Design Thinking: Resort Experiences for the Group Traveler

6 Best Practices for the Design of conference event amenities influenced by the preferences of meeting planners, and the attendees they represent.

Designing Experiences for the Group Traveler,  By HBG Design, with insights from Conference & Meeting Planner, Grace L. Jan, CMP, CAE, Director, Sales Operations and Corporate Events, Supernus Pharmaceuticals. Jan is a Maryland-based conferences and meetings planner with 35 years in corporate events.

 

At HBG, we are designing experiences that extend the group traveler's resort journey beyond the conference/event center.

Designing Experiences Group Traveler - Oaklawn Event Center, Hot Springs, AR

Designing Experiences for the Group TravelerMulti-purpose convention, conference and performance event amenities have become important economic drivers for resort Owners looking to round out their revenue generating opportunities. After years of remote work and employee separation, businesses are starting to find ways to bring their employees together, and regional resorts can offer fun and convenient locations to host business gatherings and meetings. At HBG, our event amenity designs for the group traveler have garnered national recognition as being well-designed, exciting, and flexible spaces that are also operationally and financially successful. 

After we successfully completed the stunning designs of the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center in Orlando, FL, and the Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center in Grapevine, TX, HBG Design adopted our guest-focused design philosophy. We create event amenities that cater to the needs of both meeting attendees and planners, focusing on seamless accessibility and easy navigation to a diverse range of revenue-generating experiences.

When it comes to hosting successful events of all sizes, the design of multi-purpose resort spaces that can "multi-task" between business and leisure resort guests is paramount. Group travelers typically visit resorts during mid-week for conferences, trade shows, and meetings. They want services and spaces that support networking, relationship-building, learning, entertainment, and relaxation, requiring a variety of amenity options and wayfinding clarity to allow the group traveler's experience to extend beyond the conference and event center.

When it comes to choosing a conference event resort for their attendees, meeting planners have specific preferences and “must-haves” on their checklists. These insights can help resort Owners and designers target experiences that resonate with event guests:

 

Designing Experiences Group Traveler - Oaklawn Event Center, Hot Springs, AR

Designing Experiences Group Traveler - Oaklawn Event Center, Hot Springs, AR

1. High-quality service and convenience.

Regardless of the age of the hotel, delivering exceptional service is crucial. The first impressions made by bellmen and front desk staff significantly impact attendees' experiences.

To aid service and guest convenience, many newer properties are facilitating faster check-ins through technology such as their hotel apps, allowing guests to use their smartphones as room keys. This streamlined process enhances efficiency and improves guests' overall experience. In-room iPads to help enhance on-demand service from the resort is also an important feature, as seen at Oaklawn Racing and Gaming Resort, Hot Springs, Arkansas (images at left and right).

2. Ease of wayfinding access between the hotel and the event amenities is a priority.

HBG designers often plan our clients' resorts so that the hotel elevator lobby is located at the central point between each amenity element, making use of horizontal and vertical circulation. For example, at Four Winds Casino Hotel and Spa in South Bend, Indiana, HBG designers situated the main elevator lobby between the hotel registration desk and the main escalator access to the Ribbon Town Conference and Event Center. The elevator also takes group travelers directly to the second level event pre-function lounge, and continues upward to the third floor hospitality suites and the hotel's Edgewater Café bar and restaurant. This third level was planned and designed as break-out reception and gathering space in support of the resort's event activities.

3. Approachable comfort and luxury.

To ensure the comfort of group travelers, guestroom designs should prioritize approachable luxury, offering a variety of room layouts, selections and premium amenities, including quality bedding, toiletries, and luxuriously appointed bathrooms. Features like choices of pillow types, and complimentary robes and bottles of water in guestrooms go a long way in enhancing comfort.

Designing Experiences for the Group Traveler4. Functional meeting spaces and audio-visual technology

To attract and retain repeat meeting planner business, your event amenities must offer well-designed, flexible meeting spaces of diverse sizes and configurations to cater to a range of meeting needs. Outdoor landscaped event patios, terraces or lawns also offer distinct areas for gathering, weather permitting.

