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Another good ‘local’ idea

How can hotel restaurants continue to find new ways to celebrate local ingredients and purveyors as well as get guests excited about the dishes that result?

Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based Marcus Restaurant Group, an operating unit of Marcus Hotels & Restaurants, has answered this increasingly ubiquitous question with a program called Straight to Your Plate, which debuted in its current form about a year ago. Through the program, chefs at the company’s three Milwaukee restaurants — [email protected] inside the InterContinental Milwaukee Hotel, Mason Street Grill inside The Pfister Hotel and Milwaukee ChopHouse inside the Hilton Milwaukee — search out leading local purveyors and feature their ingredients in a special dish each month. The vendors also are spotlighted on the Straight to Your Plate website, in videos and via other marketing outreach.

Last June and July, Mason Street Grill featured a lemon-cardamom ice cream sandwich with a ginger snap cookie, blueberry compote and Meyer lemon using ice cream from Milwaukee’s Purple Door Ice Cream thanks to Straight to Your Plate.
Last June and July, Mason Street Grill featured a lemon-cardamom ice cream sandwich with a ginger snap cookie, blueberry compote and Meyer lemon using ice cream from Milwaukee’s Purple Door Ice Cream thanks to Straight to Your Plate.

Marcus says the program excites its chefs, engages guests and offers vendors a new way to promote their businesses. And while the number of Straight to Your Plate dishes sold is “nominal when compared to items that occupy a regular place on our menus,” according to Marcus Hotels & Resorts Corporate Vice President of Food & Beverage Peggy Williams-Smith, Smith adds that the program’s success is not measured by numbers alone.

“Our goal is not to sell individual dishes, but rather engage our guests in a conversation about our food, sources of ingredients and our partner vendors,” Smith says. “The program is also used as a vehicle to communicate the essence of our brand and values to our guests with all of our restaurants under one group name and the good will it creates in the community and with the partners we choose. As a large company with hotels that need more product that local vendors can supply on a regular basis, this is our way to ensure that we are connecting with local farmers and purveyors. It allows our chefs a regular outlet for their creativity and transcends our brand beyond ‘hotel restaurants’ into great neighborhood restaurants that happen to be attached to hotels.”

Perhaps one of the biggest signs of Straight to Your Plate’s success is that Marcus plans to expand it to all eight of its Wisconsin properties as well as its Chicago property shortly and would like to eventually expand the concept company-wide.

Are your hotels doing anything different to support and promote local purveyors while elevating your own restaurant menus? Please share more good ideas.

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