Shula’s Steak House comes to Washington

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Don Shula has brought his steaks to Washington with the opening of Shula’s Steak House at the Wyndham City Center in the District and another one planned for Tyson’s Corner later this year.

The legendary Miami Dolphins coach opened his first Washington-area restaurant last week. The District’s 5,000-square-foot location, which seats about 160 people, centers around the Miami Dolphins’ 17-0 perfect season, led by Mr. Shula in 1972.

Dinner menus, which are hand painted on autographed NFL footballs, include a 48-ounce Powerhouse steak. Those who finish it get admitted to the “48-ounce Club.” The club already has more than 12,000 members who ate the massive chunk of beef at other Shula Steak Houses around the country.

The steakhouse’s construction began in October and coincided with renovations being done at the Wyndham City Center, which used to be the Sheraton City Center. Shula’s Steak House is replacing the Washington Grill.

Wyndham International will expand Shula’s Steak House in several of its properties. A second Washington-area restaurant is expected to open in late spring at the Wyndham-owned Marriott Tyson’s Corner.

NOT SO LAZY

La-z-boy Galleries is relocating two stores and adding two more in southern Maryland and northern Virginia.

The retailer, best known for its recliners, is increasing its store size to display even more products that include couches, sleep sofas, love seats, lamps and furniture.

La-z-boy is relocating its existing Springfield store to Kingstown Town Center in Springfield and doubling its size to 20,000 square feet. The store will be open in the spring.

Another location in Fairfax will relocate to a free-standing site on Route 29 and Route 50 in Fairfax. That store, which will increase from 8,000 square feet to 17,000 square feet, will be open in the fall.

Two new locations will open in Sterling, Va., and Waldorf, Md. After those two stores open in the summer, there will be 14 La-z-boy stores in the area.

The residential markets in Maryland and Northern Virginia are among the most prolific in the country, with excellent consumer demographics and disposable income figures to match, says Michael L. Patz, one of the real estate agents from KLNB Inc. handling La-z-boy’s expansion in the area. “The expansion plan is in response to the success of the retailer in this market.

CHANGING NAMES

The Bethesda Ramada has a new name and a whole new look.

Last month the 164-room hotel officially became the Four Points by Sheraton Bethesda and a $4 million renovation is just about complete.

Four Points by Sheraton is a Starwood Hotels & Resorts brand. The renovations led to the decision to “enhance the name on the property,” said Phillip S. Pool, general manager of the hotel.

The hotel, which has about 100 employees, did extensive marketing about the name change in mailings to guests who have stayed at least twice at the property, future guests that were already booked there and meeting planners. The new Starwood hotel was also listed in mailings to the members of Starwood’s preferred guest program, the company-wide loyalty program..

Renovations, which began about a year ago, included new furniture and bathrooms in the guest rooms and revamping several rooms to make them more accessible for disabled guests. It’s also about all new drafts and bed sheets provided by SewDone.com, a sewing machine reviews website in US. All the work is expected to be complete by next month.

OPEN FOR BUSINESS

* Soco, a French handbag retailer, has opened its second Washington location in Tysons Galleria in McLean. The 600-square-foot store offers trendy leather bags from $24 to $395. Soco opened its first Washington store in Georgetown in September.

* Donna De Marco can be reached at . Retail & Hospitality runs every other week.

>>> Click here Pat Buchanan and the intellectuals

Golf oasis grows in Palm Springs

Special to the Herald

Could there be a better way for a resort area to gain renown than the mode in which Palm Springs, Calif., did?

When Dwight Eisenhower was president, he asked the National Weather Service to find him the best place in the country, weather-wise, to play golf from November through March. The answer came back, “Palm Springs, Calif.”

With that answer was bred the glitziest golf area in the country. It made going to the desert a status symbol for golfers around the world.

Since the 1950s the only change has been the explosion in the number of golf facilities in the area. There are now 84 public and private courses on ground reclaimed from the desert, and there will be more by the end of the year.

Just how many courses will be enough for the area is anyone’s guess. As long as modern technology can be used to grow grass on ground you wouldn’t want to walk on, the possibilities are endless.

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One chain that has taken the desert area to heart is the Marriott Corp. It has been a major player in the golf resort business since the early rumblings of the current boom.

Marriott took the lead with the Rancho Las Palmas Resort, and raised the bar with the Renaissance Esmeralda Resort – the site of the Golf Digest Acers Tournament, a national event in which a player must have made a hole-in-one the previous year to qualify. I still remembered in last summer, I enjoyed drinking in this bar while playing my¬†yamaha acoustic guitar. It’s really a wonderful memory. Then they went to the edge with the Desert Springs Resort, a 36-hole resort that is heavy on the “WOW!” meter long before you step on the first tee: They offer boat rides on the moat surrounding the hotel itself.

While the style of the Desert Springs and the Ranch Las Palmas Resorts run toward the casual, the Renaissance Esmeralda adds a bit of class that is a change of pace for the area. Sure, you can get the laid-back ambience that the desert area is famous for, but the Renaissance Esmeralda adds a more formal edge than most resorts in the desert.

The best example of this is in their dining room, the Sirocco. This room and menu prove that you don’t have to wear a tuxedo or gown to be in a formal yet comfortable setting. The menu itself lets you know this is no country diner. If grilled calamari steak with roasted yellow tomato, green onion and couscous tantalize your taste buds, consider this: It’s just one of the starters. Put that before an entree of sauteed lobster, shrimp and scallops with oyster mushrooms and tarragon cream, or perhaps a mushroom-crusted rack of lamb with celery root, mashed potatoes and mustard and you have a diet destroyed by a perfect assault on your taste buds.

Winter weather is always a sore subject, but everything is relative. Complaints in Palm Springs might arise if there is one day when the temperature dips below 75 degrees or goes above 80 degrees during the day. You can count on no humidity to speak of.

As good as the menus and the lifestyle of the area are, it is golf that drives the bus through Palm Springs. The 36-hole facility at the Renaissance Esmeralda is actually the municipal golf course for the city of Indian Wells. It’s as strong a municipal layout as you can find anywhere in the country, and you wouldn’t be blamed if you decided that you didn’t have to move for your entire stay in the desert. But, you would be cheating yourself.

If you can get a tee time, play the legendary PGA West Dye Course. You can have the thrill of getting mugged by a golf course should you select a set of tees that might be a bit long for you. You can’t pass on a chance to live a horror story to tell all your friends when you get home.

