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T's turning 30, again! Plus, NYC's UNhospitality Industry

So, one of my most fabulous and dear friends from out-of-state is having her 30th birthday "re-do" party this weekend in NYC.  And, having enlisted the event-planning help of yours truly, the birthday girl & I have been carefully orchestrating the details of this 48-hour-long soiree for the better part of the past 6-weeks. 

T's first inquiry was in regards to finding the perfect place for her and her out-of-town guests to rest their well-coiffed heads.  She was lusting after a hotel that, aside from a "hip" factor, also listed "outdoor pool" on its menu of amenities.  I returned with the following options:

Her choice?  Gansevoort Park Avenue.

With dates chosen and shelter settled, the next task was to plan T's birthday party.  "I don't want to do a sit-down dinner," she said.  "My group of friends are eclectic and most people are coming in from out of town.  I don't want anybody to be forced to sit next to someone and make awkward small talk."  OK, easy enough. 

Now, here were some traits that she was looking for:  

  • Evening, preferably from 7-10pm
  • Cocktails and heavy hors d'oeuvres
  • Outdoor option
  • Semi-private

I returned with the following ideas/venues (make sure to read my notes after each colon):

  • Veranda Suite at the Eventi Hotel: gorgeous space, reasonably priced, incredibly prompt response from knowledgeable and warm event planner
  • Gansevoort Park Avenue's rooftop bar: urban "rooftop" view, appx. 2000 sq. feet, took multiple emails to receive a response from outsourced events department - not impressed in that aspect
  • Gramercy Park Hotel's rooftop garden: lovely venue, but the $7500 food/bevg minimum was too $$$ - took two emails to receive a response from the events department - not impressed in that aspect
  • Above 6, at 6 Columbus: received an initial response from the hotel, who cc'd Blue Ribbon Sushi, the restaurant who runs Above 6, but never heard from Blue Ribbon Sushi - extremely unimpressed in that aspect
  • Soho House: perennially cool venue, but no public non-member outdoor rental spaces - events department returned my email inquiry immediately, leaving me impressed
  • The Studio & Garden Terrace at The James Hotel: fabulous indoor/outdoor event space, but non-compliant for our particular needs after 8pm - events department was beyond responsive, knowledgeable, patient, and helpful, leaving me very impressed
  • Salon de Ning, The Peninsula Hotel: NO RESPONSE.  Are you kidding me?  Really??
  • Various options, Trump Soho: lovely indoor/outdoor option on pool level - events department was responsive, though there was a small lag time between emails, coupled with a slight language barrier - I was impressed initially.

Her choice?  Trump Soho

Prior to planning this particular event, the only experience that I'd had with Trump Soho was a fabulous dinner that I enjoyed at onsite restaurant, Quattro Gastronomia Italiana, last summer.  Unfortunately, my opinion of the hotel diminished when a not very "events knowledgeable" employee was assigned to our case, if you will - thus, making the initial planning, communication, and details very challenging.  Come Monday, however, I am confident that I'll be able to report that T's birthday (happening tomorrow night!) was the most knock-out, over-the-top, and fabulous soiree.  Ever.  

With her birthday bash in place, the next item on the agenda was to organize a small, intimate dinner for Friday evening.  "I want something hip, downtown, new.  Fresh, delicious food that isn't over-complicated.  How about The Fat Radish?"  To be honest, we were 1.5 weeks out when T sent me the email with this particular request.  "No offense, T, but I don't think that 1.5 weeks is enough lead time to secure a reservation at a highly coveted restaurant.  On a Friday night.  At 8pm.  For 5-6 people."  After opentable.com spit back a 5pm or an 11pm available seating, I decided to give The Fat Radish a call.  What do I have to lose?  Expecting more heat and disappointment from the hospitality industry, my tensions were already high.  To speak to someone in the office, press #1.  "Hi, how can I help you?"  Shocker.  There was a real person on the other end of the line!  And, from the sounds of it, a nice one, at that!  I explained that it was my friend's birthday next Friday and that she "wasn't from around here," hence the 1.5 week's notice (for a potential dinner reservation).  "I realize that I should have made this reservation a month ago," I said.  The woman must have felt for me - and T - because she was able to squeeze us in for a 5-top table at The Fat Radish at 8pm. 

Now that, my friends, is what you call "hospitality." 


Restaurant, Hotel, & Institutional Management is what I studied in college.  I did my internship at a hotel in NYC, where I rotated within all of the in-house food/beverage departments.  And, after graduating with a Bachelor of Science, I worked for ARAMARK - a global outsourcing company - for three years.  My point is this: I know the ins and outs of this field and, with a few exceptions mentioned above, I am pretty horrified by the hospitality (or lack thereof) industry in NYC. 

Case in point: I find it absolutely despicable that I never received a response from The Peninsula Hotel or Above 6.  I sent each venue an inquiry for a semi-private party - NOT a sales pitch!  Blech.

Overall, I found the lack of knowledge - service - courtesy, and slow response-times that I recently encountered to be extremely shocking and disappointing.  I mean, this IS Manhattan, after all - the cream of the crop - the capital of the world.  Shouldn't everyone in this town be on the tip-top of their game?  Seriously, what in the hell is going on here?

OK, enough ranting.  But before I end this post, I want to give a shout-out to a handful of venues that did go above and beyond the call of hospitality.  These places knew their stuff, were courteous, extremely responsive, and were all very willing to help/go the extra mile:

Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart, for not contributing to ripping yet another 10-years from my life.  I'm serious.


Wishing all of you a beautiful, safe, and sunny weekend!  Be on the lookout for my follow-up to "T's 48-hour birthday extravaganza" coming next week...

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

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