The Ribbon Town Conference and Event Center at Four Winds South Bend has strategically utilized the entire second floor to cater to both informal and formal gatherings. This includes areas for networking before events, with seating groups, two bars and an outdoor terrace, as well as designated spaces for formal meetings. To allow for flexibility and accommodate multiple groups, the smaller meeting rooms are located at the opposite end of the conference and event center from the main 10,000 SF ballroom. Additionally, the ballroom can be divided to create smaller meeting room spaces when needed. The planning and design of all areas have been well thought out with integrated A/V technology to enhance the space's suitability for high-end conferences and events.

Designing Experiences Group Traveler - The Guest House at Graceland Resort Conference Center, Memphis, TNEstablishing a strong partnership with a resort's in-house AV is essential for meeting planners. Offering reasonable prices for audio-visual services and packages will make a resort stand out to obtain more group business. Additionally, addressing the basic need for complimentary Wi-Fi for all guests and groups will differentiate a resort and boost its appeal for group bookings. By organizing focus groups with experienced meeting planners, resorts can gather valuable insights on necessary improvements in service and for upcoming renovations or new build projects.

5. Enhanced food options.

Resorts are focusing on offering better food options in their outlets, catering to attendees' varying dietary preferences and needs for grab and go snacks, bars and lounges for informal F&B centered meetings, and higher end F&B for both intimate and group dining. Additionally, coffee break and break-out areas are crucial in providing attendees with private spaces for networking and respite between sessions. This helps create a more inclusive environment and enhances the overall satisfaction of meeting attendees.

The group traveler to Oaklawn Racing and Gaming in Hot Springs, Arkansas, can partake from a number of restaurant offerings within reach of the event space--from the food court concourse, to the high end Bugler restaurant and First Turn bar, and The OAK Room and Bar. Oaklawn, with its unique dining offerings, makes for a unique conference and meeting location due to its 100+ year history of thoroughbred racing, an upscale design with convenience on a walkable scale, and views to the racetrack and Hot Springs' beautiful landscape beyond.

6. Mindfulness and well-being amenities.

As more guests incorporate mindfulness into their lives, a resort’s event amenities must adapt by providing different spa offerings and promoting spaces for relaxation. On-site spas can provide much-needed relaxation experiences after long days of sessions and networking events. Features like healthy menus, spas and fitness classes, and even in-room yoga mats or Peloton bikes offer a touch of home while traveling. Oaklawn's Astral Spa and Four Winds South Bend's Cedar Spa are both luxuriously designed spas near to the conference/event center and hotel amenities of each resort, offering full spa services and relaxing aqua thermal and lounge spaces.

Understanding the top amenities desired by meeting planners and attendees is essential for both new resorts and established properties looking to attract and retain business. Resorts can secure a competitive edge in the convention/conferences/meetings market by prioritizing excellent service, well-designed meeting spaces, competitive AV services, and catering to emerging trends. By doing so, they can create a memorable experience for meeting attendees, encourage repeat visits, and foster a desire to recommend the resort to others, including other meeting planners.

Represented projects include:

The Event Center at Oaklawn Racing and Gaming Resort, Hot Springs, Arkansas, Photography © Dero Sanford/Think Dero Photography

Ribbon Town Conference and Event Center at Four Winds Casino Hotel and Spa, South Bend, Indiana, Photography © Dero Sanford/Think Dero Photography

The Guest House at Graceland Resort Conference and Event Center, Memphis, Tennessee, Photography © Jeffrey Jacobs Photography

The Conference and Event Center at Sycuan Casino Resort, El Cajon, California, Photography © Chad Mellon Photography


Chris Wood Named an Emerging Leader of Gaming 40 Under 40

Chris Wood, a lead interior designer and key member of HBG Design, has been honored as an Emerging Leader of Gaming in the prestigious 40 Under 40 program. Organized by The Innovation Group and Global Gaming Business magazine, this recognition celebrates outstanding professionals under the age of 40 who have already left a significant mark on the casino gaming sector. Chris Wood's contributions and leadership exemplify the innovation and excellence driving the industry forward, making him a deserving recipient of this esteemed distinction. Click here to see the full list of nominees. 

