February 3, 2009

Feature: Large Hotels Covet Kosher Events Business

New York…A major segment of hotels’ business stems from events. In cities with large Jewish populations, these events naturally include a significant number of kosher events, including organizational dinners, weddings and bar mitzvahs. While most hotels rely on kosher caterers for the food portion of Jewish events, the hotels can also produce kosher food with short notice. In fact, with 48 hours notice, hotels will order in prepared full-course meals from local caterers and restaurants. The downtown Manhattan Ritz Carlton will even provide a kosher hors d’oeuvres buffet for dinner affairs with as few as three or four kashrus observers. Many hotels handle completely kosher events without outside caterers, frequently adding kosher supervision. The majority of these events are weddings and fundraisers, although bar and bat mitzvahs and corporate events are also common. The Waldorf Astoria in midtown Manhattan hosts close to 100 kosher events a year, including annual fundraisers for Yeshiva University and the Beth Israel Medical Center. Director of Social Catering Alan Shukovsky noted that, “Kosher and Glatt Kosher Catering is critical to the success of this hotel.”

A spokesman for the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Los Angeles estimates that half of the weddings they do are kosher. The New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge has its own kosher kitchen and can accommodate a kosher wedding of 2,000 people. As the only major branded hotel in Brooklyn, it caters to the large Jewish population in the area and regularly administers kosher events. New York City’s Hilton Hotel in Rockefeller Center oversees between 25-30 large kosher events each year, predominantly weddings and dinners. “The kosher element is extremely important to this hotel,” said James Johnson, the Director of Catering. “From a business side, it constitutes a major component of the market and contributes a large portion of our revenue. It is also a priority to ensure that all our guests are treated with the best service, including providing for their dietary needs.” Jose Vilarello, the assistant manager of the Biltmore Hotel in Miami, has noticed a distinct rise in the number of kosher events both in Miami and in the hotel. “There has been a move from kosher-style to actual kosher over the last few years,” said Vilarello. “The South Florida market is changing and the standard for kosher has definitely been raised.” The hotel manages approximately 15 kosher events a year in addition to their first Passover program this coming Passover. In New York alone, kosher catering is said to top $65 a year.