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Where St. Louis Eats: How Hamilton Hospitality is using small and virtual events to stay relevant

The strategy they settled on was special events — in person, virtual and pickup — and lots of them
Credit: SLBJ
Paul Hamilton

ST. LOUIS — With never-ending dining restrictions due to the pandemic and revenue a fraction of what it used to be, Paul and Wendy Hamilton knew they had to get creative at their five St. Louis restaurants and four event spaces.

Like many restaurant operators, Hamilton Hospitality has been doing distanced indoor and patio dining and curbside pickup for months, but playing to a much smaller audience — the restaurants are booking half of what they used to, and banquets are down 75%.

"We needed to come up with something to drive more business," Paul Hamilton said, keeping their staff of 200 employed.

The strategy they settled on was special events — in person, virtual and pickup — and lots of them. Twenty event nights are scheduled in November and December alone, including:

  • A "French Chef Trio" at Vin de Set with food and wine pairings.
  • A pet-friendly "Barks, Brew and Bourbon Bash" at Hamilton's Urban Steakhouse, held Tuesday. The admission price includes a dog treat buffet, to-go doggie treat bag and dog costume contest.
  • A Perennial beer and food pairing event at PW Pizza, as well as a separate virtual wine dinner.
  • The ninth annual fine wine holiday expo at Moulin Events, spread over seven nights in November and December and limited to tables of six with 50-minute tastings with wine experts. The events include "Tour de France," "The Big Boys of Italy," "Wines for Thanksgiving," and "Around the World and Back Again."
  • Vin de Set's popular crab and shrimp boils once a month.

In addition, Moulin will hold an Antarctic-themed event Wednesday, with Susan Adie, a veteran tour operator who has led several trips to the continent. That idea sprang from connections: Paul Hamilton; Jason Arnold, vice president of operations; and John Dalton, director of sales for the Moulin, used to work for a cruise line and knew the people there, who have been available because cruising has been shut down. 

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