Food & Drink International - Fall 2017 - 70

h

HOSPITALITY

Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel

>> Turtle Creek's Bourbons 72 steakhouse features all primegrade hand-cut steaks and chops seared over and open
flame, as well as premium coastal seafood.

First Things First
Turtle Creek's culinary staff had little
skill at the time Hamper joined the team.
All food items were prepackaged and
went into a steamer or deep fryer before being served in the buffet or steakhouse. "The grades of beef in the steakhouse were marginal at best and there
was no consistency," Hamper says.
Based in Williamsburg, Mich., the
pool of skilled employees is small and
reduced even further by the fact that
every employee must be at least 18
years old to work in the casino environment. Hamper overcame this obstacle
by teaching his culinary team the skills
they needed to succeed.
"What I did first was focus on the
existing staff I had and developed the
culinary team," he remembers. "We got
rid of the prepackaged products and I
hired a new executive chef from within

70

who I worked with closely for the first
two years. We wrote recipes together, trained staff, changed inventories
and changed our food products. They
weren't great, but they were getting
pretty good and had the desire and passion to learn."
After getting the food right and his
culinary team up to par, Hamper became more creative by adjusting menus
and remodeling the food outlets. "Today this food operation does about $6.5
million in revenue per year," he adds.
"When I came on board, the net loss
was almost $4 million a year."

museum with all these great wines collecting dust - I want to sell the wines."
In addition to remodeling Bourbons
72, Turtle Creek plans to begin renovations next year on its other three food
outlets: The Coffee Spoon, The Deli and
Seasons. Seasons is a buffet offering
breakfast and dinner, but after the remodel it will become a continuous service restaurant with breakfast, lunch and
dinner menus as opposed to the buffet.
"We don't have to have a buffet just because we are a casino," Hamper notes.
Turtle Creek is looking to transform
The Deli into a bistro-type spot that
continues to serve quick bites. The Coffee Spoon is located on the third floor
of the casino, which is also the lobby
level for the hotel, but Hamper says it
may be relocated to the entrance of the
casino. "We should increase business
by 30 percent because it will be more
visible to a lot more guests," he adds.
The Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, a federally
recognized Native American tribe in
northern Michigan, owns and operates
Turtle Creek, as well as Leelanau Sands
Casino and Lodge and The Grand Traverse Resort and Spa. Hamper says the
tribe plans to continue keeping its product fresh, exciting and unique.

Rewarding Remodels
Turtle Creek invested nearly $1 million in a remodel of its steakhouse,
Bourbons 72. "I'm happy to say that for
the first 11 months, we have increased
revenue by $200,000 from a year ago,"
Hamper says. "We are really building
a good, repeat guest base in that area."
Bourbons 72 offers a unique pricing
structure on its wine program, running
a 50 percent markup rather than the 100
percent most restaurants charge. "We
want guests to come in and have this
great meal and be able to afford a bottle
of really great wine along with it," Hamper says. "I didn't want it to be a wine

food & drink international * fall 2017 * www.fooddrink-magazine.com

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