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The Art of Alfresco

The Art of Alfresco

Transform your outdoor dining space into a destination—and an experience.

On the rooftop of La Crosse, Wisconsin's luxury boutique Charmant hotel, views of the storied Mississippi River and quaint river town skyline provide Insta-worthy photo ops, while a locally sourced herb wall, fireplace and cushy couch beckon with Midwestern coziness.

During warmer months, it’s one of the most coveted spots in town, but it takes more than picture perfect décor to operate a successful alfresco destination. We talk to two experts for their advice on how to make your outdoor dining venue a well-rounded experience.

Michel Gabbud, general manager at the Four Diamond rated Charmant hotel, knows that running a successful patio means figuring out how to adapt to your volume as well as your clientele. "It's important to not get overly excited with what you can do," advises Gabbud. "You must keep up to be current and anticipate trends, but you can't be overly ambitious."

The Charmant rooftop adapts to its very limited space of 1,200 square feet by keeping the menu small, yet enticing, with five varieties of seasonal pizzas from a custom-designed, wood-fired oven. They've also added dessert this season after noticing many guests requested something sweet to end their meal. Paying attention to clientele also plays a key role in maximizing the efficiency of the bar space.

"We know this is a beer town, so we didn't spend a lot of time on crazy mixology," explains Gabbud. "We still want to be able to offer a couple of different cocktails, but we will never be able to offer what we do downstairs in our main bar." The rooftop, instead, focuses on keeping a tight selection of what moves the most, while batching a few cocktails to serve on draught.

More than 1,660 miles south, Miami boasts as many unique options for outdoor dining as there are gorgeous days. At the top is Sugar, the jungle-inspired oasis of EAST, Miami hotel, named two years in a row as the best rooftop bar in America by Conde Nast Traveler.

"With over a dozen types of trees and plants, the space is truly a garden respite—40 floors above—from the bustling city life at street level," says Maria Laura Sanchez, sales and marketing coordinator for the hotel.

Sugar's square footage doubles that of Charmant's, but the focus remains on maximizing use of space. Asian-influenced tapas like steamed dumplings and satay make it easy to have multiple items on the table at a time.

The cocktail menu is surprisingly extensive, with exotic ingredients like yuzu and jasmine, but the team cuts down steps by batching, infusing, and making sure all drinks have harmony so bartenders can have everything on their speed rack.

Above all else, however, both locations emphasize the utmost importance of a well-trained and dynamic staff.

"Having a strong barback team is important; they are the heart of the bar operation," says Sanchez. "[Our staff] brings a certain level of expertise that has helped to handle the operations efficiently, and yet delivers quality on every drink."

Gabbud shares the same view. "You can be a genius in evaluating your space and your concept," he says, "but by not having the team who can execute it, you're not going to win the battle."


  • Author: Briana Rupel
  • Posted: July 31, 2019
  • Categories: Trending Now
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