Sheraton Denver Downtown

Sheraton Denver Downtown bar

Sheraton Denver Downtown creates more flexible food and beverage options for its guests.

By Tim O'Connor, Senior Editor at Knighthouse Media

Surrounded by national parks, renowned ski resorts and home to a budding culinary scene, Denver is one of biggest destinations in the United States. The Mile High City drew 17.3 million overnight visitors in 2016, according to Visit Denver, a nonprofit association that markets metro Denver as a convention and leisure destination.

But all too often, professionals visiting Denver on business don’t have time to take in everything the city has to offer. After a day full of meetings, panels and pre-scheduled tours, they are too exhausted to shop 16th Street Mall, hit the bars around Coors Field or devour a sausage at Rhein Haus, a German-style beer hall.

Sheraton Denver DowntownChris Clark, director of food and beverage at the Sheraton Denver Downtown, recognizes that many visitors are missing out. “Depending on the nature of those meetings, they have little to no opportunity to get out and explore the downtown scene,” he observes. Those visitors risk leaving Denver having seen nothing more than the inside of a boardroom or an event booth.

To counteract that, Sheraton Denver Downtown, a part of the Marriott International family, is bringing the Denver culinary experience right to its guests. “How do we cater to that traveler and provide the unique food and beverage experience that connects them to where they are?” Clark asks. The answer, he says, is by embracing everything that Colorado has to offer.

The hotel’s chefs travel throughout the state to find local suppliers and farmers that can keep pace with demand, as well as to discover inspiration for new dishes. Once they return, the chefs are encouraged to share their inspirations by explaining their dishes to guests, whether it’s a small, private event of 25 people or a major conference with an audience of 2,500. It’s a way to enhance the diners’ appreciation and understanding of what they are getting.

Detailing the difference between heritage and commodity breed pork helps guests better connect to the whole experience. “We incorporate it in a way that the guest understands,” Clark says.

Wide Demographic

That commitment to creating a complete culinary experience contributes to the Sheraton’s standing as one of the premier hotels in downtown Denver. The hotel generates high-volume revenues in food and beverage business annually through its numerous restaurant and bar offerings, including Yard House, an upscale restaurant with 250 beers on tap, and 15|Fifty, a daily breakfast buffet. This summer, Sheraton will add to its portfolio of restaurants when it opens Hacienda Colorado, a Mexican eatery with a Rocky Mountain spin.

The Sheraton consists of two buildings connected by a sky bridge over Court Place and an underground pedestrian walkway. Once it opens, Hacienda Colorado will anchor one side of the hotel while Yard House continues to serve as the primary restaurant for the other half.

At the same time it’s shoring up its full-service restaurant options, the Sheraton continues to elevate its beverage offerings. The hotel partnered with Peet’s Coffee & Tea, a San Francisco Bay Area brand, to provide guests with an alternative to the numerous other coffee franchises in the downtown area. “A lot of travelers coming in know the Peet’s brand,” Clark says.

As one of the largest hotels in all of Colorado, Sheraton Denver Downtown must cater to a wide range of guests. Young out-of-towners looking to hike the nearby peaks and trails may fill it on the weekend only to give way to a nursing convention or trade show a few days later. “Our demographic and guest profile changes many times throughout a week,” Clark notes.

Sheraton Denver Downtown chocolateEach of those groups has its own specific set of needs. “Where a restaurant might design its menu to appeal to its demographic, in a hotel, how do I design my menu to appeal to a wide demographic?” Clark asks. The solution is constant change and flexibility.

Take a recent conference for preschool teachers. Sheraton Denver Downtown knew its standard breakfast buffet was probably out of the price range for those guests during the four-day event, so it set up a kitchen display with fresh grab-and-go sandwiches, yogurt parfaits and protein bars. For lunch service, it worked with Etai’s Bakery Café to offer pre-made sandwiches and it offered teacher-friendly drink specials at night.

Rethinking the Kitchen

The hotel will provide even more dining flexibility to guests going forward. Earlier this year, Sheraton Denver Downtown converted a former luggage and staff entrance into a speakeasy-style lounge for up to 50 people that can accommodate exclusive events or high-end board meetings.

Further, a renovation is planned for 2019 that will transform the food and beverage experience offering a full service a la carte breakfast and more flexible grab-and-go options. Other, yet-to-be-announced changes will include more options for customers who are not hotel guests.

At the same time it is evolving its food and beverage offerings, Sheraton Denver Downtown is rethinking how it approaches staffing. The restaurant industry is struggling nationwide to fill positions both for servers and back-of-the-house staff and the situation is no different in Denver.

Sheraton Denver Downtown has dealt with the challenge by focusing on growing its talent from within. The hotel has a culinary apprenticeship program that trains up cooks from raw talent to full chef.

“It’s become one of our best recruiting tools,” Clark says. “We get young folks and they see there is an opportunity to make a career out of cooking.”

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