Wave Resort Is Shifting Perceptions of the Jersey Shore

Wave Resort

Traditionally, the Jersey Shore is known for its boardwalks, arcades, and food stands. But Wave Resort in the Pier Village neighborhood of Long Branch, New Jersey, is actively changing the landscape of the traditional Jersey Shore aesthetic. Opened in 2019, Wave Resort has been focused on ways “to bring a new twist to the Jersey Shore,” says Complex General Manager Robert Dunic, and the property has focused on recent updates to continue shifting the perception of the area.

The 67-key Wave Resort is adjacent to the Pier Village boardwalk, and Dunic says being “directly on the beach is something our guests love, which is fabulous, being able to walk outside or eat outside on the boardwalk and have nothing obstructing your view of the ocean.” And like a wave, every room on-property is different, so guests can have a new vacation experience every time they stay at Wave Resort.

To continue giving the Jersey Shore a nontraditional look and feel, the property recently updated its five food and beverage concepts and brought in Executive Chef Charles Vogt Jr. to lead culinary operations at the resort. Vogt curated the reinvented menu for the property’s 100 OCEAN and Branch Cantina outlets, which are an integral part of Wave Resort’s success as indoor dining reopens in New Jersey.

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Of the concepts updated by Vogt, 100 OCEAN serves as the property’s full-service upscale restaurant that serves modernized comfort food. The 100 OCEAN restaurant has an “upscale beverage program with fresh juices, fresh mint, and spirits,” says Joe Del Guidice, senior vice president of operations for PM Hotel Group. And at 100 OCEAN, guests are welcome to dine both inside and outside.

Branch Cantina’s menu was also updated by Vogt, which serves “a spin on a classic Mexican fiesta,” says Del Guidice. He adds that the rebranded program brings in a food truck for Branch Cantina, and guests relaxing on the beach can order from the cart. The eatery is also offering a variety of margarita flavors in addition to multiple tequila types.

And THE PATIO is the property’s newest concept, which serves lunch and brunch, craft cocktails, and even VIP lounge experiences. As Pier Village’s first outdoor lounge, it brings a sense of exclusivity to the neighborhood, which contrasts the Jersey Shore’s typically family-friendly atmosphere. Del Guidice says THE PATIO has “spirits, string lighting, uplighting, a gazebo bar, frozen frosés, margaritas, and an array of frozen batch drinks.”

From the pool deck, guests are able to choose, select, and order food and beverage from any of the property’s outlets, and team members then deliver the customers’ orders. Wave Resort is partnering with Aperol Spritz, featuring an orange theme throughout the summer season that compliments the outlet’s raw bar. Del Guidice and Dunic say there will be a variety of activations that occur in the space, too. Del Guidice adds, “Whether you’re out on the chairs with the umbrellas celebrating the waves, or you’re at the Wave, either couples, families, or just having some downtime, you can order food and beverage or drinks to just about anywhere on the property.”

The updated food and beverage outlets also support guests that are COVID-conscious as the state of New Jersey reopens. Del Guidice adds, “If you’re more COVID shy or you want to find a quiet place in this hotel, there’s so many opportunities and areas just to go sit by yourself, whether it’s indoors or outdoors. If you don’t want to be indoors with COVID, you can go to any of these locations or you can find a quiet spot somewhere in the hotel or outside and order food to where you’re sitting.”

Offering a variety of seating has not been the only way Wave Resort has made COVID-conscious guests feel more comfortable during the pandemic. Over 50 percent of Wave Resort’s employees are Long Branch residents, and the property was able to retain team members safely throughout the pandemic. Dunic says that “unlike some of the other hotels in the area that were forced to close during COVID, we did not. We stayed open the entire time.” Although they had to stop their restaurant operations, Dunic adds, “I’m proud of the fact that we were able to operate. We housed a lot of essential works, FEMA, nurses, and people who were really busting their humps to get this addressed…And I’m proud that that was a way of both keeping people employed and also serving essential workers throughout the pandemic that we were able to really strengthen our ties within the neighborhood.”

As the Jersey Shore reshapes and remolds, both Dunic and Del Guidice see more nontraditional options like Wave Resort—and its sister property Bungalow Hotel two blocks away on the other side of the boardwalk—popping up along the coast. Del Guidice says, “Especially during COVID, we realized that drive-up was more important than fly, so we capitalized on that. Going forward, as people experience it, I think you’re going to start seeing a little bit further out—maybe longer drives but also some flights—because of how unique this building is, how different it is, and how it presents itself on the Jersey Shore.”

And Dunic adds, “Even some of the other new builds are a little bit more traditional than we are. We wanted to be a little bit more New York than the Jersey Shore had been historically, a little bit trendier, just a little bit more upscale. I don’t know what the long-term impact is going to be of a successful Wave Resort or Bungalow Hotel new-builds later on. But what I’m saying is it certainly has illustrated that there’s demand for it.”

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Robin McLaughlin is associate editor of LODGING.