The Cosmopolitan hotel and casino made a splash when it opened in Las Vegas in late 2010. The 3,033-room property built strong buzz with an offbeat ad campaign and shook things up on the Strip with its lifestyle-focused, boutique approach. The hotel is also renowned for its innovative food-and-beverage program, anchored by STK, Jaleo, Scarpetta and Momofuku, among others. As reported in Travel Weekly's Oct. 8 issue, the hotel expanded its food-and-beverage footprint with the debut of its Block 16 Urban Food Hall in August, a concept that showcases six regional favorites from across the U.S., such as Hattie B's Hot Chicken from Nashville, Ghost Donkey from New York and Pok Pok Wing and Lardo from Portland, Ore. Travel Weekly hotels editor Christina Jelski recently sat down with Patrick Nichols, the Cosmopolitan's senior vice president of strategy and business development, to discuss the property's food focus.
Q: How has the F&B scene in Las Vegas evolved in recent years? With everyone identifying as a foodie nowadays, have expectations changed?
A: I think the expectation 10 years ago for Las Vegas was celebrity chefs, the Michael Minas, the Mario Batalis, the Wolfgang Pucks. We saw all that, but we didn't want to be that.
The standards are very high for Las Vegas in general. Our ethos for developing our restaurant program was first-time chefs and first-time concepts that we love. And we've stayed true to that. We just added seven restaurants in the last couple of months that are all original concepts and new to Las Vegas. Block 16 features restaurants that have one location, in some cases, or a couple locations in their hometowns. They're great partnerships, and it makes sense for both sides.
Q: Are you looking to continue adding F&B outlets?
A: We're now at 26, which is about nine more than we had when we first opened. But we're tiny by Las Vegas standards. You can put the entire footprint of the Cosmopolitan in the Bellagio fountain. And we've developed pretty much every square foot that we can, and I think at this point we'd likely be reprogramming existing concepts if we introduce more F&B.
We actually just opened a traditional Chinese restaurant, Red Plate, earlier this month. It's kind of the last major piece in our restaurant development strategy.
Traditional Chinese is an important part of any casino because there are a lot of customers that are coming from China and Asia. They love our restaurants, but they yearn for that one traditional meal, and so we've added that to our collection. We've always programmed kind of on the periphery of Chinese food, with Momofuku and China Poblano, but this is our first foray into traditional Chinese.
Q: The Cosmopolitan sort of broke the mold of the traditional hotel-casino. How does the brand continue to sustain its reputation for innovation within such a competitive landscape?
A: We launched a cutting-edge brand with cutting-edge programming, so our competitors followed fast and said, 'We want to do that, let's catch up.' It's risky to change and evolve when you're already at the top of the market, but we've invested a considerable amount of money and time in evolving the experience as consumer tastes have evolved.
Our competitors have an idea of what the Cosmopolitan is, and they're trying to replicate that, maybe not realizing that we've evolved considerably in the last eight years. More independent brands are coming into the city, and evolution of existing brands is happening, but we're just staying one step ahead.
We're building on what's successful, responding to what our customers are telling us, but then also giving them things they don't know they need or want yet. For us, it's about thoughtful evolution.