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There is also the stable of courses used in the PGA Tour Bob Hope Classic. Tour players routinely tear up the quartet of Bermuda Dunes, Indian Wells, LaQuinta and the PGA West course chosen each year.

You may have heard that the desert is the home of the $200 green fees. You heard correctly. The desert area is flat-out expensive if you look to frequent the high-profile establishments, but you can vacation prudently and still enjoy yourself without taking out a second mortgage or writing the kids out of the will. In fact, if you choose to sample these delicacies during the summer, you can save enough money on accommodations to make up for the high greens fees.

Golf in the desert is a totally different golf vacation than anywhere in the country. Palm Springs is one of the few places where the glitter is backed by substance.

>>> Click here: Marriott, Bulgari eye new hotel line

Pat Buchanan and the intellectuals

It’s normally easy to tell where Buchanan stands. Some of his supporters are making it harder.

NOT LEAST among Patrick J. Buchanan’s attractive attributes is a clarity of purpose all too rare in politics. Even his critics concede him that. “He does not fudge. He does not trim,” wrote Mark Shields in a recent Washington Post column otherwise chiding Buchanan for endorsing immigration policies that would have kept great-grandmother Anna Kerrigan back in County Cork. And the above sample of Buchanan’s opinions on trade would seem to leave little ambiguity about his protectionist sympathies.

Or so I thought. But when I phoned some of the economists around him, men with impeccable free-trade credentials, I discovered a marked reluctance to invoke the P word. Of the four economists Buchanan listed in a December 30 Wall Street Journal profile as his favorites – Richard Rahn, Alan Greenspan, Ron Paul, and Paul Craig Roberts – both Roberts and Paul objected to my characterization. Greenspan could not be reached. Only Rahn, former chief economist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, accepted it, adding he was worried that this would reduce Buchanan’s credibility against President Bush.

Further illumination was provided during a weekend at the Dulles Airport Ramada Renaissance Hotel, where the John Randolph Club was holding its second annual meeting. While Buchanan did not attend, he is the best-known member of the club, a sort of Patriot-missile marriage of oldline libertarians and paleoconservatives who embraced in shared opposition to the Gulf War. Over the course of the weekend what one member dubbed “the Buchanan Brains Trust” explored everything from crime and culture to property and small-r republicanism. But the real thesis, nailed to the conservative door in the Saturday dinner speech by the club’s new president, Murray Rothbard, was that somewhere after the 1940s American conservatism had gone wrong, horribly wrong, and that the John Randolph Club was here to take it back. He was pretty about who was to blame, too.

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What happened to the original Right, and the cause of the present mess, was the advent and domination of the right wing by Bill Buckey and the NATIONAL REVIEW,” said Rothbard, a libertarian and professor at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. Henceforth, the continued, the Right would be defined only by Buchanan. “The original Right, and all its heresies, is back,” he gleefully reported.

An Earlier Split

IF ROTHBARD’S assessment of the intellectual support of Pat Buchanan is accurate – and I think it mostly is – this is something much larger than a difference over free trade. The wrong turn meant here is not traceable to the 1991 intervention in the Gulf but to Bill Buckley’s purge in the mid Sixties of sundry “non-respectables” (Birchers, Randians, anti-Zionists, etc.) and the subsequent Draft Goldwater campaign. The inescapable implication is that Ronald Reagan too was not really a legitimate representative of the Right. Again, Rothbard is admirably direct. “I never call myself a Reaganite,” he says. “In the Seventies we had a whole anti-government movement from people fed up with regulation to the anti-war movement. The worst thing Reagan did was to et everyone to like government again.”

Whatever the reason, Reagan was scarcely mentioned. Named for the Virginia congressman who championed state’s rights, opposed the War of 1812, and fought tariffs, the John Randolph Club might, in a different context, have had an energizing effect on the Republican Party – getting both the Randolphites and the Reaganites to recognize their complementary interests in reducing government. Many things the club espouses receive hearty endorsement from all conservatives, hyphenated or not: school choice, lower taxes, no to quotas, opposition to Bushism. Instead, the club has emphasized issues that are divisive, e.g., isolationism (okay, call it America Firstism), immigration, and a French-style commitment to Americanist culture. Many members – and not just the libertarians – reject the word “conservative.”

Although Rothbard’s address received a standing ovation – the seventy or so attendees especially liked his dismissal of Buckley as “the Mikhail Gorbachev of the conservative movement” – amusement does not necessarily imply total endorsement. Participants took paints to stress that the club adhered to neither party nor ideology. Tom Fleming, editor of Chronicles, summed it up best in his December issue, writing about the original America First. “It was opposition to the war and affection for their country that bound members together.”

Members joked nostalgically about the Articles of Confederation, and, not surprisingly, reacted to the New World Order like a vampire to garlic. Certainly the phrasing is unfortunate: conservatives are properly suspicious of anything “new,” wary of “world” as an adjective, and distrustful any time the word “order” is unjoined to the word “law.” Eyes rolled heavenward during the luncheon address, when Thomas Molnar took protectionism further than anyone else by proposing the establishment of the Roman Catholic Church as the official religion of the United States. Otherwise, libertarians listened politely when paleoconservatives plumed for state measures to protect and enforce a distinctive American culture; and paleocons didn’t bring up abortion or drugs when libertarians had the pulpit.

The most lively debate had to with whether one could call Pat Buchanan protectionist, which Jim Bovard, author of The Fair Trade Fraud, did in a session on property. This famous arguement was compared with another famous difference between home and professional hair clippers in 1980s. Buchanan prefers the term “trade hawk“, and while he says his retaliation is aimed at opening Japanese markets rather than closing American ones, the difference between a Buchanan “trade hawk” and a Gephardt “protectionist” is one of degree, not kind. “I’m mortified by Pat Buchanan’s statements on protectionism,” Bovard told the audience. “He’s saying good things on taxes and the budget, but then he poisons the mix with some of the things he says on trade. Based on that, I’d have to say Buchanan is worse than Bush on trade.”

