Planning party food

Restaurants prepare for the national conventions.

Republican National Convention
September 1-4, Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Minnesota
Estimated visitors: 45,000
Dollars expected to be pumped into local economy: $160 million

It’s a tricky situation,” says Dave Segal, executive VP for the Minnesota Restaurant Association. “Restaurants have to decide if they would rather lock up their space or be fluid.”

Great Waters Brewing Company, located near the Xcel Energy convention arena in Saint Paul, was asked by the RNC to participate in its GoParty Card—which gives delegates a 20 percent discount—but decided to opt out. “With food costs rising, I didn’t want to absorb the discount,” says owner Sean O’Byrne. He’s counting on drop-in business (he’s adding breakfast) as well as last-minute bookings. “If we do book a party, campaign fund restrictions dictate cocktail party fare,” he adds.

At Mancini’s Char House, owner Pat Mancini teamed up with event planners who work with the RNC. “I have two parties booked but little has been fine-tuned yet,” he says.

What is firm is that Mancini’s will open on Labor Day and stay open every night until 4 a.m.—thanks to a state law that extended restaurant hours during the RNC. A late-night menu will cater to the post-convention crowd, but basically “we’re not changing what we do that much,” Mancini claims.

Democratic National Convention
August 25-28, Denver, Colorado
Estimated visitors: 50,000
Dollars expected to be pumped into local economy: $160 million



There will be 1,500 parties during the convention; if you don’t have bookings, you won’t be doing much business,” predicts John Imbergamo, a Denver restaurant consultant.

One operator who got a head start is Peter Karpinksi, Sr. VP of Sage Restaurant Group. Last spring, he signed an exclusive agreement with MySpace.com to set up their communications headquarters in The Corner Office, his hip downtown restaurant. “It’s a great fit,” says Karpinski, who worked with the visitors’ bureau to ink the deal. Both here and at Second Home Kitchen and Bar, his other property, he is also offering politically themed cocktails and prix fixe dinners to get diners in and out quickly.

Since delegates have to be at the Pepsi Center from 3 to 9 p.m., “smart restaurants will stay open longer,” says Pete Meersman of the Colorado Restaurant Association. That’s one of Beth Gruitch’s strategies. She’s opening Bistro Vendome for breakfast during the convention and Rioja for lunch on that Tuesday—times they’re normally closed—and both are open an hour later for dinner. “We have to be flexible; the best laid plans
are ones that change,” she says. However, one plan is firm: No employee takes vacation from August 25 to 28.    



More from our partners