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Making Sure Your Menu Is 'Kosher'

Specialized Menus Have Become An Expectation For Today’s Hotel Guests

Thursday, June 28, 2018
Steve Pike
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Menu options for vegans, vegetarians and other guests on special diets have become more commonplace at hotel restaurants over the past few years. Chefs these days are more comfortable preparing—and costing out—menu items for guests who require, or demand, alternative meal options.

As such, hotel restaurants are offering guests more extensive kosher menus in their restaurants and banquet facilities.

For example, Acqualina Resort & Spa in Sunny Isles Beach, FL, has a “Kosher-To-Go,” marketplace on its lobby level. The marketplace offers gourmet grab-and-go meals prepared by Aroma Kosher Catering, a glatt kosher market approved by the Orthodox Rabbinical Board.

The Kosher-to-Go marketplace is popular among resort guests for its pre-packaged meals that can be taken to Acqualina’s oceanfront pools, beach and guestrooms. In addition, the marketplace offers a variety of beverages, including kosher wine.

Meanwhile, Banyan Tree Mayakoba offers guests kosher food options through a long-standing relationship with Cancun’s “Experience Kosher,” a supplier which works closely with the Cancun Chabad Jewish Center.

Orlando-based Rosen Hotels and Resorts goes as far as any hotel company in providing for kosher options, in particular, on its catering and banquet sides. The company operates Zayde’s Kosher Catering out of its Rosen Plaza Hotel. Zayde’s features a 5,000 sq.-ft., three-kitchen facility that was constructed in strict compliance with the Halacha separation guidelines for glatt kosher meat, dairy and pareve.

It’s a prime example of Rosen Hotels’ Chairman Harris Rosen never doing anything halfway.

Basically, Rosen Plaza has two of everything when it comes to kitchens—the kosher Zayde kitchen and a non-kosher kitchen for its on-site restaurants. Each is under the direction of Rosen Plaza Hotel executive chef Michael McMullin, as well as a supervising Rabbi who constantly oversees preparation and catering activities.

“You can’t do kosher and non-kosher, for example, in the same oven,” said Crystal Dodd-Grice, director of convention services/catering at Rosen Plaza Hotel, which is near the Orange County Convention Center along Orlando’s famed International Drive. “It’s a big investment—first and foremost—to build the kitchen, outfit it and have a separate inventory for kosher food, which tends to be a bit more expensive. But in order to do the volume we wanted to do, we needed a separate area.’’

Zayde’s kitchen, which was built in 2015, even has separate vents to guarantee no crossover with non-kosher foods.

“We also decided to go to the highest level of observance, which is OU—Orthodox Union—from New York City,’’ said Jay Finkelstein, assistant general manager of Rosen Plaza Hotel. “We’ve had that since the day we opened. It gives us the opportunity to serve multi-generational Jewish families. These days many families are growing up with an orthodox background, but the younger generations are going to modern orthodox. So (with the OU designation) we can appeal to everyone.”

Although it operates out of the Rosen Plaza Hotel, Zayde’s kitchen services each of the seven Rosen properties, including the flagship Rosen Shingle Creek resort, just a few miles off of International Drive. The service is available to groups as small as 25 and as large as 800 guests.

“The kitchen gives us great flexibility to bid on kosher groups,” Dodd-Grice said. “We could have done it before, but we wouldn’t have been able to offer the same types of services and products.

“Now we can really control the quality of the food as opposed to having an outside caterer come in and maybe not meet our standards. We prepare the food here and take it to our sister properties with the same supervision and help we have here at Rosen Plaza. We’ve even done catering at the science museums and country club weddings.”

Kosher or non-kosher, Finkelstein said, it’s important that hotel restaurants stay focused on the latest trends that their guests desire.

“Right now, whether it’s for healthy reasons, or people just want to be hip, so many people out there are on special diets. You need to be prepared for all of those needs,” he stated.

“It’s become almost expected from travelers,” said Dodd-Grice of special menu options, be they at hotel restaurants or with their banquets. “It’s certainly a factor of whether or not you get them back.”

Steve Pike
Hotel Interactive® Editorial Division

Bio: Steve Pike is an award-winning golf writer and author who helped define golf business reporting in the early 1990s as the first Golf Business Editor for Golfweek magazine and later at Golf World and Golf Shop Operations magazines for Golf Digest. Pike further pioneered this genre at the PGA of America and Time Warner as the golf business writer and editor for PGA.com. He started in newspapers more than ...
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