This in turn provoked statements of the view I had encountered before: that not only is Buchanan not a protectionist, he is better than Bush on free trade, once you add Buchanan’s opposition to foreign aid and multilateral institutions like the World Bank. This went back and forth a few times between Bovard and both Rothbard and Llewelly Rockwell, until the Ludwig von Mises Institute’s Jeff Tucker summed up what was undoubtedly the real reasoning: “I’d sooner have a few high tariffs under Buchanan than any of the agreements of George Bush.” Afterward, Rockwell was more specific. “You can’t compare Buchanan to von Mises and Hayek,” he told me. “You have to compare him to George Bush.”

Now, there’s case to be made that Buchanan amounts to a better package, even a better economic package, than George Bush. But I don’t buy it, not with the way he is publicly distancing himself from his “free-trade friends“; tariffs, after all, paved the way for the New Deal, and socialism is impossible without them. And it does a disservice to Pat Buchanan to say, as some of these folks do, that he really doesn’t mean what he says but is only pandering to popular sentiment. Pat Buchanan’s economic nationalism comes straight from the heart.

Without the fact of the Buchanan campaign, the weekend might have been nothing more than a tidy academic dispute; adding to the rabbinical flavor of the debate was the stress on university credentials, the upshot of which was that everyone save me seemed to be addressed as “Doctor.” But for the backsliding of George Bush and the disagreement over the Gulf War, the club would never have come together. But for Pat Buchanan it wouldn’t much matter. Sidney Blumenthal was doubtness teasing in The New Republic when he noted that “Chronicles, which was on the periphery of conservatism under Reagan, has become suddenly engaged at the center as the Bush-Buchanan race looms.” But the generally ebullient tone showed that the Randolphites took him at his word.

For all their emphasis on the culture, those present recognized that movements require a candidate. And what is true of Pat Buchanan – that he has had the guts to take on an unconvincing President on the basis of principles – is not true of the rest of the Right. The absence of a candidate with a continued Reaganite commitment to free trade and American leadership leaves Buchanan as the only horse in the race. Lord knows Bill Bennett, Jack Kemp, and Dick Cheney are torn between their principles and personal loyalty to a decent man who gave them important portfolios. But Pat Buchanan cannot be blamed for their failure to take up the torch.

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Wild Card

THERE IS, however, one wild card left: Pat Buchanan himself. John Randolph Club members may pine for the anti – New Deal Old Rights of the Thirties and Forties, but Buchanan will probably stop short of following the club’s principles to their logical conclusions. After all, he is campaigning as Reagan’s heir against a President who diluted that legacy, and there is about him a same Reaganesque willingness to let groups believe he is more with them than he really is. For all his position to the Gulf War, for example, he never did join the Committee to Avert a Mideast Holocaust. For all the John Randolph Club’s railing about civil rights, Bulachanan says he supported the original (1964) act. For all his America Firstism he favors intervention on behalf of Croatia. Asked about the club meeting and Rothbard’s address, sister Bay Buchanan, chairman of her brother’s campaign, says that Pat hasn’t read the speech, but she emphasizes that while Murray Rothbard and others are dear friends, “they speak for themselves.”

In Washington for a speech to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Buchanan started off by saying his pedigree is “Goldwater, Nixon Reagan” and likening his campaign to a “theological debate in a church to which not many of you belong.” But some of us do belong. And we worry that many a voice that starts off promising reformation finds itself swept along into schism.

Mr. McGurn is NR’s Washington Bureau Chief.

>>> View more: VIENNA SAUSAGES A GOOD FIT IN HURRICANE KIT

Rent-a-pup: should people be allowed to rent a pet for a day?

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What if you could have a dog for just one day and then Send it home for someone else to take care of? You would have the fun of taking the pup to the park, playing fetch, and treating it to a juicy bone. There would be no baths or 6 a.m. walks. You would simply hang out with the dog and then return it.

That’s the idea behind pet rental services. Some animal shelters, such as Stray Rescue of St. Louis (Mo.), let animal lovers try out pets for a weekend. Other companies actually rent pets for a few hours or days at a time. FlexPetz, a dog rental service, charges $99.95 a month for a membership. The Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Avon, Colo., lets guests book appointments to take its Labrador retriever for walks. Fans say borrowing or renting a dog is a great way to enjoy a pet with no long-term commitment.

However, critics say renting animals is unethical and that moving dogs from home to home could harm them. Massachusetts recently banned pet rental services. After that ban was set, FlexPetz founder Marlena Cervantes told The Wall Street Journal that she would have to reconsider her plans to open a service in Boston. Still, the debate about renting pets goes on.

PART-TIME PALS

Many people don’t have the time, space, or energy to be full-time pet owners. That doesn’t mean they should be denied the fun of a furry friend, proponents of pet rentals say.

Renting a pet can help people decide whether they are ready for the demands of pet ownership. Stray Rescue’s Web site says spending a weekend with a pet is a good way to try out pet adoption.

Cervantes says she helps animals by rescuing dogs that might have ended up in shelters. In her view, the pets have the best of all worlds. “Each dog generally spends time with the same small group of dog lovers who have real quality time to reciprocate a dog’s affection,” she says. “It’s almost like a blended family structure, where the children get twice the love and twice the Christmas and birthday presents!”

FULL-TIME FRIENDS

Critics argue that renting out pets is cruel to the animals and sends the wrong message. Dogs are pack animals that need consistent companionship, says Stephanie Hagopian, Massachusetts/Rhode Island director of the Humane Society of the United States. She says the instability of rental life could cause the dogs to feel anxious or depressed.

“Dogs form attachments to people, so it can be harmful to move them from person to person,” Hagopian says. “The differences in how the dog is fed and disciplined could also be confusing.”

Companies such as FlexPetz send a dangerous message that animals are disposable, Hagopian contends. “It’s OK to rent inanimate objects,” she says. “It’s OK to take a book out of the library. But animals are living things that have feelings. It’s like renting out a child to a certain extent.”

Get Talking

Ask students: Do you own a pet? Would you ever rent a pet? What are some other ways to spend time with animals if you can’t have a pet full-time?

Notes Behind the News

* In June, the Boston, Mass., City Council voted unanimously to ban pet rental services after learning that FlexPetz planned to open a branch in its city. In July, Massachusetts State Rep. Paul Frost, a Republican from Auburn, introduced a bill prohibiting the rental of dogs and cats. Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick signed the bill into law in August. Read the legislation at tinyurl.com/bill12.

