Press Releases / Austonian Updates
Austin hotel restaurant-bar cluster concept adapted Austin Business Journal Francisco Vara-Orta
An Austin-based partnership has designed a proven and flexible model for hotel-based restaurant-and-bar combinations that features a centralized kitchen and pushes boundaries with its chefs, kitchen layout and adaptability to historic structures and residential towers.
La Corsha Hospitality Group is led by founder and industry veteran Jeff Trigger, whose extensive hotel management experience includes repositioning and overseeing the renovations at various historic Texas hotels. The group is best known locally for The Driskill Hotel in downtown Austin, where Trigger oversaw the $30 million restoration that elevated the hotel to its four-diamond status.
In implementing its design concept at The Driskill, La Corsha demonstrated its quest for synergy as it strives "to make the best of our resources to be able to do five things: fine dining, casual dining, great bar service, catering for private events with nice venues, and room service," Trigger said. "In hospitality, you have to design your business to harken back to the best service possible."
And having demonstrated its concept, La Corsha is making strides in taking it to other projects. The key team members behind The Driskill are back opening a restaurant-bar trio at the Austonian - the first time Trigger's model has been adapted to such a residential building. The Austonian team, named La Corsha Restaurant Group, reunites Trigger with his Driskill partners: Chef David Bull, Scott Walker and Jeff Rhein.
During the last week of 2010 and first week of 2011, La Corsha rolled out Second Bar + Kitchen, the casual dining spot; Congress, a more upscale, cozier restaurant; and Bar Congress, a cocktail lounge connecting the two restaurants.
"When we are thinking of how to design these spaces, we always keep in mind something that works with the whole vibe of the building and surrounding community," Trigger said. "We like to fill a need with something that is fun to be at."
One of the main drivers behind the viability of La Corsha's model is its leaders' experience, hospitality experts said, noting that Trigger made his name decades ago as managing director for two of Dallas' finest historic hotels: The Mansion on Turtle Creek and The Adolphus Hotel.
Keith Purcell - director of sales and marketing at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center at the University of Texas, who previously worked at La Corsha - said the company helped usher in the idea of marketing a hotel or tower for its restaurant. The Carillon restaurant, housed in the AT&T Conference Center's hotel, has a growing foodie following for its chef, Josh Watkins.
While working on The Driskill, La Corsha became so entranced with Austin that Trigger decided to set up his headquarters on West Sixth Street. The firm now employs 300 people who help manage projects around Texas. Although the company does consulting work out of state, Trigger likes to work solely in Texas, specializing on historic boutique hotels.
To that extent, The Austonian is a noteworthy departure for La Corsha as its first new construction project, said Matthew Mabel, president of Surrender Inc., a Dallas-based management and hospitality consulting company.
"Going in there shows how the restaurant-bar model they've designed can be flexible," Mabel said. "They've carved out a niche that isn't like anybody else in the hotel and hospitality industry."
La Corsha's three biggest upcoming projects involve historic structures in Texas, Trigger said. They include designing restaurant-bar venues for the Seaholm redevelopment in downtown Austin, which would bookend the firm's work on Second Street with the Austonian on the opposite end; the Baker Hotel in Mineral Wells; and The Settles Hotel in Big Spring, owned by G. Brint Ryan, founder and CEO of Ryan, the largest state and local tax consulting firm in North America.
Celebrity chef appeal
La Corsha is best known by many for recruiting Bull as the executive chef. Bull competed on the Food Network's "Iron Chef America" and is widely credited in foodie circles as shepherding celebrity chef culture into Austin when he came here a decade ago.
"Having David as part of the company has helped us really more than words can say," Trigger said. "He's helped us with our message that we are a restaurant that happens to be housed at a hotel and not just the hotel restaurant."
Trigger discovered Bull in Dallas, and the chef has become the public face of La Corsha's work at its hotels around Texas, where he helps manage food operations. As an Austin resident, he'll work mainly out of the kitchen that serves the 8,000-square-foot trio at La Corsha's Austonian hub.
A centralized kitchen is a hallmark of La Corsha's concept. Whereas many hotels have a bar and multiple restaurants with separate kitchens, La Corsha designs one kitchen in the heart of its restaurant-bar combination.
"That is a brilliant idea to save money," Purcell said, "because you can easily end up spending $1 million on a kitchen to have all the equipment and inventory for an upscale place, let alone two or more."