Located within the Langham Place hotel on Fifth Avenue in New York City, Michelin-starred Ai Fiori is a separate entity. But that doesn’t hinder the hotel’s symbiotic relationship with the restaurant as teams from both establishments work to create a seamless experience for guests.
“It’s an incredibly strong partnership that we have, and it’s gotten progressively stronger over the years,” says Jonna Gerlich, managing director of Altamarea Group, which owns Ai Fiori. “Our clientele is very, very similar. While we understand there are two different sets of owners, we also see the incredible value in making it seamless for all of our guests who walk through the doors, whether it’s coming to Ai Fiori and not staying in the hotel or vice versa.”
On any given night in the dining room at Ai Fiori, about 70 to 80 percent of guests are local clientele, such as corporate business diners, while the remainder are hotel guests, Gerlich says. Having the restaurant within the hotel also leads to a sales boost at certain mealtimes, particularly at breakfast, which is always popular with hotel guests. “It’s a captive audience for three meal periods a day,” Gerlich says. “There’s an additional layer of marketing and promotion that happens just naturally with packages that are created between the hotel and the restaurant for special occasions, weekends, and tasting menus that can go with a beautiful suite.”
Translated to “Among the Flowers” in Italian, Ai Fiori focuses on Italian Riviera and French cuisine. The breakfast buffet includes freshly squeezed juices, a selection of meats and cheeses, pastries, breads and bagels, but there is also an à la carte breakfast menu for hotel guests and other customers alike. For lunch, the restaurant offers anywhere from two to five courses while the dinner menu is a recommended prix fixe.
“One of the big pluses in having Ai Fiori here in the hotel is that they’re a known entity in the city, so they’ve established their own local market and local clientele that use their restaurant on a regular basis,” says Richard Bussiere, managing director of Langham Place. “So it’s been a real win-win scenario for both of us in terms of blending that synergy between a customer who comes to the restaurant locally versus benefiting from the volume that the hotel provides them.”
Bussiere says Langham Place does a lot of cross-marketing with Ai Fiori and brings the restaurant in to provide food for certain events. “When appropriate or requested, we bring Ai Fiori in to provide food to clients who want something outside of the banquet menu; they assist us with that, and it works very well,” he says. “It raises the profile of the hotel, as well as the profile for them. It exposes them to a customer base that otherwise might not have experienced Ai Fiori.”
In addition to the restaurant, Altamarea Group also owns and operates Bar Fiori, the bar and lounge at Langham Place. With an express lunch and happy hour menu, Bar Fiori has also been boosted by guests staying at the hotel or using its one full floor of meeting space. However, the guest increases aren’t only a benefit for Ai Fiori, as the hotel gets free promotion as the backdrop for a grand dining room. “I’m quite confident in saying that we pick up rooms business from the local market because they come to Ai Fiori,” Bussiere says. “They walk through our lobby and get a full experience of the service levels that we have and we pick up rooms because of that.”
Collaborative events, such as a four-course meal that brought in chefs from Langham Place locations in Asia, allow for the two entities to adopt each other as extensions of each brand and for employees to work together. “We really make sure the entire front desk [staff], the concierge, the public relations [group], and the sales team are all well-informed of everything going on in the restaurant and vice versa. We have monthly meetings specifically to discuss just that, and we invite key players from the hotel who are ambassadors for the property to dine with us, on occasion, so we can keep things relevant and exciting,” Gerlich says. “We’re the food and beverage heartbeat of the hotel [given] there is not another restaurant or bar in the space. That’s one of their big selling points, so we want to make sure [Langham Place] knows the restaurant is an extension of their brand.”