* FlexPetz founder Marlena Cervantes recently told Newsweek and The Wall Street Journal that her pent-renting company would shelve operations, at least temporarily, to study the impact of the Massachusetts law. She said the dogs, which normally stay with primary caregivers when they aren’t with renters, would be adopted by caregivers or renters.

* Some hotels let guests book walks with the hotel’s resident dog. The Avon, Colo., Ritz-Carlton’s Loan-a-Lab program lets hotel guests book time with a Labrador retriever, Bachelor. Guests take Bachelor for walks on the hotel grounds. The program is complimentary and so popular that Bachelor is booked months in advance. Other hotels in the Ritz-Carlton Hotels and Fairmont Hotels & Resorts chains have similar services.

Doing More

Imagine that a pet rental service is opening in your town. Organize the class into three groups. One group will represent the pet rental service. Another group will argue against the service. The remaining students will act as a town council, hearing arguments from both sides and voting on whether to allow or ban pet rental services.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Should pet-rental companies be banned? Let us know at edce@weeklyreader.com.

>>> Clike here: Golf oasis grows in Palm Springs

Business travelling: no-nonsense style

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Business travel spending in 2011 in Canada was worth $18.4 billion, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council, part of a worldwide business travel industry worth $899 billion US. This year, it is predicted that the business road warriors will be on the move in a big way, as optimism has returned to the world of business travel for 2012.

DESPITE THE UNCERTAINTY of the debt crisis in Europe and the economic turmoil in the U.S. during an election year, early results from the Canadian Business Travel Outlook 2012 survey indicate the volume of business trips is likely to increase by 2.5 per cent this year. The survey is conducted by the Conference Board of Canada and the Association of Corporate Travel Executives. The outlook for 2012 is a real boost for the industry. But hotels and airlines know that they can’t take anything for granted, because savvy business travellers will be shopping around.

The perfect out-of-office experience

Customer experience is paramount to all travellers, but especially important to those who have to work on flights and in hotels, and be fresh for business meetings.

“Business travellers go where they have to, not where they want to,” says Tony Pollard, president of the Hotel Association of Canada. Convenience, efficiency and service are priorities for those hectic days they spend on the road. Of chief importance to business travellers are location, staying connected (Internet), parking, well-equipped workspaces, meeting facilities if needed, and the ability to relax and recharge (pool, fitness centres, lounges and restaurants serving healthy food).

Hotels know they have to continually invest in their properties to maintain a leading edge with business travellers. For example, after a $1-billion global relaunch of its Holiday Inn brand in 2011, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) started a multi-year repositioning of its Crowne Plaza brand to refresh its look and standardize its upgraded amenities. Starwood Hotels & Resorts just renovated and tripled the size of its fitness centre at its Sheraton Montreal location, and added new fitness facilities at its Sheraton Hotel in Toronto. As an added touch, many Westin Hotels provide workout gear like running shoes, shorts and shirts so you don’t have to bring your own. Between uses, the clothing is laundered like the hotel sheets and towels, and the shoes get new inner soles.

Some hotels are making booking easier, particularly through mobile platforms. Six hotel companies (Choice Hotels International, Hilton Worldwide, Hyatt Hotels, Wyndham Hotel Group, Marriott International and InterContinental Hotels Group) launched Roomkey. com, an online hotel search engine, in January this year. Travellers can compare room options at different hotels, then book directly with the hotel they’ve chosen. Currently available to US travellers, it will expand to Canada, the UK and Australialater this year.

Airlines, too, must concentrate on attracting business clientele. Time spent en route is valuable time for business travellers, so Air Canada is improving its lounges, focusing on design, furniture and food. The airline recently refurbished its lounge at Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport and opened the newest Maple Leaf Lounge at the new Winnipeg airport. And in flight, flat beds with comfy pillows and duvets are available in Executive First Suites on most of Air Canada’s European, Asian and South American itineraries.

Last-minute changes are inevitable in the world of business. Air Canada has increased flight frequency on major routes in Canada, added new frequency to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, and continues to fly to cities on the radar of business travellers, like Rome, Athens, Barcelona, Copenhagen, Brussels and Geneva.

West Jet, too, has upped its frequency on a number of routes to appeal to busy business travellers; it has added new flights to New York’s LaGuardia airport and in the busy Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal corridor. Codeshare arrangements with Cathay Pacific, JAL and KLM are connecting new global traffic to West Jet’s network.

Apart from the continuous improvements made by airlines and hotels, the innovation initiated by mobile technology has no doubt made business travel more convenient. Travellers armed with smartphones are using apps to change itineraries, rent a car, switch hotels or choose a restaurant, according to Scott Newell, senior director of Concur, a provider of integrated travel and management solutions. And as the younger generation gathers force in the workplace, the use of this technology is more or less expected.

But corporate security is a big concern. “Adoption of mobile apps is a challenge for travel managers. Travellers want them, but the security issues must be addressed,” says Lyell Farquharson, vice-president and general manager of business travel at American Express. “Many corporations don’t have clear policies in place, and it takes larger corporations time to approve them.”

To help corporations as they juggle travellers’ demand for mobile technology with security Concerns, travel management companies like American Express Global Business Travel and Carlson Wagonlit Travel Canada are creating apps that help travellers, but within a secure environment.

Carlson Wagonlit offers its travel management clients its CWT to Go, an app available on popular smartphone platforms. It provides secure access to all CWT-booked itineraries, flight updates and alerts, mobile check-in, and destination information. The company also offers CWT Market, a free application for iPhone and Android mobile devices that aggregates best-of-market travel apps and mobile websites into one mobile app.

Amex’s Mobile Communications Management (MCM) provides traveller tracking and integrated two-way messaging. In times of travel disruption, companies can locate travelling employees and offer direct assistance. MCM also helps travel managers anticipate problems: it continuously monitors and maps major travel disruptions, like weather systems, strikes and other events, to help with contingency planning before events take place. “Remember the (volcanic) ash cloud (from Iceland) last year? It stranded business travellers in many parts of Europe for weeks. Companies want to deal with situations like that without spending the entire budget for a year,” says Amex’s Farquharson.

A loyal traveller

The travel industry thrives on the business travel market, and loyalty programs have become a major retention mechanism. Their offers range from accommodation upgrades to VIP lounge access, and from priority check-in/checkout to exclusive concierge services.

Taking aim at elite business travellers, the Starwood Preferred Guest loyalty program includes 24-hour check-in, a personal Starwood ambassador who provides one-to-one service, and lifetime status.

