade TV Dinners
We love this one. Lazy Dog operates close to 40 neighborhood-style restaurants in California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Nevada, Texas and Virginia.
The operators focus on delivering American fare using seasonal ingredients, cold beer, craft cocktails, and a friendly neighborhood vibe at fair prices. When Covid first gripped the United States, locations pivoted and served as safe pickup locations for grocery packages and meal kits. We know because we purchased groceries and a pizza meal kit a few months back.
Lazy Dog is committed to serving their communities refreshing and interesting beers. Their house beers are brewed by Golden Road Brewing, and they also put other craft brewers’ beers on tap. The Lazy Dog Beer Club comes with several perks, including draft beer upgrades (from 16 ounces to 22 ounces), a monthly sampler, priority seating, and ten percent off takeout orders placed online.
But what got our attention this week is their house-prepared TV dinners. Lazy Dog is offering eight different house-made meals frozen in “retro-style” trays. The old-school-inspired meals available are: Chicken Parmesan, Chicken Nuggets, Fried Chicken Dinner, Fish N Chips, Cheese Enchiladas, Pot Roast Dinner, Grilled Lemon Chicken, and Chicken Pot Pie, each with its own thoughtful sides. The Fried Chicken Dinner, for example, features two boneless chicken breasts hand-dipped in buttermilk, housemade country gravy, red skin mashed potatoes, sautéed baby spinach and bacon, and a blue corn cake for dessert.
Each TV dinner is $10 and ready to heat in the oven. To put their in-house TV dinners on guests’ radar, Lazy Dog is currently offering buy three, get one free. That’s a great deal for delivery considering that delivery is free for orders over $25.
Dinner & Bass
The longest-running drum & bass event in Los Angeles, Respect, is trying something new during the pandemic: Dinner & Bass. In partnership with Station1640, Respect executed a socially distanced, DJ-driven, outdoor music and dining experience last night. Tables were made available for pre-sale based on number of guests (all aged 21 or older): two to three ($100), four ($150), or five to six ($180). Guests were required to undergo a temperature check at the door and wear face masks unless seated at their table.
The table packages came with an entree and two sides (complete with vegan options) plus one signature Respect Cocktail per guest. Tavern snacks were also available, ranging in price from $8 (waffle fries) to $15 (wings). Tables could also order two dozen wings for $30 or 56 wings for $60. Premium pre-sale package add-ons included $30 buckets of beer and $300 bottle service.
Dinner & Bass was a socially distanced, outdoor event that included live-streamed DJs. According to social media comments, the plan is to offer the experience again on October 30. We hope it works out and this event becomes a weekly or bi-weekly success!
“Don’t Stand so Close to Me”
Commander’s Palace first opened in New Orleans in 1893. Co-owners (and cousins) Lally Brennan and Ti Adelaide Martin, along with executive chef Tory McPhail, have led the enterprise to a number of accolades, including lifetime achievement awards.
Since April 15 of this year, Commander’s has hosted a weekly event series called “Don’t Stand so Close to Me.” Each event includes a wine and cheese tasting, accompanied by a theme like Oktoberfest (October 21), Halloween (October 28), or Gilligan’s Island (November 4). On November 11, “Don’t Stand so Close to Me” is a nationwide event celebrating the history of wine and cheese in NOLA.
Dan “Wine Guy” Davis is a James Beard Award nominee who hosts each Commander’s Palace wine and cheese event. Showing that Davis and the revered restaurateurs don’t take themselves too seriously, these events focus on fun along with the education provided.
Tasting packages start at $99 for two people, plus Eventbrite and delivery ($5) fees. The two-person package includes three bottles of wine, two eight-ounce portions of artisanal cheese, and crackers. A tasting for four costs $30 more than the two-person package and comes with cheese service for four people. For the truly indulgent, the JUST CAN’T GET ENOUGH package costs $500 and includes eight bottles of wine (three for the official tasting and five from the Commander’s wine cellar), along with cheese service for eight people (including artisanal bread and “other goodies”). Click here to see how Commander’s approaches pickup and delivery for this event series.
Zero-deposit Holiday Gatherings
Operators—both chain and independent—have been forced to pivot this year. We’ve seen bars and restaurants adapt by becoming grocers, creating inventive meal kits, batching signature to-go cocktails, and much more.
Catering is another avenue some operators may want to consider. While it may seem unfathomable to some, there are companies out there looking into holiday gatherings. This is, after all, the holiday season, even if it doesn’t feel like it.
For some of these companies, a holiday party is a way to reward their employees for taking on their own pivots, like working from home while also juggling remote learning for their children. Fleming’s is offering “a safe and memorable experience” via their catering services. Those planning a holiday party can opt to book a Fleming’s dining room or specify a location of their own. Two of the restaurant group’s innovations include hybrid events and the waiving of deposits.
Hybrid events allow clients to book a Fleming’s dining room—or an entire restaurant—and, using curbside pickup or delivery, host up to 20 videoconference links for attendees unable or uncomfortable with dining on-site. Delivery fees are also reasonable: $30 for orders under $300, ten percent of the total for orders of $300 or more.
Parking Fees for Charity
Six Las Vegas Strip properties within the Caesars Entertainment portfolio will once again charge parking fees. The hourly fees kick in after a 60-minute grace period. The parking fees will kick in at Caesars Palace, Bally’s, Paris, LINQ Hotel & Experience, Harrah’s, and Flamingo. Until further notice, self-parking remains complimentary at Planet Hollywood and the Miracle Mile Shops.
Along with other casino groups, Caesars Entertainment suspended parking fees throughout this summer—starting in June—due to Covid. The group is bringing the parking fees back, a controversial move in the eyes of some, including their competitors. Caesars has stated publicly that all fees will be donated to charitable organizations that support local communities in need through the end of Q1 2021.
One source has claimed the parking fee is a response to several security incidents that occurred throughout the summer. Guests exempt from the parking fees include locals, registered hotel guests, and members of Caesars Loyalty Rewards that hold Platinum status and above.
I’ve been studying and writing about the hospitality industry since 2006. Like so many people, I started my journey in this business by working as a host, server and bartender. I was introduced to nightlife in Chicago, learning the ins and outs of nightclubs and after-hours hot spots.
After moving to Las Vegas nearly 20 years ago, I both co-owned a valet company and helped promote the club it serviced. That led to me taking on the role of editor for a Las Vegas hospitality industry publication.
A few short years later, I continued along my journey of hospitality industry reporting. I went from contributing to a major industry outlet to taking on the role of editor and content curator.