2024 EMERGING LEADERS OF GAMING 40 UNDER 40 ANNOUNCED

LAS VEGAS – The Innovation Group, organizers of the Emerging Leaders of Gaming (ELG) program, and Global Gaming Business magazine (GGB) have announced the honorees of the Emerging Leaders of Gaming 40 Under 40, a program that recognizes professionals under the age of 40 already making significant impacts in the casino gaming industry.

The honorees were selected from a record-breaking number of nominations solicited from the broader gaming industry, and reviewed by an esteemed selection committee, including: Justin Carter, Senior Vice President, Regional Operations, PENN Entertainment; Kirsten Clark, Executive Director, International Association of Gaming Advisors (IAGA); Alex Dixon, President & CEO, Q Casino and DRA; Daron Dorsey, Executive Director, Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers (AGEM); Alan Feldman, Distinguished Fellow in Responsible Gaming, International Gaming Institute at UNLV; Kelly Hatch, Executive Director, Global Gaming Women (GGW); and Sheila Morago, COO and Partner, Trilogy Group.

From professionals across commercial and tribal operations, to supplier-side innovators and professionals driving new industry segments, the latest class of honorees reflects a diverse cross-section of gaming and an industry in evolution. “It’s an honor to help identify and showcase the remarkable individuals driving our industry into the future,” said Michael Soll, president of The Innovation Group. "The gaming industry will prosper and thrive because of the impact of young and talented people," continued Roger Gros, publisher of Global Gaming Business magazine, "The innovation and creativity they bring with them is truly the lifeblood of gaming. Our congratulations to all the honorees."

 

 

 


Alexandra Milkovich Named a 2023 Influencer of Architecture & Design

Our warmest congratulations go out to Alexandra Milkovich, IIDA, NCIDQ, an Associate and Senior Interior Designer at HBG Design San Diego, for her recent recognition as a 2023 Influencer of Architecture and Design by the San Diego Business Journal!

 

Alexandra Milkovich, IIDA, NCIDQ, is Associate / Senior Interior Designer at HBG Design. An award-winning hospitality and entertainment industry market leader and an enthusiastic member of San Diego’s design community, Alexandra was a 2022 ‘40 Under 40’ Emerging Leader of Gaming and served on the 2023 SpArc thought leader roundtable. Over her 14+ year career, she has crafted an impressive project portfolio, including Sycuan Casino Resort, Caesars Entertainment, and the Premier Rock & Brews Casino and restaurant.

Spotlight on Alexandra Milkovich: A Rising Star in Interior Design

A Passionate Design Enthusiast

SDBJ InfluencerAlexandra Milkovich is not only a talented designer but also a passionate member of San Diego's design community. She's actively engaged in thought leadership, serving on SpArc Interiors' industry roundtable in 2023 and contributing her expertise to the Southern California Chapter of the International Interior Design Association (IIDA).

A Rising Star in Hospitality and Entertainment Design

ELG Top 40 U 40Alexandra's impressive journey includes being named a '40 Under 40' Emerging Leader of Gaming in 2022 by Global Gaming Business magazine. Her influence extends to high-profile casino and hotel projects, as well as unique food and beverage venues both locally and nationally. Alexandra's dedication to understanding restaurant operations and product design through food blogging sets her apart in the industry.