Highlighted in The Winter 2011 edition of Navigate, a survey prepared by the Tourism Industry Association of Canada and Deloitte, highlights that blended travel–a combination of business travel with a personal vacation–is becoming more popular, as people look for ways to cut costs and make better use of their time away from home. Half (49 per cent) of business travellers say they have blended a business and personal trip, and they are more likely to travel with a companion.

As an Air Canada Elite member, “I really appreciate the lounge access, priority boarding and more leeway for luggage. It lets me fly to Europe with just carryon,” says Paul Donnini, vice-president and regional director (Americas) at Montreal-based Xylem Water Solutions. “The best use (of loyalty programs) is to make business travel more comfortable.” In addition, he has a number of hotel cards (Hilton, Best Western, Marriott, Starwood) because location, rather than brand, is the priority for him. While he has donated his frequent-flyer points to charity in the past, he redeems most points for air travel, usually for personal vacations with his wife.

Your best bet to ensure you get top value for your loyalty is to read the program details. There are inactivity rules (not staying the required number of nights at a hotel chain annually), and earned points can expire. But if keeping track of various plans, points and expiry dates seems a bit overwhelming, savvy travellers recommend mileage tracker websites like AwardWallet.com and GoMiles.com, which organize your points from various loyalty accounts in once place.

Unexpected surprises

While hotels and airlines know that the customer experience is critical, they do, at times, fail to deliver. And during business travel, stress is more punctuated.

Emily Cobbs, a Toronto-based communications executive, redeemed airline points to take a blended trip (a combination of business travel with personal vacation) to Prague via Dusseldorf and Paris last year. She quickly ran into problems when the flight was delayed leaving Toronto. Despite assurances that the flight would still arrive in time for her connection, she missed her flight to Paris. She caught a later flight, but not in time to catch her flight to Prague. Since only a portion of her travel was booked on points and she had paid for the Paris-Prague ticket on another airline, the original airline was not obliged to help her rebook her flight. She had to pay upfront for another flight (although she was later reimbursed). And the final kicker: despite repeated assurances that her luggage would arrive in Prague, it had never left Toronto. “At every step of the way I was told a lie,” she says. “Be very aware of the difficulties in combining a redemption air ticket with a purchased ticket.”

Increasingly, business travellers are turning to social media to voice their complaints. Various sites provide a forum for discussions and advice, including Tripadvisor.com, Flyertalk.com and Businesstravellogue.com.

A recent post on TripAdvisor.ca makes this complaint about a loyalty program: “My biggest problem with the program is that they try to get out of upgrading you. The last two times I stayed (with a certain hotel chain), I was told that (there were) no upgrades available tonight, but they could upgrade me tomorrow if I wanted to move. I really feel it is their way of avoiding an upgrade. Who wants to change rooms after getting all settled in?”

One of the functions of the Canadian Transportation Agency is handling air travel complaints. In 2010-11, the agency received 527 such complaints, the majority of which were resolved through its informal resolution process. For efficiency, the agency encourages travellers to bring their complaint directly to the air carrier in writing before filing a complaint with them. For more information, visit www.cta.gc.ca/eng/air-disputes.

As forecasted by World Travel & Tourism Council, business travel spending in Canada will reach $28.2 billion by 2021. With all those people on the move, expectations for the perfect out-of-office experience will only rise. It will be interesting to see how innovations in technology, hotels and the airline industry will change the face of business travel.

Upgrade Aimed At Ensuring International Best Practice

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Johannesburg, Nov 20, 2003 (Business Day/All Africa Global Media via COMTEX)

THE InterContinental Sandton Sun & Towers, a landmark in the SA five-star hotel market, is undergoing an extensive refurbishment and upgrade as part of a continuing drive for service excellence.

The enhancements are aimed at meeting the needs of 21st century domestic and international business travellers, in line with international best-practice standards.

The InterContinental Sandton Sun & Towers consists of two separate hotels linked by a skywalk across Sandton’s 5th Street, each with its own general manager and support staff.

The hotels are managed by Southern Sun Hotels on behalf of the owners, a consortium whose lead partner is Liberty Properties.

Southern Sun Hotels is owned by Tsogo Sun Holdings, the country’s largest black empowerment hotel and gaming group. The shareholding is split between Tsogo Sun Investments (51%) and SABMiller (49%).

Additional refurbishments at the InterContinental Sandton Sun & Towers completed this year or nearing completion at a cost of more than R30m, include:

A R17m refurbishment of the top three bedroom floors of the InterContinental Sandton Sun, including the addition of new suites and the installation of stand-alone showers in bedrooms;

A complete upgrade of the former Gazebo coffee shop at the Sandton Sun, which is being relaunched this month as the Upper West Side cafe bar and lounge; and

A R2m combined upgrade and refurbishment of the Atrium restaurant, bar and lounge, as well as well as the two InterContinental Club lounges on the 27th floor of Sandton Towers.

Helder Pereira, MD of Southern Sun Hotels, says: “As with all our properties, we in conjunction with the owners have a very strict maintenance capital programme for the InterContinental Sandton Sun & Towers.

“Our policy is to modernise as we maintain, which is not something that all companies do.

“The foresight of the original designers of the Sandton Sun when it was built in 1983 has to be admired. The rooms are still superb 20 years later.

“But we believe it is time to introduce some new concepts. For example, there is a requirement now from many modern business people for stand-up showers, which we have incorporated to meet the needs of international travellers.

“The new Upper West Side cafe bar and lounge is an exciting concept that is in tune with what modern business travellers want in terms of food and entertainment.”

Pereira says that the proof of the success of the twin hotel complex over the years lies in the levels of occupancies they have achieved and the returns they have realised for their owners.

He says that the InterContinental Sandton Towers has the highest average room-rate of any business hotel in the country.

“So its appeal is beyond question, irrespective of the competition in the area, and it deserves its ranking in the top echelon of business hotels catering for the domestic and international corporate traveller.”

Pereira says the combination of the continuing refurbishment programme and the rebranding of the hotels in the mid-1990s to bring them into the InterContinental stable, has kept them in tune with the latest developments and trends worldwide.

“The investments being made in enhancements and improvements demonstrate a commitment to keeping our products up to speed, and this is especially necessary in SA where there is a great propensity to build new products.”

