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San Diego Biz Watch

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It’s all about food and hotels this week in San Diego business news. From new looks for a “HomeTown” favorite to new hotel digs; San Diego’s hotel and food industry is on the move in the business sector.

HomeTown Buffet Renovates

Diners in San Diego are in for a new, upgraded experience as all 10 of the area’s HomeTown Buffet restaurants will be completely transformed. The re-imaged restaurants will offer new food stations with contemporary menu items, as well as new dishes and flavor profiles. Each restaurant will also showcase an entirely new ‘look and feel’ with updated design and fresh, new decor.

The major reimaging in San Diego coincides with the launch of the company’s new marketing platform, the “Land of &,” which communicates a dining experience with personalized options where requiring decisions between one option or another does not exist. HomeTown Buffet is part of the Buffets, Inc. family of restaurants, the nation’s largest steak-buffet restaurant company.

“Other restaurants, even those with buffets, often require guests to make choices between one food genre or another,” said Monte Jump, executive vice president of marketing for Buffets, Inc. “HomeTown Buffet takes the ‘or’ out of dining by providing culinary adventures and options that go on ‘and’ on. We believe the restaurants’ new look and feel will better reflect our position as ‘The Land of &’ while offering a great atmosphere for memorable meals between family and friends.”

HomeTown Buffet’s transformation process will be tiered, with each of the 10 local restaurants taking approximately two weeks per store, beginning with the Mira Mesa location which re-opened on Aug. 15. Chosen for its great growth potential and loyal customer-base, completion of all San Diego stores is expected by January, 2011. Specific dates are dependent upon permitting schedules and will be announced through www.Facebook.com/HomeTownBuffet. The company’s goal is to continue expanding the transformation process to other markets in the future.

The re-imaged San Diego-area HomeTown Buffet restaurants are also introducing several new recipes with exciting new flavor profiles served throughout the week. Many of these items are also highlighted in the company’s new television advertising campaign, “The Land of &,” which debuted at the end of July.

Asian, Italian and Mexican cuisines are showcased along with the American Fare ‘Market’ which offers upgraded classic items, as well as new sliders and new Country-Style Ribs. There is also a new Carving Station, a Fresh Market for customizable salads and Soup Bar. The Beverage Bar will offer traditional soft drinks and coffees, and new beverages will be added including horchata (a cold drink made with rice, almonds, cinnamon, and sugar and lime zest), pineapple cooler, lemonade, pink lemonade, iced coffee, and raspberry tea. Of course, for a truly ‘sweet’ ending to a meal, HomeTown Buffet offers its famous Bakery and Ice Cream Stand, now with new hard-packed ice cream in addition to its traditional soft-serve. Additionally, all remodeled restaurants will feature ICEE beverages and may include cherry, blue raspberry and Coca-Cola flavors.

Look for new stores in Mira Mesa, San Marcos, El Cajon, Oceanside, Santee, San Diego, Clairemont, Chula Vista, and National City.

Another SD Investment

Chatham Lodging Trust, a hotel real estate investment trust (REIT) focused on upscale extended-stay hotels and premium-branded select-service hotels, has announced that it has signed a contract to acquire an upscale extended-stay hotel in north San Diego, in an all-cash transaction for $32 million. The property marks the 13th hotel either acquired or under contract to purchase by Chatham in the past four months since its April 21, 2010 initial public offering.

“This is our first acquisition on the West Coast, and Southern California is one of our key target markets,” said Jeffrey H. Fisher, Chatham’s chief executive officer. “We expect to fund the acquisition with our anticipated $85 million senior secured credit facility.

“The property fits our model of a great location, in a market with multiple demand generators and superb visibility and accessibility,” he added. “We believe that the San Diego market also has among the highest barriers to new competition in the country.

“This transaction, like many of our others, is one that we sourced based on our long-standing relationships within the market,” he said. “It was not actively marketed, and we were able to acquire the hotel at what we believe is an attractive price.”

Completion of the hotel acquisition is subject to satisfactory completion of due diligence and other customary closing conditions. On consummation of the transaction, the hotel will be managed by Island Hospitality Management, which is 90 percent-owned by Fisher.

Cheaper SD Hotel Rates

Hotwire, a discount travel site, recently revamped Hotwire® Hotel Rate Report. The report now features the top five cities in North America where hotel rates have dropped the most and the top five cities where rates have experienced the biggest price increase. While one report guides customers to the destinations that will maximize their travel dollars, the other helps inform travelers when using Hotwire to save money will be even more essential.

San Diego shoots from number 10 on July’s report to number one this month with a 6 percent drop. It continues to deal with a decline in business and group travel as compared to last year. In addition, new, aggressively priced properties have come on board recently, leading to even more competition for travelers’ dollars.

When compared to the same time last year, the top five hotel price reductions for August 2010 include: San Diego which now averages $106.00 per night for a 3.5 star hotel.

New Management

Charles S. Peck, president and chief operating officer for Destination Hotels & Resorts, reports the company will manage Paradise Point Resort & Spa. The 462-room resort, owned by LaSalle Hotel Properties, is located on a 44-acre island on Mission Bay in the heart of San Diego.

“We’re excited to add another unique property in the San Diego area to the Destination Hotels & Resorts collection,” said Peck. “We’ve been serving business and leisure customers in San Diego since 1992 including the Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa and the $26 million total renovation of L’Auberge Del Mar that was completed in 2008. Paradise Point is an irreplaceable beachfront property with tremendous appeal to both the leisure and meeting segments which adds to the diversity of what our customers have experienced with us in this special part of Southern California.”

With the three San Diego properties, Destination’s presence in Southern California continues to grow as the company also manages Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes, which opened in 2009, and Miramonte Resort & Spa in Indian Wells.

“We’re excited to have Destination Hotels & Resorts manage the Paradise Point Resort & Spa,” said Michael D. Barnello, president and chief executive officer of LaSalle Hotel Properties. “Their ability as a proven operator of independent upscale resorts, coupled with their expertise in the group and leisure markets will add great value to this unique resort. We look forward to working with their team to bring this resort to even greater prominence in its market in the years to come. ”

Paradise Point, which recently completed a $20 million renovation, features California beach bungalow-style guest rooms amidst lush, tropical gardens and meandering lagoons. Indonesian-themed spa transports guests into a pampered retreat with custom-designed spa services and rituals. Additional guest amenities include five swimming pools, five hard-surface tennis courts, a state-of-the-art fitness center, an 18-hole putting course, a full-service marina, bicycle rentals, lawn croquet and a 1.3-mile jogging course.

The resort first opened in 1962 with 150 guestrooms and has gone through a number of enhancements and expansions over the years. Its rich history dates back to 1902 when a city commissioner had a vision for creating an aquatic park, which is now Mission Bay. The master plan was approved in 1958 and included 30 miles of shoreline beaches, grassy knolls, areas for sailing, swimming, boating, SeaWorld and Paradise Point Resort & Spa.

The original resort, which opened as Vacation Village in 1962, was the vision of producer Jack Skirball who saw the potential to create a destination for both vacationers and Hollywood productions. Skirball envisioned a fantasy-island setting that would feature family vacationers as the cast. Today, guests can still see remnants of the property’s Hollywood heyday such as the porpoise fountain from the movie Cleopatra that Skirball produced.

Photos from christyxcore, SDDirk, and Grahambones via Flickr

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