Designing Experiences Worth Remembering

 

Eagle Mountain Casino

One of Alexandra's standout accomplishments was leading the interior design of the $226 million transformation of Sycuan Casino Resort in El Cajon, CA, where she brought four-diamond resort elegance to life. Her creativity also shines through at venues like Rank + File, a vintage-industrial craft brew house. Alexandra's expertise has not only elevated gaming establishments but also shaped the brand concepts for the premiere Rock & Brews Casino, Caesars Entertainment properties, and Eagle Mountain Casino, where she integrated cultural elements to create unique and targeted spaces.

Service Beyond Design

Alexandra's commitment extends beyond her design work. She's a sought-after expert, having served on the Practicum Item Writing Committee of the Council for Interior Design Qualification (CIDQ), where she played a pivotal role in shaping the NCIDQ Practicum Exam. She's also been actively involved with the International Interior Design Association (IIDA) in both the Southern California and Dallas Chapters, earning recognition for her groundbreaking designs.

Alexandra’s dedication to her craft, commitment to thought leadership, and impressive portfolio make her a well-deserving recipient of the 2023 Influencer of Architecture and Design award from the San Diego Business Journal!


Creating Physical Connections: Sylvamo Global Headquarters

Sylvamo, a top global paper company employing more than 6,500 people worldwide, is focused on creating connections that only paper can foster. The company’s new global headquarters in Memphis, Tennessee, is designed to reflect its commitment to providing its employees with a balance of collaboration and privacy, a space with a strong sense of branding and cultural identity.

The clean, modern office design features a neutral color palette that allows the treescape views to shine as a major player in the design story.

Muted tones of Sylvamo’s signature purple brand color highlight key spaces. A large custom painting in the lobby features an abstract design that flows well with the connection to nature and the contemporary brand. The Sylvamo Global Headquarters regularly hosts international staff and visitors, and the office’s boardroom is equipped with an elegant white marble table and privacy measures for business meetings, including electronic frosted glass interior walls that can be clear or opaque depending on the level of privacy necessitated.

Light-Filled Work Spaces

A repeating baffled ceiling element runs from the entry lobby through office wayfinding paths and collaboration spaces to symbolize forward motion while echoing Sylvamo’s logo design.
A hint of industrial inspiration is provided from the open mechanical ceiling plane that serves to elevate the office height for an open feel.

Every Memphis-based employee has a universally sized workstation or semi-private office with adjustable height desks, and access to multiple open and closed collaboration spaces throughout the workplace.
Workstations are located along the exterior floor to ceiling window walls allowing light to permeate through the main spaces into the internal glass fronted offices at the nucleus.

In-Person Collaboration

Situated in an existing Class B office building, the office floor plan enables various open and closed workspace and collaboration zones for employees and leadership who work on hybrid office schedules.

Formal and Informal Break-Out Spaces

Because most employees work on hybrid schedules, the office space is designed to be highly collaborative with numerous styles of formal and informal break-out brainstorming and meeting spaces.

Each of the Sylvamo Global Headquarters' three floors contain a Work Cafe that honors the Memphis location, named Soulsville, Beale, and Graceland, respectively. These café hubs serve as central, informal gathering areas, providing counter seating and dining table seating, and can be opened to collaboration areas to accommodate events. These floating kitchenettes are located at the angular building’s end point and their geometric configurations help maximize space and flexibility during events.

‘Sip and Print’ stations are the office’s printer kitchenette break out spaces. Each ‘Sip and Print’ is centrally located for ease of access and wayfinding for guests.


Unveiling a Tranquil Oasis: WinStar's Spa Tower

Nestled amidst the allure of undulating hills, rolling waters, and the natural setting of South-Central Oklahoma, the captivating new 16-story, 304-key Spa Tower at WinStar World Casino and Resort emerges as a haven of respite and escape.

Merging contemporary elegance with upscale appeal, this boutique-style hotel tower extends an irresistible invitation to guests, transporting them to a 230,000 square foot realm of unrivaled tranquility and indulgence that pays homage to the region’s beauty through its design.

Site Design Inspiration

Drawing inspiration from the breathtaking scenery of the Red River, at the border between Oklahoma and Texas, natural hues and contemporary style converge in the lobby, flowing seamlessly throughout the public spaces.