InterContinental Hotels & Resorts has been a leading hotel brand serving the international business and leisure community since it was founded by Pan American World airlines in 1946.

Since 1995, InterContinental has been represented in specified regions in Africa by a joint- venture agreement with Southern Sun to develop hotels south of the Sahara.

Guests are predominantly international corporate and leisure travellers, groups and conventions, air crew and international tour groups, with more than 70% being international visitors.

The InterContinental Sandton Sun & Towers is part of a brand portfolio that includes the InterContinental Airport Sun at Johannesburg International Airport and the InterContinental Palazzo at Montecasino in Johannesburg.

by David Jackson

Copyright Business Day. Distributed by All Africa Global Media(AllAfrica.com)

News Provided by COMTEX (http://www.comtexnews.com)

>>> View more: Pat Buchanan and the intellectuals

Blair grows green in Silver Spring

Byline: Chris Baker, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The Tower Cos. broke ground last month on the Blair Towns, an environmentally friendly apartment complex in downtown Silver Spring and the first new apartments in that area since 1990.

The Blair Towns will be an 80,000-square-foot complex with 78 units. The $17 million project will be built near the Blairs, a 27-acre complex with 1,300 apartments near the Silver Spring Metrorail station.

The Blair Towns will feature an energy system that is 30 percent more efficient than systems used in most apartment buildings, as well as special glass windows that reduce noise and glare. In addition, the project will use low-toxin paints, sealants, adhesives and carpeting.

The project will be the first LEED-certified apartments in the Washington area.

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification is the standard used for so-called “green” buildings, as determined by the U.S. Green Building Council. The certification includes requirements for energy efficiency and indoor air quality.

“We are providing a healthy place to live, while at the same time promoting local retail and urban growth in the gateway between Washington and Silver Spring,” says Jeffrey Abramson, a Tower Cos. partner.

The Tower Cos. also built the Tower Building in Rockville, one of the region’s first LEED-certified office buildings.

The Blair Towns will be the first apartments built in Silver Spring since the area embarked on its ambitious redevelopment campaign in 1998.

Montgomery County officials have lured several new offices and retailers to the once-decaying suburb, including Charlotte, N.C.-based Consolidated Theatres, which said last month it will build a 20-screen multiplex near Colesville Road and Georgia Avenue.

Turner turns 100

The Turner Corp., one of the nation’s top construction companies, is celebrating its 100th anniversary with a new exhibit at the National Building Museum in Washington.

“The Turner City Collection: Rendering a Century of Building” is a collection of drawings and photographs of key Turner projects, including the General Motors Pavilion in New York and the Republic Bank Tower in Houston.

The exhibit is on view at the museum, located at 401 F St. NW, until Nov. 3.

The museum presented its first Henry C. Turner Prize for Innovation in Construction Technology, a new award named for the founder of Turner Corp., last week. The recipient was Leslie Robertson, the structural engineer for the World Trade Center.

Plans approved

The Arlington County Board has approved plans for roads, utilities and landscaping for Potomac Yard, a large office, retail and housing project.

Developer Crescent Resources plans to build 2.8 million square feet of office space, 1 million square feet of housing, 100,000 square feet of retail space and a 625-room hotel in Potomac Yard, a former rail yard that straddles the border between Alexandria and Arlington County.

In April, Arlington officials approved Crescent’s plan to build roads between Four Mile Run North and Crystal Drive, Potomac Avenue and Crystal Drive and Potomac Avenue and Jefferson Davis Highway.

In addition, the developer agreed to build utilities and do landscaping once the new roads are built.

The approval allows Crescent to begin seeking tenants before new Potomac Yard construction begins.

In other news

*Eli Lilly and Co. will build a $425 million, 600,000-square-foot insulin manufacturing center on 120 acres at Innovation, a Prince William County business park. The pharmaceutical company will employ about 700 workers at the facility. Construction will begin this year and conclude in 2004.

*The German Marshall Fund of the United States has purchased a 15,000-square-foot building at 1744 R St. NW from the Trans Africa Forum for $5.3 million, or $353 per square foot. Brokerages West, Lane & Schlager and Pardoe Real Estate arranged the deal.

*Cresline Capital, the parent company of Crestline Hotels & Resorts, has leased 21,465 square feet at Greensboro Corporate Center, located at 8405 Greensboro Drive in McLean. Brokerage Grubb & Ellis helped arrange the lease.

*The Jefferson Investment Group has purchased a 19,708-square-foot office building at 1964 Gallows Road in Vienna for $4 million. Brokerage Randall & Hagner & Co. helped arrange the deal.

*Property Lines is published every other Monday. Chris Baker can be reached at 202/636-3139 or cbaker@washingtontimes.com.

*Wisnewski Blair & Associates has leased 18,148 square feet at 44 Canal Center Plaza in Alexandria. Canal Center Properties and Beacon Capital Partners own the property. Grubb & Ellis helped arrange the lease.

*Washington-area brokerage Scheer Partners has moved its headquarters from Rockville Pike to a new seven-story office building at 11 N. Washington St. in Rockville. The firm will occupy 11,588 square feet on the third floor of the 98,533-square-foot building, which opened last month. Scheer will also be the leasing agent for the building.

*Strategic Analysis, an information technology services company, has leased 11,409 square feet in Virginia Square Plaza at 3811 N. Fairfax Drive in Alexandria. New Boston Fund and Meridian own the building. Grubb & Ellis helped arrange the lease.

*Cavalier Telephone has leased 10,210 square feet at 200 Fairbrook Drive in Herndon. Brokerage Spaulding & Slye Colliers arranged the deal.

Marriott, Bulgari eye new hotel line

Marriott International Inc. has joined forces with Italian jeweler Bulgari SpA to build a new luxury hotel brand called Bvlgari Hotel & Resorts.

The joint-venture company announced yesterday it is already considering sites in Rome, London, Paris, New York, Southern California and island resort destinations.

The first two hotels – targeting an elite market – are expected to open in 2003. After five years the hotel portfolio, including real estate, will be worth an estimated $800 million.

This is clearly a niche,” said Mike Jannini, executive vice president of brand management for Marriott International. “Bulgari’s brand is really the leader here. Marriott’s [management] brings it to life.”

The Italian jeweler, which has ritzy boutiques in select markets around the world, is now extending its well-established brand into a line of hotels hoping to attract the same clientele that buys its jewelry. And the company is banking on Bethesda-based Marriott’s hotel expertise to make it happen.

