Bobby V’s Restaurant & Sports Bar and Winners, Stamford, CT

Bobby V’s Restaurant and Sports Bar
UK based Sportech has teamed with Connecticut native and Major League baseball player/manager Bobby Valentine to create a unique new restaurant and off track wagering parlor in downtown Stamford.

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Part of Total Food Service’s Blueprint Series on hot new restaurant kitchen renovations, new floor plans, and more.

The new Bobby V’s Restaurant and Sports Bar now open in Stamford, CT is sure to become a culinary sensation with its relaxed dining atmosphere, extensive drinks menu and appeal for all ages. However, this new scene is unlike its other locations or any other sports bar in Stamford; Winners, the off-track betting portion of the restaurant, opened on the second floor of the impressive 25,000 square-foot business. And while patrons must be 21 years and up to take part in the fast-paced horserace betting action, the remainder of the massive restaurant is family-friendly.

Everything about the bar is grand, from its 230 television monitors to the 700-person seating. Yet Bobby V’s Restaurant and Sports Bar still makes a name for itself as a culinary destination; it serves elevated bar food, using first-class ingredients and artisanal ice cream to craft a unique experience where both food and entertainment are highlighted. The menu builds upon a standard sports bar menu with exciting options: a range of flatbreads, table shares and wings form a menu of all-American fare with a unique twist.

People can expect from this new location an array of activities to complement their delicious meals; everything from Winners to the sports bar’s golf simulator for a few rounds of indoor golf will delight. The new Stamford location will satisfy a great need for a fun, fast-paced sports bar in southern Connecticut.

Total Food Service had the opportunity to discuss the creation of Bobby V’s Restaurant & Sports Bar and Winners, unique floor plan, and efficient kitchen, as well as get the project approach from:

Ted Taylor’s Approach:

The traditional ‘off track betting’ customers have been badly neglected for a number of years and Sportech, our UK-based online gambling and entertainment company, has made a commitment to improving our offering to our existing customers when we purchased this business in 2011. This led to us looking for partnerships with local Sports Bar/Restaurant operators to partner with them in smaller towns but we knew we needed to do something special in Stamford, CT.

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In terms of the goal of our customer experience, we aim to create two different environments so that if guests want to wager, they can do that in a great environment. For guests who aren’t interested in this scene, they don’t have to get involved in, or even see, the wagering side of things.  We think it’s also really important to separate the two businesses, which we’ve physically done in this great space.  Although massive numbers of people wager on the Triple Crown and Breeders Cup, or talk about the ‘line on the Superbowl,’ not everyone wants it in their mind’s-eye every day, so we aim to let them enjoy the place without having to worry about it. In general, though, we have a very unique customer experience; customers view us as a great destination that marries excellent food service and gaming.

Stamford ended up being the perfect location for this perfect blend of food and entertainment; Sportech spent a long time looking, as we needed a decently sized space with a combination of existing customers and new ones coming from the growing Stamford downtown population. Stamford’s proximity to I-95 and the Transit Center was vitally important and there are more than 3,000 parking spaces within a 5-minute walk for a dollar an hour. The result is that Bobby V’s is incredibly accessible and attracts a diverse set of customers, new and old.

We were also incredibly happy to partner with Bobby Valentine; this partnership was important to us because we needed to convince skeptics of our integrity and that what we wanted to do would be fantastic when compared to what has been offered historically. Bobby has been a mainstay of downtown Stamford for 37 years now and helped enormously to convince people that what we had done with our other business in Windsor Locks would transfer brilliantly to downtown Stamford.

While it took us awhile to decide on Stamford as the location for this huge project, our biggest obstacle was assembling the right team of architects, contractors and kitchen consultants. We wanted to work with an architecture team who understood the gaming side and had experience with foodservice without it being their only area of expertise. JBMP, the firm we ended up working with, is based locally in Stamford – this allowed us to work very closely with them.

For contracting, the fit with Verdi Construction seemed to be best. They definitely weren’t the cheapest price initially, but we could see clearly where and why any pricing differed from the other bids and it became worth it. On the whole, I liked the team and their attitude was great!

Finally, for kitchen consulting, we worked with Restaurant Equipment Paradise – the owner is very hands-on and although we had some challenges integrating the kitchen before the building was really ready, it worked out perfectly. Sportech did the initial designs internally using VISIO; handling this portion of the design process saved us both time and money.

