From a quick coffee to formal dinners, Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa offers a wide variety in its F&B offerings—all while focusing on locally sourced foods.
|Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa
Cabana Beach Club
Just the mention of the Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa evokes thoughts of world-class golf—after all, the property is on PGA Tour Boulevard and serves as the host hotel for the TPC Sawgrass Stadium course, home of The PLAYERS championship.
Offering members and guests access to a total of seven championship courses, this Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. property is also home to the 25,000-sq.-ft. Spa at Sawgrass and four resort swimming pools. At its Cabana Beach Club—a private club that gives members access to hotel room discounts, special events, premium golf and other amenities at the Sawgrass Marriott—members have access to 26 miles of beach and a wide array of beach rentals, as well as numerous activities ranging from an authentic Tropical Luau to Kids’ Night Out Programs.
It doesn’t end there, though.
A bevy of dining options at the Sawgrass Marriott combine to offer an exceptional blend of innovative cuisines and atmospheres designed to satisfy every appetite and preference. And with the property now emerging from a March 2010 reorganization (it filed for bankruptcy after a restructuring agreement with lenders could not be met, but continued normal operations and stayed current with all vendors and suppliers), food and beverage deserves a large part of the credit for its recovery, reports General Manager Jeff Mayers.
Room nights and other key measures have shown positive growth since March, Mayers says—and dining in particular has proved to be one of the property’s strongest draws for attracting more people, to the point where F&B now contributes almost 40% of total revenues. “Our restaurants have been very popular with local residents and resort guests,” he notes. “We have seen a tremendous response to our sustainable-cuisine initiatives, too.”
Food and beverage has made such strides at the property, adds Marketing Manager Jason Heath, that even though the Sawgrass Marriott will always be known first and foremost for its championship golf, “our exceptional and unique dining options are also gaining [their own] notoriety.”
Keeping the Vision
In addition to roomservice, catering and spa dining, Sawgrass’ F&B department operates five restaurants its the main resort:
- The Augustine Grille, offering seasonally influenced, fresh local ingredient-focused cuisine;
- Café on the Green, offering casual dining with a tropical flair and a view of the manicured 13th hole of THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass;
- 100th Hole, a panoramic poolside retreat, offering salads, burgers, hot dogs and frozen concoctions;
- V. Kelly’s Pub, serving traditional American tavern fare;
- The Lobby Bar, serving hand-crafted drinks and cocktail party snacks in a lively, interactive living-room setting.
Sawgrass also offers the following dining options at its nearby Cabana Beach Club:
- 619 Ocean View, serving Mediterranean-inspired fresh seafood, grilled steaks, and nightly specials;
- Sharkey’s seasonal beachside cafe;
- Sea Porch Bar & Grill, serving lunch and dinner in a casual, nautically themed restaurant.
Executive Chef David Scalise, who came to Sawgrass in 2008 from the Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort & Spa in Dana Point, Calif., feels that the wide variety of dining experiences and price points offered by these outlets has helped to make the resort more appealing to a diverse clientele.
|F&B Outlets at Sawgrass Marriott
The Augustine Grille
Café on the Green
V. Kelly’s Pub
The Lobby Bar
Cabana Beach Club
619 Ocean View
Sea Porch Bar & Grill
“From families on vacation, golf tournaments and business conferences, to local guests and spa members who demand the freshest, highest-quality and widest variety of food, I coordinate all of the resort’s culinary teams to keep a single vision of satisfying the customer,” says Scalise. “They are our raison d’être.”
F&B Director Mark Butcher agrees. Butcher came to the property in 2009 from a five-diamond restaurant, The Oakroom at the Seelbach Hilton in Louisville, Ky., where he first experimented with local sourcing. After arriving at the Sawgrass Marriott, Butcher found that the property was more focused on cost instead of quality. So he and Scalise set about reengineering the purchasing plan.
“David and I hadn’t met before I came here, but we quickly realized we both had a passion for high-quality foods,” says Butcher. “We decided to incorporate more locally sourced foods, as well as higher-quality products, into our menus.”
Even with these initiatives, food costs have remained fairly steady from years past, he notes. Lower transportation costs for locally sourced products, combined with working with growers who sell at wholesale prices, has balanced out any higher costs tied to procuring better-quality foods, he explains.
Using in-house resources and a little ingenuity, the Sawgrass Marriott F&B operation has succeeded in becoming more self-reliant. For example, the property recently built, and is now operating, its own dry-aging facility for beef. It also bakes almost all of its own breads.