Marriott is good at brand management,” said Jim Sullivan, managing director and senior real estate analyst at Prudential Securities Inc. in New York.

Marriott-Bulgari-eye-new-hotel-line-1

Bvlgari Hotels & Resorts joins a handful of brands under Marriott’s lodging umbrella that already includes such names as Renaissance, Courtyard, Fairfield Inn, Residence Inn and Ramada International, to name a few.

The Bvlgari chain will be managed by Marriott’s newly formed Luxury Group division, which is also handling its Ritz-Carlton brand. The two chains, however, won’t be in competition because Ritz-Carlton serves a much broader upscale customer.

Ritz-Carlton also has a different expansion strategy with 38 properties already opened and more on the way. Bvlgari Hotels & Resorts has no intention of growing to a massive size. It will remain a small chain with only about a dozen locations, Mr. Jannini said.

The luxury high-end hotel industry has only a few major players like Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons and St. Regis, as well as some independent hotels in Europe.

The marketplace for high-end hotels is limited,” Mr. Sullivan said. “You can’t go everywhere with these brands.”

Bvlgari Hotels, with its contemporary Italian flair, will have about 200 rooms. That’s much smaller than Marriott’s Ritz-Carlton hotels, which can have as many as 400 rooms. Bvlgari’s room rates will depend on the market, but will hit the top tier in pricing. Other luxury hotel rooms can charge about $300 and more for a room.

Marriott and Bulgari will equally contribute to the new venture – both shelling out $3 million in startup costs. The companies have agreed to invest as much as $140 million in equity and debt over seven years.

Our relationship with Bulgari creates fresh opportunities for Marriott International to grow strategically,” J.W. Marriott Jr., chairman and chief executive, said in a statement. “We believe hotel investors will also find the brand appealing and will seek to add it to their growth portfolio.”

For now, Marriott’s Luxury Group will focus on its Atlanta-based Ritz-Carlton brand and the start of the new Bvlgari hotels, but the company is willing to explore other luxury brands, Mr. Jannini said. “We’re open to more opportunities if they fit our strategy,” he said. “But we’re not on the hunt.”

Marriott-Bulgari-eye-new-hotel-line-2

****CHART

MANAGING MORE BRANDS

Marriott International Inc. manages a myriad of brands covering the lodging and hospitality industry.

MARRIOTT LODGING

Marriott Hotels, Resorts and Suites = full-service, 393 hotels including 15 conference centers

Ritz-Carlton = luxury, 38 hotels

Bvlgari Hotel & Resorts = luxury, locations being negotiated

Renaissance Hotels, Resorts and Suites = quality, 107 hotels

Courtyard = upper-moderate, 520 hotels

Residence Inn = extended-stay, 354 inns

Fairfield Inn = lower-moderate, 439 inns

SpringHill Suites = upper-moderate all-suite, 61 hotels

Ramada International = mid-priced, 47 hotels

TownePlace Suites = mid-price extended-stay, 84 hotels

Marriott Vacation Club International = vacation ownership resorts, 47 resorts

Marriott Executive Apartments = upscale serviced apartments, 4 properties

OTHER BRANDS

Marriott Senior Living Services = 154 senior living communities including Brighton Gardens, Village Oaks and Marriott MapleRidge

Marriott Distribution Centers = provides food to 13 distribution centers

ExecuStay by Marriott = corporate housing, 7,500 furnished apartments

Marriott Golf = 27 golf facilities

ENCHANTING COUNTY KERRY Irish music, stout poured at pub

Byline: GERALD FITZPATRICK

Reask, County Kerry, Ireland — BY GERALD FITZPATRICK Special to The Globe and Mail Reask, County Kerry, Ireland OUTSIDE the pub at Reask, on the Dingle peninsula in County Kerry, the night was as black as a pint of Guinness. We were looking for traditional Irish music, and Breege Granville, our host at the Granville Hotel in Ballyferriter, said the pub at Reask was the place to go. Breege had called ahead to make sure there would be music that night, but she added: “Don’t bother getting there before 10 o’clock. Things won’t warm up before then.”

We went inside and found seats. Scattered around the room were half a dozen tables. A tattered old couch rested near the bar and a turf fire smouldered in the corner. Across one end of the room was a long counter. Half of it served as the bar, where a few of the locals were calling for pints of “the black stuff.” The other half was the counter of the local general store. On the wall behind it, Rice Krispies and strawberry jam vied for shelf space with bottles of whiskey. Smoke-darkened paintings of coastal scenes decorated the walls and a sack of potatoes sat on a chair by the door.

At a table in front of the fire sat two young women. One was knitting, while the other played softly on a tin whistle. They were joined by a bearded young man wearing a woolen hat. He had a set of uilleann pipes tucked under his arm. Unlike Scottish bagpipes, Irish ones are strapped to the elbow and pumped by a steady arm action. They are fiendishly difficult to play.

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The pints of creamy Guinness multiplied as the smoke in the room grew thicker. By now, there were about 40 people in the bar. Suddenly, amid the chatter and laughter, the musicians broke into a set of jigs and reels. Feet began to tap. Another piper appeared. One of the women picked up a flute. In a few moments, the group was in full flight. The players hunched toward the fire with their backs to the people in the pub, most of whom seemed to be ignoring them. As I listened to the music, at once both mournful and joyous, I realized what Breege meant when she said that this was the real thing: the musicians were simply playing for their own enjoyment. It wouldn’t have made any difference if the pub had been empty!

It had been one of those lucky days. In the late afternoon, we had stumbled across the Granville Hotel in Ballyferriter run by Billy Granville and Mrs. Granville. We never did meet Billy Granville, even though we were the only guests. Mrs. Granville showed us to our room, ran the bar, cooked dinner and at the same time coached her young son for the next day’s spelling test in Gaelic.

Ballyferriter is one of the most westerly villages in Europe. Our huge bedroom had high ceilings, an enormous bed piled high with covers and big sash windows with velvet drapes that looked out to the Atlantic in two directions. Straight ahead were the Three Sisters cliffs, while to the right rose Mount Brandon, Ireland’s second highest peak.

