- July 15, 2020
There’s a lot that goes into creating a new restaurant. That’s exactly what the Art Ovation Hotel Autograph Collection in downtown Sarasota has been busy with as it prepares to open Tzeva, a 74-seat eatery, Feb. 8.
The Mediterranean restaurant infused with Israeli influence will be open for all three meals, seven days a week, all led by Executive Chef Ken Shiro Lumpkin.
With the majority of Mediterranean restaurants being more Greek inspired, Art Ovation Hotel General Manager Greg Tinsley says the Israeli influence is not just unique for this market; it’s also desired. Understanding the market and demand was just the first step.
“We started by listening,” he says. “What we gathered is that (hotel guests and community members are) really looking for the craveable menu with the experience of shareable items. People do want to learn about different cuisines.”
Once that was established, a menu had to be created. Tinsley recruited Lumpkin early on with this specific concept in mind.
“Once we talked about his culinary journey around the world and what we’re trying to accomplish here, he was able to start down the path of (creating) the menu,” he says. “And then the real fun part began, which is all the tastings.”
Despite it being a fun part of the process, there’s still a lot that goes into tasting menu items. The team had to talk through each dish to ensure the right flavors and brand were coming across right. They also looked at the plating and price point of each dish.
“We want it to be approachable,” Tinsley says. “We don’t want to be just a special event dining experience where someone only comes on an anniversary or special occasion. We’d love to see our community here two or three times a month. We had that in mind when we designed the menu and built the story around the branding and identity.”
In an industry that has been screaming worker shortage since the pandemic, finding the right team of 40 service industry professionals might seem like a daunting task. But Tinsley’s experience was the exact opposite.
Through two open houses and some internal movements, the restaurant employs 35 front-of-house staff, four on the culinary line, an assistant manager and manager.
The open houses proved to be especially helpful, with around 35-40 showing up in total. Applicants were treated to Tzeva food samples and then 12 people received job offers.
“It’s amazing to me with unemployment as low as it is,” he says.
Once the team was in place, the buildout started. Because it’s still a fairly new space with the hotel only being five years old, the workload was minimized to picking out tablecloths, serviceware, plating and glasses. New tabletops were brought in, and the outdoor seating area received some new decor consistent with the restaurant’s brand.
Now the restaurant is gearing up for serving friends and family on Feb. 7, the day before opening to the public. Tinsley says they’ve started teasing some of the menu items and have already received great reviews.
“We know we’re onto something special here,” he says.
Once open, the team will be focused on getting the word out through media and community outreach, while also inviting social media influencers to try the concept. Then in six to 10 months, Tinsley hinted at an announcement of another food or beverage concept at the hotel.