When it came down to the actual design and build, it fell to me. I worked very closely with the architects so that as much capital as possible could go into the facility rather than extra personnel.

Bobby V’s Restaurant and Sports Bar
The design team at Bobby V’s/Winners selected a variety of seating solutions from MTS to maximize patrons’ comfort

Bobby V’s ended up with a really interesting and unique design; we used marble and wood at the bar to soften the harsh HDTV screens. The extensions at either end of the bar are popular for groups who want to face each other at the table, yet still get immediate bar service and be a part of the exciting sports action. We also have a “second row” to increase the bar seating, which has proven to be a very popular feature. All of these combined design elements really create a space that centers on food and entertainment; this sports bar is truly unlike any other.

The primary vision was to create a place that offers much more than what people would expect from a Sports Bar, and to provide something that is much more than your typical wagering location.  We wanted to design a place that is family friendly, one that appeals to both men and women.     

While the design of this bar is an incredible spectacle, it makes a name for itself as a food destination, as well. While the bar offers traditional sports bar favorites like amazing wings, nachos, flatbread pizzas and quesadillas, there are several unexpected food favorites to keep our customers intrigued: tuna tartar, inspired burgers, signature salads, and very unique sandwiches. However, on your first visit to Bobby V’s, you have to try the pretzel bat, our smoky tomato bisque and our house-made Reuben sandwich. These dishes may sound out of the ordinary, but they’re must-have items for a reason.

These delicious delicacies can all be found on our main menu, but we also have a Happy Hour menu. Right now, we’re gradually growing the menu by increasing its range, though this is trickier than it sounds; we also have to manage staffing to meet the growing volume of guests and make sure our diverse range of food can be delivered properly.

Luckily, we’ve assembled a great culinary team to meet these challenges; Jordan Stein joined as our Executive Chef when we opened our first location in Windsor Locks three years ago and we’ve continued to evolve by looking around and changing up our offerings so that we’re doing an incredibly extensive menu for a Sports Bar. The food at this location is 85% from scratch, which complicates things, but it’s worth it since we’re trying to do something special and make this a destination location. Actually, the size and scale of the menu coupled with the fact that we have more than 600 seats is proving the biggest challenge; because of these roadblocks, we’re toning our ambitions down a little so that the operation can deliver in the way planned. Despite these difficulties, we’re confident that Bobby V’s will be the destination location we originally envisioned.

Ken Swerdlick’s Approach:

We brought 19 years of experience as a dealer to the table and an extensive operating background to Sportech’s BV’s project in Stamford.

We have worked with Sportech’s executive chef Jordan Stein at their Windsor Locks facility, so we had a good sense of what they were trying to accomplish. In 2014, they asked us if we would support them, as they got ready to open an even bigger unit in Stamford.

So the next step was to meet Sportech’s president Ted Taylor. Not only did he prove to be a genius but he was really easy to work with. He has that ability to combine what’s on the spread sheet and drawing with the reality of the customer experience.

We were dealing with a chef in Jordan who also has a very definite vision in terms of what is going to be on that menu. So the floor plan and equipment package that we specified reflects that.  So we just went through it from top to bottom and I sat with him and we designed everything the way he wanted it for what he wanted to do there.

By coordinating Chef Jordan’s needs, we were able to coordinate with our CAD design team and the contractors to actually put walls in places that would optimize the performance of the kitchen.

Bobby V’s Restaurant and Sports Bar
The design and culinary teams at BV’s/Winners specified Southbend ranges and convection ovens to anchor the high volume needs of the new restaurant

Given that they are serving on two floors, we needed to create a way to accomplish that. So we added dumbwaiters and a finishing beverage station for the second floor.

Our priority in designing the hot side was again from the feedback from chef Jordan. We utilized a combination of Southbend and Jade ranges on the line to give us the firepower. We were able to look carefully at what peak dining prep times were in Windsor and see that “intell” in building out Stamford. He is trying to create an upscale bar menu. We also needed to keep in mind that we need the capacity for a focus on both large brunch and private dining.

So, my approach was to design a package for a straightforward menu. Jade makes a great bottom base with their char broilers and griddles that make that a breeze.  So you’re cooking steaks and burgers with the Southbend and then can finish them off at a very specific temperature with Jade.

