Tired Restaurant Awakens
Source: Hotel F&B Magazine
By: Denny Lewis
Since the 1980s, Danfords Hotel & Marina in picturesque Port Jefferson, New York, had ridden the popularity of its restaurant 25 East, with its panoramic dining room view of Port Jefferson Harbor, nautical embellishments, and al fresco Admiral's Deck.
But when sales began lagging outside the summer and holiday peaks, Director of F&B Roy Feicco looked at the less-than-optimal performance of the space and decided a restaurant renovation, of the menu as well as the décor, should be included in the planned revitalization of the rest of the Danfords property.
Business had become more seasonal," Feicco says. "We weren't established as a destination, so we lost a lot of revenue—and left revenue on the table."
In the summer, 25 East was "busy morning, noon, and night," with tourists, guests, and locals hungry for a water view, but in winter, Feicco had to "nurture every little thing" to get by on the business of ferry riders and mostly older locals. His idea was to transform 25 East into a destination restaurant—Wave Restaurant & Lounge—that would please old devotees and attract new clientele.
Feicco's transformation of the establishment was both physical and conceptual. Physically, the antiquated nautical theme (alluding to Port Jeff's shipbuilding and whaling past), dark wood, and poor flow of 25 East became a bright, contemporary space with more subtle nautical notes and a lounge to invite a vibrant social scene. Conceptually, food and beverage offerings became more modern and adventurous, with elements to bring in a younger demographic.
Wave's food sales this year are double 25 East's last year sales. The lounge has doubled bar sales, and the beverage-to-food ratio has increased by 10 percent (with a 17 percent rise in wine bottle sales, largely from suggested wine pairings on the menu).
The addition of the Wave lounge area in particular has been a hit. A younger crowd gathers for pre-dinner drinks and late-night cocktails in the space featuring sofa seating, a white baby grand piano, and wall-mounted plasma screen TVs. Feicco says cocktail sales are up, largely due to the lounge's appeal. Guests enter the restaurant through the lounge; a glass wall divider lessens noise while allowing a separate-but-same feeling. A new tapas menu has also been successful in the lounge, with some guests opting to eat their entire meals there.
The tapas menu is just one of the restaurant's culinary updates. Chef Paul Govin devised an innovative dinner menu of seaside favorites, Asian-tinged offerings, and à la carte items to modernize Wave. The menu is seafood-heavy, with the "massive sellers"—Gorgonzola and Pine Nut-Crusted Chilean Sea Bass, Mango-Chili Tuna, Crab Cakes with Corn Salsa and Chipotle Remoulade, and Pan-Seared Salmon—returning, but with a fresh presentation.
Govin follows Asian influence with Black Cod Char Sui and Organic Soha-Wakame Salad, along with bento boxes featuring a variety of sushi and rolls, including Tuna Nigiri, Spicy Tuna Maki, and the Wave Roll with lobster, crab, avocado, sesame, cucumber, tobiko, and ponzu sauce. While surf is the focus, turf items such as Herb-Rubbed New York Shell Steak and Pulled Pork Sliders are also available.
Wave has become a marketing tool for Danfords banquet and catering services, enhanced by the hotel's overall facelift. Feicco says the restaurant's reformulation has boosted event sales.
"Some people never see one of our guestrooms, but everyone sees the restaurant," he says, estimating that 85 percent of his current customers are destination diners. "We have identity now," Feicco continues. "People know us as 'Wave,' rather than just 'the restaurant at Danfords.'"