Throughout the tower, warm wood tones, sleek stone, and metallic accents create a feast for the senses. Stepping into the lobby, the layered composition of different materials and textures adds visual depth and dimension, inviting guests to explore and engage with the designed experience. Axminster carpet ion the lobby features an abstract design of the site’s topography.

As guests venture beyond the lobby, they discover a sanctuary of comfort and relaxation within the guestrooms and suites. Guest rooms draw their inspiration from the rolling plans in display outside the tower’s windows.

Incorporating the latest in immersive spa and wellness trends, the WinStar Spa is a hallmark of modern leisure design. The two-level spa features communal aquathermal bathing and touchless technology, with a size and scale designed to attract customers from nearby Dallas/Ft. Worth and Oklahoma City urban markets. Continuing the fluid aesthetic of the Spa Tower, the WinStar Spa’s design is regional and contemporary, reflecting the texture and form of the local geography in its carpet pattern and overall materiality.

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Resort Pools Enhance Guest Experiences: Design Thinking

Pools have long been an integral part of casino resorts, serving as a vital attraction that enhances their competitiveness. The pool environment within these properties acts as a haven for retreat and escapism. It contributes significantly to guest satisfaction and the overall resort experience.

A leader in designing exceptional resort environments, HBG Design has created stunning poolscapes, complete with lazy rivers, whirlpools, and man-made lakes. Each pool environment is specially designed to support other non-gaming experiences, such as the hotel, the event center, F&B, and spa.

The Spa Pool
One remarkable example of HBG Design’s expertise in crafting spa adjacent pools is the Astral Spa Pool at Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort, nestled in scenic Hot Springs, Arkansas. The design of this pool area perfectly combines tranquility and luxury, ensuring guests are able to unwind and rejuvenate in a serene setting, while providing spaces for active wellness such as yoga.

The Event Centered Pool Environment
HBG Design excels in creating captivating pool environments that are seamlessly connected to events and entertainment. For instance, the rooftop pool at Four Winds South Bend Casino in South Bend, Indiana, provides a stunning setting for guests to relax and enjoy breathtaking views from the resort hotel’s new third floor event suite/VIP suite level dedicated to smaller receptions and small group events.

Similarly, the indoor pool and event complex at Gun Lake Casino in Wayland, Michigan, currently in the construction phase, promises to be an exceptional addition to the casino resort scene. This multifunctional venue will offer guests a delightful, year-round climate-controlled space to enjoy pool activities and large events and concerts, providing yet another reason for visitors to choose Gun Lake Casino Resort as their ultimate destination.

“Michigan receives a lot of lake effect snow and wind, and Gun Lake Casino’s new multipurpose indoor pool and events complex will become a resort oasis for guests, especially in winter months,” says Paul Bell, AIA, HBG Principal and Project Manager for the Gun Lake expansion.

The F&B Centered Pool Environment
HBG Design has designed pools that cater to events and enrich the food and beverage (F&B) opportunities within the resorts, thereby serving as separate revenue generators. The new Cascades pool complex at WinStar World Casino and Resort in Thackerville, Oklahoma, is an excellent example of the synergy between the pool and F&B experience.

Spanning over 5 acres, this meticulously designed pool experience encompasses a series of six exquisite pools, varying types of private cabanas, and seven distinct buildings accommodating bars and lounges, food and beverage and guest services, and retail. Every amenity has been thoughtfully positioned to maximize sunlight and water access and lounging, while offering ample shaded space for social interaction and outdoor dining and bar lounging.

“Inspired by the mesmerizing forms of ocean currents and naturally shaped archipelagos, the design of the Cascades pool complex is formed by organic, curvilinear shapes that adjoin to provide intimate lounge and cabana spaces in between,” adds Jurbergs.