We also added the latest in fryers with new technology from Pitco. Kudos to Sparks, they did a great job of executing on the custom-fab in the kitchen with little touches like soup wells and with the beverage stations that are essential to the flow.

One of the key elements in the project was the design of the bar. I knew that we could build the design around Krowne’s new modular system. We just finished a 40-foot project with them in Georgia. They were great partners and gave us the flexibility to create a design that gave us the back-bar support with a focus on under counter refrigeration that we needed to get this right.  The BV’s team wanted the flexibility to shift shelving on the fly and respond to their customers’ needs. The Krowne line delivered that solution.

One of the challenges of the project was how to run refrigeration upstairs. There was already a lot running in the walls so we tried to squeeze in the lines. Because the refrigeration was in the basement and the compressor was up on the roof we had to crane everything up there. So, we had to wait until they put this skating rink up there as I call it for us to be able to roll across and get our stuff up top.

Bobby V’s Restaurant and Sports Bar
Hoshizaki’s 1100 pound ice machines were chosen to backbone the BV’s/Winners extensive beverage program

My strategy was to place as much of the refrigeration as we possibly could right in the kitchen. So, we did it in a capsule packed unit there just because we had no walls to run any piping up and everything was blocked so we had to use a capsule back there. In the basement we actually put these four huge walk-ins including one dedicated to 32 IPA drafts. Nor-Lake did a great job of helping us design the walk-ins to meet the high volume demands of the project. We also took a look at the beverage volume in Windsor and selected Hoshizaki’s ice machines for their quality and durability to support the beverage program.

One of the challenges was to find the right position for a dish and ware washing suite. Even though the focus is on the bar menu, they wanted to be able to serve upscale with specials featuring salmon, steaks and seafood which all require washable china. So, we were able to find the right spot and install a CMA 44” machine to give us the capacity and energy efficiency that we were after.

Our approach to hoods and ventilation was very much a function of a tight timeline to get ready to open. We have been working closely with Paul Slotnick at Hood Tech and they coordinated with Captive-Aire.

The BV’s/Winners project really gave us the opportunity to see how much we’ve grown as a company. We were able to deliver our customer and his team the vision that they were after.

Cormac Byrne’s Approach:

JBMP was originally founded 25 years ago serving the high-end residential markets of Westchester and Fairfield Counties. Since 2004 the company has focused on the designing spectacular residential projects. We have also undertaken some select commercial projects, which require the level of detail of our residential projects. 

Before moving to CT and initially joining JBMP, I was located in Florida and worked on commercial projects from NC all the way down the East Coast ranging from Shopping Centers, Medical Buildings and exclusive waterfront Condominium developments mainly in South Florida. After transitioning to residential projects in CT we always endeavored to have a couple of commercial projects on the board at all times. 

Bobby V’s in Stamford is the second completed restaurant for the Sportech Group, the other being in Windsor Locks, CT. Kristen Rinaldi from our team previously owned a commercial kitchen design company so her experience was invaluable in designing the “back of the house” parts of the new restaurant. The rest of the design team was led by Jennifer Scrocca and Daniel Braca who made it all come together working closely with Sportech’s hands on CEO Ted Taylor. 

Cormac and Ted Taylor met while paddling the waters of Long Island Sound in an Hawaiian outrigger canoe. Sportech had recently acquired the OTB business in CT and Ted Taylor as a transplant thought that working with an Irish transplant might help with the interpretation of their vision for Sportech in CT. The sports betting industry is very different in England and Ireland and in looking to bring a more European feel to their venues it seemed that Sportech and JBMP would be a good partnership.

Sportech’s vision was to create new updated venues where a new younger and more affluent client base would come and enjoy great food and beverages in a friendly environment with top of the line sports entertainment and a discreet betting location. We looked at some of North America’s leading sports bars and strived to create the best new Sports Bar in the Tri-State area or possible even further. 

Tables and chairs were all custom designed by JBMP and Ted Taylor and the wood was procured two years ahead of time so that everything was dried and cured and ready for installation. The original building which we gutted entirely and rebuilt from the outside in was two stories of approx. 10,000 SF. To create a venue that was connected floor to floor we decided to carve a large hole in the second floor and locate the main TV wall at the rear of the opening enabling the installation of a spectacular feature wall that is essentially visible from both levels and connects the entire space both audibly and visually.

To learn more about Bobby V’s Restaurant and Sports Bar, please visit their website.