The $1.2 billion Resorts World Catskills has opened its doors in Monticello, NY and is the largest full-scale casino in New York and bringing hope that it can revive the region’s once robust tourism industry.
The 18-story, gleaming Resorts hotel tower in Thompson, Sullivan County, is part of the 1.6 million-square-foot resort on property that was once home to the Concord Hotel during the Borscht Belt-era of the Catskills. The hotel tower has 332 all-suite rooms, as well as villas with their own pools for big spenders on a separate floor. High rollers can even get their own private gambling rooms with a butler.
Resorts World Catskills has many dining options from Asian fine dining to a casual bar & grill. Celebrity Chef Scott Conant has brought his Cellaio steak house concept to the hotel. The DoubleTop Bar & Grill features many craft beers on tap and live bands. Comfort food is the focus at the 24/7 Diner. The RW Food Hall and Good Friends Market offer many grab and go options. The casino also has two entertainment bars in the casino and a sports bar — which will be ready to convert to a sports-betting book, if New York ultimately legalizes.
Total Food Service had the opportunity to go behind the scenes of this much anticipated opening of Resorts World Catskills dining options.
The Operator: Michael Beford, Director of Food and Beverage,
Resorts World Catskills, Monticello, NY
The Kitchen Consultant: Steve Carlson, President,
Rippe Associates, Minneapolis, MN
The Equipment and Supply Dealer: Bill Keith, Project Manager,
BHS Equipment Solutions, Rochester, NY
(Photos by Dave Coppola)
Michael Beford’s Approach
Our goal from the beginning has been to ensure a food and beverage experience that aligns our broader vision: to provide guests with world-class offerings, service, and experiences. My background is in what you would call theatrical culinary destinations that combine great food, special aesthetic appeal and hip nightlife.
Before coming to Resorts World, I was at The TAO GROUP at the Dream Hotel in Manhattan, managing multiple nightclubs and restaurants for the EMM Group. Before NYC, I managed in overseeing numerous boutique restaurants in Charleston, S.C., which prepared me well for overseeing Resorts World Catskills’ culinary and nightlife venues.
Our approach in building out the restaurants was to change the mid set of casino food service. At many casinos, F+B is looked at as an amenity. We want to make each outlet a memorable experience of itself so that you know people are coming back regardless of the casino.
“The opportunity to positively influence our guests’ overall experience is what attracted me to this position. Opening a property is one thing. Making it a destination is one of the most exciting things someone in my business can be a part of.” So each of our food markets offer several quick-service outlets that are unique to the property. The RW Food Hall offers several different food concepts, while the Good Friends Market focuses on Asian fast-casual options.
We’re bringing world-class flavors and cuisine to our property for guests to enjoy, so when they get a bowl of dim sum from Good Friends Market, they’ll feel like they’re getting something from a secret place in Chinatown. We were able to create something special with our Chinese market concept. It really brings together the best of fresh cooking and technology. Our guests order from a kiosk but they have a chinese street food experience as they see their food being prepared in a glass in kitchen. Lotus offers high-end, delicious Asian cuisine that is hand-crafted by a Hong Kong trained chef.
We are very excited about our partnership with celebrity Chef Scott Conant, who will open Cellaio, a fine dining Italian Steakhouse concept. We felt that a key to that restaurant would be to go big with 200 plus seats that could support a very special wine list.
Additional options for our guest include The Doubletop Bar & Grill, a sports bar offering craft beers and dishes made with locally sourced and organic products and 24/7 Diner, an always-open diner offering comfort food classics. We wanted a design with Doubletap that would give us flexibility. Our goal was to execute a 24/7 diner concept but to do it in a very contemporary non-diner look. We’ve accomplished that with the right lighting and music. We’re taking classic dishes from around the world that people love and are creating the best versions of them for our guests.
We want to create an unforgettable experience for our guests and every decision we’ve made has been with that in mind.
Steve Carlson’s Approach
Since our founding in 1981, Rippe Associates has focused on understanding the unique culture and needs of each client and their project goals. Through a collaborative process, we provide expertise and creative solutions, while asking questions and soliciting client feedback. We use the diverse backgrounds of our 28 staff members, ranging from operations to construction, and the experience gained from hundreds of successful projects, to develop personalized solutions. Our work in multiple segments, including education, healthcare and hospitality, is shared across our teams to the benefit of all projects. As independent consultants, we can represent the best interests of our clients. Rippe is well-regarded for crafting high quality operational solutions for the global foodservice community. From master planning through design, to operational assessments and implementation guidance, our mission is to deliver Kitchens that work™.
We bring an extensive background in working within the casino segment. It really started in the early 1990’s when we were asked to design a commissary for Grand Casino, Tunica, Mississippi. Casinos are now one of three major market segments that our office serves.