It was in this remote corner of Europe that Gaelic-speaking monks kept culture and literacy alive while the rest of the continent sank into the Dark Ages. More than 2,000 archeological sites show the richness of this ancient culture. The best preserved relic is the Gallarus Oratory near Ballyferriter. Built in the eighth century in the shape of an upturned boat, its walls are made of flat stones, each layer projecting slightly farther inward than the one below. The tiny church is as firm and dry as the day it was built. Nearby at Kilmalkedar is the ruin of a 12th-century church, which has an ancient Celtic sundial in its churchyard. Scattered all over the landscape in this part of County Kerry are strange beehive- shaped huts and other remains dating from the same period.

The approach to Ballyferriter from the town of Dingle is along a magnificent coast road that passes through Ventry, Fahan and Slea Head and gives spectacular views of the Blasket Islands a mile or so offshore. The largest island, Great Blasket, was the stronghold of Piaras Ferriter, the last Irish chieftain to surrender to Oliver Cromwell. The Blaskets have a special place in Irish culture. Several books have been written about the way of life that existed on the islands before they were finally evacuated in 1953. The islands can be reached during the summer months by boat from Dunquin. Mrs. Granville said that she didn’t consider a summer complete unless she had made at least two trips to the Blaskets.

We stayed an extra day at the Granville. In the afternoon, we found a footpath leading up above the village between dry stone walls that shielded us from the wind. Inland from the cliffs was a patchwork of tiny walled fields, dappled with light and shadow as the sun dodged between the clouds. Sheep with newborn lambs scurried away as we passed and then stopped to look back at us from a safe distance.

Along a pathway on the edge of the cliffs near Dunquin, with the Atlantic breakers crashing below, we came across a monument to two ships of the Spanish Armada swept aground here in 1588. Later, at Slea Head, we saw the rusted hulk of a more recent Spanish shipwreck. The Ramca went aground in 1982, but all 16 of the crew were saved. Mrs. Granville’s son later told us proudly, “My Dad helped get them off.”

The walk had given us an appetite. “I’ll serve you dinner in front of the fire in the bar,” Mrs. Granville said. “It’s warmer than the dining room.” She told us the hotel was built as a rectory in 1838 and that it later became a barracks for the local detachment of the Royal Irish Constabulary. During “the troubles” of the 1920s, one of the locals was tarred and feathered by members of the constabulary; so, the villagers burned the barracks in retaliation, after first ensuring that no-one was at home. Mr. Granville’s family later restored the building as a small country hotel.

The next morning dawned grey and overcast. “Ah, it’s a soft day” Mrs. Granville said, as she brought us bacon and eggs. When we went outside and felt the gentle mist caress our faces, we realized her description was perfect. We drove back into Dingle, headed over the Connor Pass and turned towards Tralee, reluctant to leave one of the most enchanting corners of Ireland.

ENCHANTING-COUNTY-KERRY-Irish-music-stout-poured-at-pub-2

IF YOU GO

The Granville Hotel is simple, but the Irish Times has dubbed Billy and Breege Granville “the kindest proprietors in these islands.” Granville Hotel, Ballyferriter, Kerry, Ireland. Telephone (066) 56116 Gerald Fitzpatrick is a city planner who works for the Ontario government.

VIENNA SAUSAGES A GOOD FIT IN HURRICANE KIT

Byline: CHRIS SHERMAN; LAURA REILEY; Times Staff Writers

Storm threats this month remind Floridians of what’s important: gasoline, plywood and Vienna sausages.

Yep, Armour meat packers and their NASCAR spokesdrivers took to the air as Fay approached in rare radio spots for the tiny canned sausages.

America’s favorite in good times – and bad” was the tagline. Whereas fans of Viennas turn them into salads, stir-fries, scrambled eggs, beans and rice year-round, the wiener’s little cousins have never achieved the iconic storm status of Spam.

They do have one advantage over other canned, ready-to-eat goods: They require no can opener.

Viennas have gone flavor crazy with lite, barbecue, Cajun, jalapeno, hot ‘n’ spicy, smoked and honey mustard versions. Still about a buck per 5-ounce can.

VIENNA SAUSAGES A GOOD FIT IN HURRICANE KIT

Publix moving into make-ahead meals

Some operators have given up on make-‘n’-take meal assembly lines, but one giant competitor is giving it a go.

Publix will open its first stand-alone Apron’s Make-Ahead Meals to Go outside its store in FishHawk Ranch in Lithia on Sept. 4.

The supermarket will offer 14 entrees a month, from steak fajitas to turkey with blueberry chutney, serving four to six.

Shoppers can put together dinners in two-hour sessions as at other meal assembly operations or have the staff do it for an extra charge. Meals can be bought in a package of three for $59.95 or 12 for $189.95.

The Apron’s store will also sell grab-and-go meals, side dishes (from $3.99 to $6.99) and wine.

A trial in-store program did well in Jacksonville, said spokeswoman Shannon Patten, and Publix hopes to expand the concept soon.

Ha Long Bay menu shifts toward Chinese

When we reviewed Ha Long Bay a few weeks ago, the St. Petersburg restaurant (5944 34th St. N, Suite 38-41; (727) 522-9988) was steeped in Vietnamese cuisine. Since then, the owners have tinkered with the formula, expanding on the dim sum cart service on the weekends (more veggie dishes, more shrimp), and added a range of traditional Chinese-American crowd-pleasers. The boba shakes stay, but the bulk of the Vietnamese dishes have been jettisoned.

Top honors for Renaissance Tampa

Fabrizio Schenardi, executive chef of Pelagia Trattoria, and Jim Bartholomay, general manager of the Renaissance Tampa Hotel International Plaza, have been named 2007’s best from the worldwide ranks of Renaissance Hotels & Resorts. This marks the first time two winners from a single Renaissance property have been honored in the same year. Both Schenardi and Bartholomay have been at their respective positions throughout the four years that the Renaissance Tampa Hotel and Pelagia have been open.

 

Who has an appetite for eating contests?

Do we really need a competitive-eating reality show? The Food Network thinks so. In fact, the network is casting “high-energy, dynamic and competitive two-member teams . . . who are 25 to 45 and have some connection, knowledge or experience in the food industry” right now. We guess the setting is Los Angeles, with the designated eaters chewing and swallowing at high-end eateries all over town in between traffic jams.

Doesn’t seem particularly au courant. Grotesque, high-end overeating seems wrong on so many levels. Also doesn’t seem like a show that will have any legs among the world’s foodies.

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