Benchmark partnership to serve up 'culinary innovation'

(tables and chairs in a restaurant)

A focus on food and beverage is nothing new for Benchmark, a global hospitality company, but a new partnership is designed to bring new levels of culinary innovation to Benchmark and the 70 luxury properties under its Benchmark Resorts & Hotels and Gemstone Collection brands.

The new partnership is with internationally acclaimed chef Stephan Pyles and will touch upon every aspect of the company’s F&B program, according to Benchmark. Pyles will create and launch programs in F&B recruitment, restaurant design concepts, culinary training, research, menu development, operations, marketing and branding. Long-term plans for the partnership include the creation of a Culinary Academy to be located at one of Benchmark’s culinary-focused resorts.  

Pyles, a chef, cookbook author, philanthropist and educator, has pioneered New American cuisine and is known as one of the founding fathers of modern Southwestern cuisine. He is a James Beard semifinalist this year for Best New Restaurant for Flora Street Café in Dallas, one of a number of awards the acclaimed restaurant has garnered this year, including Best New Restaurant in Texas by Texas Monthly.

According to the company, the new partnership was designed to address the complex, challenging and constantly changing issues of the hospitality industry’s food-and-beverage and fine-dining services and to personalize the guest experience at each Benchmark property.

Pyles’ new initiatives will create freestanding hotel restaurants that will reflect the best of regional and local ingredients and culinary styles, offering top-quality dining experiences, superior design and exceptional cuisine. The new restaurants will be designed to appeal to local audiences first, providing an authentic local dining experience for both local patrons and hotel guests.

“The scope of this new initiative is international and must address a growing variety of consumer demands. Our guests are far more conscious of wellness, environmental issues, animal welfare and the origins of the food they consume,” Pyles said in a statement. “We have set the bar very high with this new initiative that will be a revolutionary and strategically planned transformation of the way Benchmark Resorts & Hotels and the Gemstone Collection-brand properties plan, operate and deliver their food and beverage services.”

The changes go beyond increased F&B revenues and new business, Benchmark’s CEO Alex Cabañas said in a statement.

“This concept will also enhance our recruitment efforts, assist our culinary staff in developing their skills and careers, build staff loyalty and provide increased benefits to ownership,” he said. “Most important, we are addressing complex and diverse issues in a proactive, comprehensive and far-sighted way that differentiates us from our competitors.  Our collaboration with Chef Pyles will have a positive, long-term impact on our business and provide the resources we need to bring our food and beverage product to new and outstanding guest experience levels.”

The company also named hospitality and restaurant executive Todd Parmelee VP of food & beverage in March. In his new role, Parmelee will oversee the operations of all food and beverage departments for each of Benchmark's properties. He comes to Benchmark's senior team with a background in food and beverage operations, entertainment, organizational leadership, technology, marketing and teambuilding.

Parmelee will be based in Benchmark's home office in The Woodlands, Texas, near Houston. He comes to his new position from Entertainment Consultants International, a hospitality consultant to restaurants, bars, nightclubs and live entertainment venues throughout the United States. He served as ECI's chief operations officer, regional director of operations and beverage director.