By offering these exceptional pool environments, casino resorts aim to create distinctive experiences that transcend mere accommodation and gaming. These carefully designed pools elevate the overall appeal of the resort, capturing the imagination of guests and ensuring they are presented with an unforgettable escapism experience. Such thoughtful integration of pools within the resort not only enhances guest satisfaction but also maximizes the revenue potential of the property.

Resort pool environments are much more than just recreational spaces; they are vital components of a successful casino resort. By understanding the value these pools bring to resort success, property owners and HBG Design designers are continuously pushing the boundaries to create captivating poolscapes that truly elevate the resort experience. Whether it is a tranquil spa pool or an exciting rooftop oasis, these carefully crafted environments contribute to making casino resorts destinations of choice for travelers seeking a remarkable and memorable stay.

Read more about each of these projects by flipping through the extended resort pool design release.

 


Cascades Pool WinStar

Embark on a New Era of Resort Amenities: Introducing the Cascades Pool Complex

WinStar World Casino & Resort Redefines Luxury and Entertainment with a Transformative Outdoor Oasis

The Cascades pool complex, the newest casino amenity at WinStar World Casino and Resort in Thackerville, Oklahoma, emerges as an expansive outdoor retreat for relaxation and entertainment.

Spanning over 5 ½ acres, this meticulously designed pool experience encompasses a series of six exquisite pools, varying types of private cabanas, and seven distinct buildings accommodating bars and lounges, food and beverage and guest services, and retail. Every amenity has been thoughtfully positioned to maximize sunlight and water access and lounging, while offering ample shaded space for social interaction.

Site Design Inspiration

Inspired by the mesmerizing forms of ocean currents and naturally shaped archipelagos, the design of the Cascades pool complex is formed by organic, curvilinear shapes that adjoin to provide intimate lounge and cabana spaces in between. The graceful lines and grotto-like edges of the pools create a sense of harmony and serenity, while white cast stone edging and white and gray integral colored concrete surfaces with a textured salt rock finish offer cool and durable surfaces to help ensure guest comfort and enjoyment. Set within lush landscaping and winding pathways, a multi-level site design creates zones of personalization and exclusivity, whereby the ground level pool experience is maintained for families, and mid-tier and upper tier experiences are reserved for ages 21+ and for VIP guests.

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ULI: Embracing Memphis' Past and Present Through Urban Renewal and Hotel Design

ULI Urban Land Magazine

From Urban Land Magazine, Online Issue, July 2023

Located on the iconic bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River, Memphis, Tennessee’s downtown district is a distinct representation of the city’s rich commercial and industrial legacy with rows of ornate 19th century buildings and warehouses lining the bustling urban thoroughfares. Even today, the river continues its steady stream of barge traffic, providing a mesmerizing backdrop to this cultural melting pot where the past—from the city’s legendary blues music heritage to Elvis Presley’s Graceland—rubs shoulders with the present.

The latest additions to downtown hospitality include the Canopy by Hilton Downtown Memphis, the Hyatt Centric Beale Street Memphis, and the Caption by Hyatt Beale Street Memphis. Each new high-profile hotel development integrates and transforms Memphis’ obsolete infrastructure for the benefit of Memphis tourism and contemporary livability.

“Adaptive use has become the cornerstone of redevelopment in downtown Memphis,” says Brandon Herrington, ULI Memphis Management Committee chair-elect and director of marketing and business development for Montgomery Martin Contractors in Memphis.  “The hospitality sector, especially, has embraced the wealth of historical structures across the central business district. Whether wholesale reuse of a building or the salvage of prominent historical elements, these hotels are now integral to Memphis’ historical fabric.”

Mark Weaver, FAIA, principal at HBG Design, the national hospitality design firm and architect of record for the three hotels says, “Lying vacant for 20 years, the site of the former 1940s era Benchmark hotel, a riverside lot and its adjacent 19th century machine shop were each initially viewed as being of limited interest to prospective tenants—some even considered them to be urban blight.”

Through a new lens, each hotel project unveiled opportunities to elaborate on existing site and infrastructure characteristics and iconic identifiers to create urban renewal that meets the community where it is now, Weaver explains.

CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE THE ULI ARTICLE

From Urban Land Magazine, Online Issue, July 2023

Read more about the Caption by Hyatt Beale Street Hotel

Read more about the Hyatt Centric Beale Street Hotel


An Interview with HBG's F&B Designer Alexandra Milkovich

HBG Design's F&B Design Specialist Alexandra Milkovich, IIDA, NCIDQ, recently provided her perspective on trends in the resort F&B industry for Global Gaming Business' Casino Style magazine. Here, Alexandra expands on her perspective about F&B design and trends.  An Associate and Lead Interior Designer in HBG Design’s San Diego office, Alexandra has undertaken extensive research in restaurant operations and design, culinary arts, and food blogging. She is one of HBG’s go-to F&B venue design specialists and offers exceptional experience in boutique F&B design including amenity renovations.

HBG Design is seeing continued interest in incorporating established F&B brands into the casino resort environment. Co-branding with recognizable names from outside the casino industry to anchor key amenities is not a new concept but is gaining more traction with casinos as a means to broaden market appeal and greater name recognition from an expanding customer base. For a while it seemed like expensive branding fees were deterring the introduction of new branded venues into the casino resort. But integrated branding appears to have made a comeback on an even grander scale and commitment.

HBG F&B DesignQ: Alexandra, when looking to build a new food/ beverage offering at a casino, what are some of the benefits of choosing a big-name brand or celebrity chef?

AM: Having a celebrity name attached to a property is, of course, a great marketing tool for a casino owner. Celebrity chefs are influencers and have a large following of people who want to be part of the next big “thing” in the industry. Unique food and beverage venues provide the ultimate sensory experience in sight, sound, smell, and taste.

We are currently designing a confidential food and beverage amenity with a celebrity chef at a casino property. One of the benefits of working with a celebrity chef is not only their expertise in the culinary field, but also their unique understanding and perspective of how restaurants operate successfully.

Q: What are the benefits of opening an original venue?

AM: Original venues provide the freedom and opportunity to create something unique and progressive, depending on what type of experience the client is seeking to create for its guests. The thrill lies in the possibilities of what could be, in the design, branding and menu. Newness draws crowds, targeting guests looking for unique experiences.

More recently, we see notable brands that are extending into new territory, providing originality of experience with the comfort and reliability of an established brand.

HBG F&B DesignNoted F&B brand Rock & Brews is known for its iconic restaurant and bars, many already integrated within casino properties across the country. The gaming machines located near the Rock & Brews restaurant have typically been some of the most popular with the 65+ demographic, especially.

Rock & Brews is now moving their brand into all parts of the casino, by opening their first ever Rock & Brews Casino and Restaurant in partnership with The Kaw Nation and Kaw Gaming in Braman, Oklahoma, a project designed by HBG Design and opened in mid-2022.

The 71,000 square foot gaming project–part ground-up and part renovation–features an expertly curated interactive rock-inspired entertainment experience that only Rock & Brews--and its co-founders Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons of iconic rock band, KISS--can provide. The Rock & Brews brand and venues are noted for their heavy integration of rock and roll imagery and iconography.

Across the casino and restaurant, references to musical instruments and vinyl records and murals of rock bands and performers--including a large KISS mural--adorn the walls and ceilings, lending a casual rocker lair vibe.

Inside the large, vaulted Rock & Brews brewhouse, practically every inch of ceiling space is covered with theatrical banners and backlit framed graphics showcasing signature rock and roll graphics. The graphics are framed by a dramatic performance stage lighting truss hanging from the pitched ceiling, painted the signature Rock & Brews branded red. Colorful murals enliven brick walls.

The new Rock & Brews Casino rock and roll vibe fully immerses gaming guests in a concert style environment and high-quality audio and visual experiences with the high-profile F&B brand name proven to attract dining customers.

Q: What are the drawbacks for either?