The Rippe team at Resorts World-Catskills consisted of Mike Wrase, Shelby Wurscher, Trish Jass and myself all based out of Minneapolis. It’s interesting to look at our individual backgrounds to see what we each brought to the project.
I was always interested in cooking and tried the operations world as a cook for awhile, but realized I wasn’t going to be a great chef. I was also always interested in building and construction and when I was ¾ of the way through college, I found there was such an industry as Foodservice Design Consulting.
For Mike it was his enjoyment of the building and construction field but he didn’t want to be out in the elements. When he found he had a knack for drawing things he went into drafting. He was able to combine that with his experience at Pizza Hut.
Shelby enjoyed the art aspect of design and was drawn towards architecture. She stumbled into the foodservice world and has found it to be a great home due to her love of food and cocktails. Finally, Trish brought a great background from Hobart.
We had previously worked with the architect, JCJ, on Calder Casino and St Regis Mohawk through some former Grand Casino contacts. We joined the team for this project in 2012 when the project was a Racino. When Resorts World Catskills won one of the New York casino licenses, the scope changed to a five-star resort.
From our work on various projects we understood that the F&B venues at Resorts World Catskills needed to be a part of the amenities that would attract an international gamer. Looking to draw the same clientele that travel to Las Vegas and Macau.
We look at the opportunity in a ground-up casino, to properly organize the storage and workflow within foodservice. When working on projects where the property has expanded multiple times over a few decades, you end up with each venue having its own storage and production. Here we were able to create shared storage and production and plan the delivery routes through the back-of-house so deliveries to the individual venues did not have to go across the casino floor.
Our approach to the selection of kitchen equipment for each venue is driven by the menus. This was a bit more difficult because there was not a chef on board at the time of planning. We created some sample menus for the Owner to approve so we could finalize the cooking equipment and build in future flexibility for changes to the menu down the road.
We met with Chef Scott Conant and his team a few times to plan the kitchen and equipment for his restaurant at the property.
We were also able to call on the breadth of our practice with the creation of the employee cafeteria. A large part of the business in our office is Higher Education. We used that experience, to create an employee cafeteria that is inline with what is expected and offered in those environments to assist with employee hiring and retention.
We were excited when we saw that we were going to be able to team with Albers on the project to complete the custom fabrication. We have worked with Albers for many years and were excited they were working on this complex project. We have a great working relationship with them and know their ability to handle all sizes of projects, small and large. When they have questions or encounter a challenge, they work to solve the problem with the best outcome for the Owner and end user.
As you can well imagine when you work on a project of this size there are a number of valuable take-aways. We had the opportunity to work extensively with the Asian chefs and learned a lot about equipment and layouts necessary to accommodate this style of preparation that we have not experienced on previous projects. Working with Scott Conant and his team provided a unique opportunity to learn what he was trying to accomplish with his menu. We also had to deal with figuring out how to get liquor, beer, wine and soda from the warehouse to the various venues throughout the casino. Due to the long line runs, some almost 1000 feet, we had to work closely with manufacturers to find out how to accomplish this without losing product quality.
Bill Keith’s Approach
We had bid the Resorts World Catskills project through the General Contractor LP Ciminelli. We had worked with them on another casino project. Keep in mind that our role in the project was to support the Rippe consulting and JCJ teams by providing everything for specification.
We were focused on the employee dining room, which is on a separate level from the gaming, the food court that is driven by touch screen ordering, a sport bar, stand alone bars and their Asian sit down and fast casual concepts. The hotel itself has the Scott Conant project and the VIP level that has a kitchen that will serve guests pool side.
Again, we were there to support the consultant Rippe. Typically when we design a restaurant, I take the total seating then talk about the menu with the chef, so that the equipment package can handle the projected volume. So in a case like this you need to have enough woks to handle all of the asian cuisine.
The Resorts World Catskills equipment package included Alto Shaam, Blodgett, Carpigiani, Cleveland, Rational, Randell, Pitco fryers and EasyBar. The cooking was split between Vulcan and Jade. Hobart’s flight machine was specified to handle the large volume. Can’t say enough about Albers ability to execute 198 pages of shop drawings to complete the custom fab. We’ve got RPI wine cases that will be used on the project because we knew they would get it right.
Our role at BHS was to provide detailed installation documentation in terms of all of the mechanical service that would be needed for the equipment. We took the architectural drawings and created technical specifications for each piece of equipment. So we then work with the trades to make sure that each of the connections are in the right spot so that there are no hitches when the equipment is installed. To accomplish that goal, we needed the right guy on site. We found him with Mike Jansen, I can’t say enough about the job he continues to do for us.
Bottom line is our role is interpretation of the specification and ordering the product accurately, installing and then coordinating installation and connectivity. Lots of field measuring and getting it right. I really came away with an appreciation for how important the planning process is. You simply can’t start soon enough with a goal of getting it right.
To learn more about Resorts World Catskills, visit their website.