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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Farm-to-Table Restaurant Sprouts at Conejo Hotel

You know the farm-to-table restaurant is thoroughly mainstream when the concept has been adopted by a large corporate hotel such as the Hyatt Westlake Plaza. The Westlake Village hotel opened its new restaurant, the Harvest Kitchen & Bar, this month. And the eatery features delicacies such a Country Style Bruschetta appetizer with the bread delivered by Wildflour Bakery & Cafe in Agoura Hills. The restaurant also carries craft beers on tap, such as 805, a blonde ale made by Firestone Walker Brewing Co. in Paso Robles. What’s more, it has a smaller portion children’s menu designed to offer healthier eating for kids. The 262-room hotel is managed by Hyatt Corp. of Chicago and owned by Wheelock Street Capital LLC, a private real estate investment firm headquartered in Boston and Greenwich, Conn., which spent $1.7 million on the restaurant. The overhaul, which began in November, included an upgraded patio with fire pits, granite bar top and complete reworking of the interior design. The spot previously was an Italian-themed restaurant. One reason the hotel decided to invest so much in the project is an occupancy rate that is strong during the week but spotty on weekends, depending on the season. The weekend traffic is stable during wedding season and other special events. Gary Goroyan, director of sales and catering at the hotel, said the hotel wants the restaurant to not only serve guests but also attract nearby residents looking for a night out. “It’s all about locals and going against other restaurants,” he said. The Harvest menu has a medium-to-high price point and includes items such as a $14 crab cake salad and $28 Amish Farms Short Ribs, which feature an oyster mushroom sauce, gorgonzola polenta and root vegetables. Goroyan said the design of the menu and the pricing are in line with the demographics in the area. “There’s a lot of affluence here,” he said. Bruce Baltin, senior vice president and hospitality industry consultant at PKF Consulting in Los Angeles, said the size of the investment is not out of the ordinary in today’s hospitality market. “Food service in the hotel is a big focus right now,” he said. “Many travelers decide where to stay based entirely on food.” No Meat, No Problem Veggie Grill, a fast-casual restaurant that serves vegetarian food meant to resemble meat, opened its first Valley location in Encino this month. The menu, entirely plant-based and cholesterol free, offers a range of soups, salads, burgers, hot sandwiches and more. Among its signature dishes are “veggie steak” and “bayou chickin.” The 3,000-square-foot location is the 18th restaurant the company operates in California, Washington and Oregon, including nine in Los Angeles County. Greg Dollarhyde, chief executive of the Santa Monica company, said the demographics in Encino are a good fit. “It’s one of the wealthier and more educated areas of the Valley,” he said. “There’s also a big office population we can pull from.” In January, the chain raised about $20 million in equity, with a substantial amount coming from Brentwood Associates, a private investment firm in Los Angeles that has become the single largest shareholder in the company. The money was raised to fund a rapid expansion. Dollarhyde said he expects to double the size of the company in the next 18 months. Veggie Grill has leases signed for upcoming locations in Seattle, San Diego and Irvine already in place, with three more in the works. Angie Pappas, spokeswoman for the California Restaurant Association, said the demand for vegetarian food has risen in recent years, but remains an unstable category. “The jury is still out on whether there will be full-scale demand,” she said. Chic Outlet Kitson, an upscale fashion boutique, has opened a location at the Camarillo Premium Outlets. The hip L.A. retailer will offer between 30 and 70 percent off its merchandise, mostly the outdated items from its various Los Angeles locations, which includes high-end brands such as Marc Jacobs and Michael Kors. The 1,500-square-foot outlet opened March 27 and carries clothing, accessories and home decor with prices ranging from less than $10 to more than $250. Kitson, which has its flagship store on Robertson Boulevard, operates 14 retail locations, in addition to a full e-commerce site. It had a store at Americana at Brand in Glendale but it has closed. Staff Reporter Elliot Golan can be reached at (818) 316-3123 or [email protected]

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