And, while last year Scalise was primarily limited to what farmers’ markets and growers’ co-ops had to offer, he has since been working directly with individual farms, down to a level of detail that includes what seeds to plant for the specific varieties of produce he wants for the property’s various upcoming menus.
Plans also call for Sawgrass to purchase a hydroponic lettuce farm that will provide all of the lettuce needed for its outlets. In 2011, Scalise says, there will be “lettuces that look like flowers,” heirloom tomatoes and more to enjoy from each season’s harvest.
The new plan will have the greatest effect in the spring, winter and fall (in northern Florida, summer is the off-season, though it does provide some eggplant and pepper varieties, along with some root vegetables). “We’ve done some ‘guerilla gardening,’ where we plant herbs in various parts of the grounds,” Butcher says. “The banquet staff recently harvested the last of the annual herbs, and ended up marinating vegetables for 400 people. It was a hit.”
Kids are getting into the act, too. “Our Chef de Cuisine, Brett Smith, has taken note of how his son loves to interact with his food—in fact, if his son sees a chicken, he doesn’t want to pet it, he wants to eat it,” Butcher says with a laugh. “With that in mind, Brett is developing a children’s program where we have the kids of guests harvest some fresh mint, for example, that they can later add to their fruit kabob.”
Smith has also added child-friendly menu items, such as fruit and veggie smoothies.
Making Menu Magic
You can buy the best ingredients in the world, but without a good menu, it’s all for naught. The first round of menus under Scalise’s supervision debuted in June and focused primarily on seasonality. The second round, unveiled in mid-December, featured the results of working more closely with local growers—and the third round, scheduled for this spring, will take that focus to an even stronger level.
“So far the menus have been very well-received,” says Scalise. “Our check averages are up, and we’re getting great feedback.”
The menu-writing process is collaborative, Butcher notes, and takes about four weeks to complete. “When the local growers learned that we were interested, they came to talk to us,” he says. Vineyard owners have also become part of the process. “The Augustine Grille has the broadest wine menu,” Butcher reports, “but we are continuing to expand our wine offerings at the other outlets as well.”
The chefs and restaurant managers at the individual outlets, who are encouraged to run their day-to-day operations almost as independent entities, also collaborate with Scalise and Butcher on menu planning and execution. And the public plays a role in the process as well; Scalise says he and Butcher listen closely to customer feedback from all of the outlets—identifying trends not only for sustainably grown food, but for more active food stations at events.
“We’re finding that smaller food portions are the rage right now, as more of our guests are interested in experiencing a variety of options at each meal,” says Scalise.
The resort is also reaching out to the community to help raise its profile as a leader in the sustainability movement, says Mayers. “One recent fundraiser we hosted at The Augustine Grille raised $7,100 for Beaches Local Food Network’s Children’s Gardening Program and the Slow Food First Coast’s school garden installations,” he reports.
Overall, says Scalise, “Our culinary team is driven by our shared vision of constantly improving ourselves and our offerings,” he says. “We invite our culinary team to be involved in the creative process of menu development, and we encourage them to grow their culinary talents whenever possible.
“Plus,” he adds, “our training never stops. We train daily in many different aspects of our culinary operations.”
Read about how The Augustine Grill at Sawgrass Marriott earned the “Snail of Approval” for its sustainability initiatives here.
|Smart Phones, Happy CustomersThe Sawgrass Marriott’s F&B department is harnessing a relatively new wrinkle in social media marketing: Foursquare. Created in 2009 and currently boasting approximately 4.5 million registered users worldwide, this location-based program is designed to work with a user’s phone or mobile device, so he or she can “check in” at a venue. The user’s friends can see where she or he is at a given time, in case they want to meet up or check out the venue for themselves. The user benefits not only by announcing to the world at large the cool places she or he has been, but also receives points, exclusive discounts and “badges.” (The next time someone brags he is “mayor” of a local watering hole, he just might have the tag on his Foursquare profile to prove it.)
Sawgrass’ Executive Chef David Scalise says that offering exclusive drink specials to Foursquare members who check in at one of the resort’s restaurants has been a success. “Foursquare is a way for us to tap into smart phones, and gives our guests a new way of exploring our resort,” he says.
According to Foursquare.com, there are currently four ways to create special deals for guests:
For more on participating in Foursquare, go to http://foursquare.com/businesses/