In the Words of Chesapeake

On Creating a Signature Restaurant

On Creating a Signature Restaurant

February 21, 2018

Relevant and evocative in the context of a city’s dining culture, that’s the hallmark of a great signature restaurant. Out of genuine quality and appeal, an environment that speaks as much to locals as to a hotel’s own guests.


To begin with, be true to your property and the opportunity for differentiation. In creating a signature restaurant for Hotel Indigo Baltimore, we strove to build an experience that would contribute to the rich culture and history of Baltimore’s Mount Vernon neighbourhood.

 Starting with our menu – top-quality, locally-sourced food comes across in the breadth of our selections. There’s a lot of old bay, a lot of seafood and, of course, Smith Island cake on the desert menu. We have six beers on tap, five of them are from local breweries. And beyond local, bourbon whisky’s and scotches are also big now. We have one of the top five - if not the top two – whisky collections in Baltimore.  That helps us be a haven for established or casual aficionados across the city.

 Of course, a restaurant is an experience based as much on human interaction as on food. Who you hire ultimately shapes the culture and feel of your establishment. From the true craftsmen - chefs, sous chefs and bartenders – who set the foundation for the culture, to the wider team, each one of whom will have a significant impact on overall guest experience.

 For the wider team, my philosophy is: I can teach the job to anyone; I can’t teach personality; I can’t teach attitude. When we’re going through the process of interviewing candidates, we’re looking at characteristics more than firm skills. Did they smile or dress well? Did they give a firm handshake? Basic traits early on tell an enormous amount about how a candidate can eventually mould into the team you are working to build.

 When it comes to instilling values into a team, consistency is a huge word. People don’t realize how important that word is – we drive it in. Consistency is how you maintain word of mouth, it’s the difference between being a positive word coming out of people’s mouth and a negative one. If you come in every Monday for the Maryland crap soup – you’re going to enjoy the exact, top-quality experience week in and week out.

Ultimately, consistency helps underpin a strong local following. 60% of our restaurant customers at dinner are locals. 90% at lunch are locals – if you average that out to the entire property, 15% of the total revenue of the Hotel Indigo in Baltimore comes from locals eating in our facilities. That’s the power of consistency – a community growing to understand, over months and years, that they can rely on the dining experience they get at the Hotel Indigo Baltimore.

And it helps underpin dining from our guests as well. If a guest goes downstairs, sees a bustling establishment and knows they can grab a local brew and learn more about the city from the Baltimore native sitting next to them, that guest is significantly more likely to spend their travel dollars within your property.

 Relevant and evocative – built around great people, with consistency at its heart. These are the hallmarks of a strong signature restaurant. Getting it right can significantly reinforce the culture, significance and bottom line of a property – and, of course – make it easier to get a great local brew after work.