A 25-year hospitality veteran, David Tetens is Director of Food and Beverage for the North American Division of Starwood Hotels and Resorts. In this role, David is responsible not only for StarBev , which is Starwood’s beverage program, but also for the asset management of the Gerber Group and the Midnight Oil portfolio of bars, and the creation and development of internal bar and restaurant concepts. Additionally, he acts as the F&B lead for owned and managed Sheraton, Westin, W, St Regis, and Le Meridien hotels in North America. Along with general beverage management practices and core product selections, StarBev includes such programs as the “Westin Superfoods Summer Mojito Program” (voted Best Beverage Merchandising Program by Cheers magazine) and the Sheraton “Shared Cocktail” program in North America.
ITM: Welcome, David. Could you give us a little background on David Tetens and the path leading to your current position at Starwood corporate?
DT: Prior to joining Starwood in July 2007, I was the co-owner of NYC’s highly acclaimed Gold Bar, and Cain at the Cove at the Atlantis Hotel, Nassau, Bahamas. I also served as a consultant to such notable venues as Tao Las Vegas, Marquee NYC, Better Burger, Avenue NYC, and The Inn NYC, to name a few. Prior to that, for 9 years, I served as COO of 3Sixty Hospitality, which owned and operated the famed Lotus Nightclub NYC, among other properties. I was also the co-owner of The Double-Seven in NYC’s Meatpacking District, and co-owner of Bar-Zil in NYC’s Flatiron District.
ITM: How is it adjusting to the corporate hotel business after you’ve had what seems to be a lot of ownership responsibilities in the past?
DT: Working for Starwood has been the best career move I have made. Starwood is a very progressive company with tremendous resources and capabilities, as well as a very high level of professionalism. I enjoy being part of the larger ecosystem, and gaining exposure to hotel operations and the various departments within Starwood. I would recommend any aspiring F&B professional consider a career at Starwood.
ITM: In your first year in the job and the first year of the StarBev beverage program, you snagged a coveted Cheers award for the “Westin Superfoods Summer Mojito Program.” Share with us the unique proposition of this promotion.
DT: The Superfoods program was unique for a number of reasons. Superfoods is a highly successful culinary program for Westin. In keeping with the beverage trend of “bringing the kitchen to the bar,” we chose to use many of the items found in this culinary program in the cocktail recipes. These included such things as green tea, blackberries, blueberries, and other anti-oxidant rich foods. We chose the mojito as the platform because it is a great summer cocktail and also supports our continued movement toward handcrafted cocktails.
ITM: With your background of in-unit mixology and management, how would you blend the corporate side of programming with the innovative desires of the field, to make a successful StarBev program?
DT: The corporate world, with the execution of programs across North America, has its own unique challenges and nuance. However, at the core of any good program is an understanding of Food and Beverage and what really works on the venue level. We have to start with this first. Once we can understand the trends and what would benefit an individual unit, we can simply expand that notion and tailor the details to corporate execution.
ITM: As you head into year two of StarBev, what are your main objectives?
DT: We are going to continue to drive consistency, overall compliance, lower costs, and increased revenue. While we believe in the “less is more” approach and in providing extensive freedom within the framework to our properties, each of our programs must address one or more of these goals. We plan to continue to provide an extensive tool box to our properties to assist them in building the strong foundation of a beverage program. Having successfully lowered beverage cost across the division in 2010, we plan to not only continue to control costs but also to provide multiple revenue-generation programs to each of our brands.