When Barbara Readey took over the general manager position at The Vinoy Renaissance Resort & Golf Club in St. Petersburg, Fla., last March, one of her first objectives was to ramp up its food and beverage efforts. During Readey’s past 29 years in the hotel industry, she has learned that innovative thinking leads to revenue-generating ideas. To kickstart the process, Readey is focusing on culinary innovations at the resort’s signature steakhouse, Fred’s.
“Innovation is key to attracting new consumers, as foodies and the current generation focus heavily on flavor profiles,” Readey says. “The Vinoy utilizes F&B to grow with today’s trends while maintaining the resort’s historic charm.”
As part of the restructuring, Fred’s Executive Chef Mark Heimann is also serving as director of restaurant operations at the resort, which has five F&B outlets. They also brought on Alon Hershkowitz, who has more than 27 years of culinary experience, as executive sous chef.
Readey is paving the way for a fun, interactive, and contemporary food scene that also embraces The Vinoy’s history, which dates back to 1925. A refreshed look and new menu at Fred’s are in the planning stages. The restaurant is named after New York developer Fred Guest, who was instrumental in re-opening The Vinoy in the early 1990s after it sat unoccupied for 16 years. As of now, Fred’s is only open for dinner for overnight resort guests and Vinoy Club members. “Currently, Fred’s is reminiscent of an original Polo Club where guests enjoy a relaxing atmosphere and old-world charm,” Readey says.
To attract new guests and boost revenue, Fred’s has been hosting pop-up events, for which Heimann creates one-night menu concepts. Themes so far have included Spanish tapas, NFL sports bar, Italian wine bar, Peruvian, 1920s speakeasy, French brassier, and seafood house. “A week prior to the event, The Vinoy sends out clues and basic information regarding the theme and menu for the upcoming pop-up, then the week of the event the resort reveals the theme and menu so guest can make their reservations,” Readey explains.
The Vinoy also places a heavy emphasis on innovative beverages. In fact, Readey says the resort refers to F&B as B&F. “Unlike most, we place beverage at the forefront of the meal,” she says. In response to consumers’ growing interest in the craft cocktail movement, the resort introduced a “Behind the Bar” series to educate and engage guests on different spirits. The events allow Vinoy bartenders to show their stuff through live demonstrations and interactions with guests, who can curate their own specialty cocktails using the spotlighted liquor of the night.
To take it a step further, The Vinoy recently debuted its own craft beer, Paul’s Landing, through a collaboration with locally based 3 Daughters Brewing. They wanted to create a beer that would fit the history of The Vinoy, which was once the site of an orange grove. While conducting researching, they uncovered the story of William Paul, who helped pioneer not only the location where resort now sits but also planted the first 50 orange seedlings. “The refreshing citrus, wheat, local Florida flavors of this chef-crafted beer perfectly tie into the history of The Vinoy,” Readey says.
Prior to joining The Vinoy, Readey was GM at Miami Marriott Biscayne Bay. The Vinoy’s reputation and St. Petersburg itself are big reasons she took the new job. “The destination of St. Petersburg truly is a hidden gem, which has exploded within the past year,” she says. “As The Vinoy is an iconic resort with unlimited opportunity to please our guests, I knew this was the perfect fit for me.”