AM: There are pros and cons to every F&B venture, and every client must decide what is best for their casino operation, their guests and the regional or local market.

Creating a brand-new concept from scratch requires a lot of well-thought-out planning and implementation – from developing the branded concept, to researching and trademarking the name of the restaurant, to creating the menu and the venue design. Most clients we work with will hire branding strategy companies to help craft the concept and streamline the development process. Our designers then shape the physical venue concepts to meet that brand vision.

A celebrity chef driven concept is often tied to the reputation of one individual. Your venue’s success could potentially be affected by the publicity that celebrity receives.

Q: Does the decision change at all for new construction vs. renovating an existing space?

AM: New-build casinos offer the freedom to fully translate an F&B brand concept abundantly into the physical space without confinement. At the recently opened Eagle Mountain Casino in Porterville, California, a new-build development, the new Redwood Taphouse features a soaring redwood ceiling with a grand center bar element wrapped in natural wood panels. As a ground-up structure, the Redwood Taphouse design was implemented as part of the casino build, allowing the F&B spaces to flow cohesively with the brand language, featuring subtle nods to the tribe’s culture woven throughout the grand spaces.

HBG F&B Design
Casino

We also renovate existing space inside existing casinos for new F&B, to remain responsive to changing market conditions and new branding opportunities and to refresh a property’s offerings. Our team is adept at new construction and renovations to achieve brand vision.

The restaurant brand concept often dictates the design concept. Depending on how the concept is translated, there may be physical limitations of existing space infill that make renovation more costly. Nothing is impossible, but there are always cost implications tied to construction and addition. Some clients have preferred to reuse space and rebrand by changing finishes and furnishings, rather than making wide-scale structural alterations.

AM: For example, Four Winds Casino Resort in New Buffalo, Michigan, renovated the space of their former two-story Hard Rock Café restaurant and bar venue to accommodate their original Kankakee Grille brand concept, which had already opened at their South Bend location. The Kankakee Grille venue is a combination of performance venue, bar, and restaurant with the ambiance of a casual pub with a high contrast, neutral palette, and contemporary transitional design.

The New Buffalo Kankakee Grille design preserves and incorporates the distinctive 12,000 square foot two-level layout, structural framework, and distinguishing metal railings of the former Hard Rock Café space, also by HBG Design.

Near the entrance, a former HRC retail shop was converted to the Kankakee Grille’s new private dining room. The main bar and main dining room tables and booths remain situated on existing tiered levels to accommodate optimal views toward the ‘Kankakee Live’ performance stage. Mezzanine level bar seating provides birds eye views to the stage excitement.

HBG F&B DesignA large decorative light canopy remains over the main bar from its Hard Rock Café incarnation, and the space is separated from the dining floor by custom decorative screening and stone half walls. The Hard Rock Cafe memorabilia cases were replaced by screen ornamentation details that tie to significant Tribal motifs, such as abstracted cattail and sweet grass designs to represent the Kankakee River’s edge.

To blend with Four Winds Casino’s natural aesthetic, the new F&B concept design incorporates a very modern interpretation of stacked stone and uses wooden plank textures at the entrance and throughout the venue interior. Branded elements have been reimagined within a subdued natural gray, tan and cream-colored design palette that ties to the casino’s contemporary cultural aesthetic.

Q: How does the location of the casino itself impact the process of selecting food/bev options?

AM: Food and beverage options are the first consideration in F&B branding. As F&B venue designers, we are often inspired by these edible selections as we design restaurant and bar spaces that enhance these culinary delights.

The venue location, the local market, and the Owner’s target guest are the #1 driver for all types of design. Some locales are better served by warm, comfortable designs, what we sometimes call approachable luxury. Some casinos, especially those in urban markets, require a higher level of luxury, and that means an elevated dining experience overall. The HBG Design team undertakes extensive research with our clients at the beginning of every project to create space designs that are in sync with the F&B culinary options, and that help attract the target market to the casino property.