Chef touts local despite profit risk
Looking in from the outside, you might think a restaurant in an upscale, downtown hotel has a ready base of diners from the hotel’s guests. But for the Harborside Restaurant & Cocktail Lounge, located inside the Hotel Bellwether on the Bellingham, Wash., waterfront, hotel guests comprise only 5 percent of diners.
“Our biggest challenge is not having a storefront,” says Jason Cross, food and beverage manager. “A lot of people don’t know we’re here, so we have to let our customers speak for us by trying to move people through our food.”
The Harborside, a 100-seat, relaxed-fine-dining restaurant opened in 2000 for breakfast, lunch and dinner. To generate more word-of-mouth advertising, Cross and his team host banquets for local companies, hoping to showcase their property and menu. “A lot of locals who come here for those corporate gatherings never knew we existed before,” he says.
Close to half the menu at the Harborside consists of seafood, the majority of it sustainably harvested by Pacific Northwest fishermen, according to Executive Chef Brandon Powell Wild.
Wild received his first fillet knife at the age of 7 and was raised cooking, hunting and mushroom gathering in Wisconsin. At 15 he started working as a dishwasher in a restaurant in Cape Girardeau, Mo. One day, when a chef failed to show up for work he was recruited to the hot line. At that point, his future in the food industry was sealed.
Click here to read the rest of this feature, which appeared in the October issue of SeaFood Business magazine.