Westin Whistler eatery rebranding pays off

WHISTLER, BC—Westin Resort & Spa in Whistler, BC, is home to a renovated and rebranded eatery, Grill & Vine, which opened on Nov. 29.

By Don Douloff

WHISTLER,
BC—Westin Resort & Spa in Whistler, BC, is home to a renovated and
rebranded eatery, Grill & Vine, which opened on Nov. 29.
The renovation of the restaurant cost $600,000.

“We
wanted to increase our in-house and external capture,” Westin Whistler
general manager Tony Cary-Barnard told PRN. Grill & Vine aims to
attract hotel guests, the local Whistler population and guests at other
hotels in the village in order to grow overall revenue, he said.

“Cover
growth in December year-over-year was, overall, 60 per cent (including
breakfast, après ski, dinner and the grab-and-go area offering Starbucks
espresso-based beverages, sandwiches, salads and fresh fruit) and
dinner covers grew by 80 per cent,” according to Cary-Barnard.

He
added that internal and external capture for the month grew by 25 per
cent and capture with families also increased. Average food check at
dinner in December was $34 per person, he said.

In addition to
increasing revenue, the Starwood/Whistler team wanted the new
restaurant to complement Westin’s lifestyle branding.

“We
didn’t want just another hotel restaurant—we wanted something unique,”
said Cary-Barnard. The restaurant had operated under the previous brand
of Aubergine Grill since the hotel’s launch in 2000.

The team
looked to the Grill & Vine at the Westin San Francisco Airport in
California, which opened in 2012, for inspiration. Components of the San
Francisco restaurant incorporated into the Whistler eatery include a
design that updates the classic grill: varied seating options, including
communal tables, a farm-to-table menu highlighted by grilled items and
small, shared plates, and a wine program featuring by-the-glass vintages
dispensed from an Enomatic system, augmented by flights and tastings.

For
Whistler, the team sought to “take the Grill & Vine concept to the
next level,” Cary-Barnard said. To that end, they added several new
features: a stone pizza oven turning out Neapolitan-style pies; an open
kitchen along the back wall and a grab-and-go, which also offers the
full Grill & Vine menu for takeout, said Cary-Barnard.

Pizza is important to attract families (a key demographic at the Whistler property), said Cary-Barnard.

Overseeing
the kitchen is Vancouver-born executive chef Brad Cumming, who favours
putting a modern, local spin on traditional dishes, said Cary-Barnard.
Whenever possible, food is sourced from local suppliers.

Menu
items include a margherita pizza, wild boar lasagna with smoked
mozzarella and Lois Lake steelhead salmon with pickled shallots.

As
a complement to the food, there’s a 100-label wine list, half of which
are Canadian labels. The Enomatic system—which preserves wine for up to
30 days via inert gas—dispenses 16 vintages by the glass. Eight draft
and a selection of 12 bottled beers, along with 24 cocktails, round out
the drink menu.

The Grill & Vine team worked with
Vancouver’s B+H CHIL Design to create an open, 3,300-square-foot,
105-seat space. Design elements include white oak accents, stone pillars
and dark slate tiles.

Looking ahead, Cary-Barnard said Westin
parent company Starwood Hotels and Resorts is exploring additional
options and more Grill & Vine locations are “in the works,” but none
have been finalized.

From beginning to launch, the Westin
Whistler Grill & Vine rebranding was a two-year process that
involved the Starwood team, the hotel’s food and beverage manager, Jeff
O’Brien, Cumming and Cary-Barnard, who joined the property just over two
and a half years ago.