Wrapping your resort in a theme—be it medieval times or pirates of the Caribbean—can come with a price. As much as visitors might enjoy the atmosphere on the first 10 or 12 visits, the novelty eventually wears off.
This is Las Vegas, after all, where resorts show their age faster than a 40-year-old flashing ID at the entrance to Rehab Beach Club. In this city, turning 21 is a rite of celebration for clubgoers, not casinos.
“We wanted it to feel bright and inviting.” –Sean Tanner, Boyd Gaming’s director of design on the new Alder & Birch Cocktails & Dining
So how has The Orleans, the “Born on the Bayou” property that’s continually straddled the line between locals resort and off-Strip tourist attraction, managed to beat Father Time?
The answer involves some lengthy introspection, looking within to see what’s working and what’s not, and saying goodbye to old favorites in the interest of progress.
“We don’t necessarily go for a look that is super-fashion-forward, because that’s what [appears] dated first,” says Sean Tanner, Boyd Gaming’s director of design, as he leads a tour of The Orleans’ newly refreshed food and beverage offerings.
Tanner is basking in the glow of an award-winning redesign at the nearly 21-year-old property (The Orleans opened in December 1996), one that saw many of its older restaurants replaced with new dining concepts and a remodel of its hotel suites.
Alder & Birch Cocktails & Dining
Gone is Canal Street—in its place is Alder & Birch Cocktails & Dining. With a contemporary design akin to the Strip’s most modern steak and cocktail joints, Tanner says the restaurant creates the “social space” that Canal Street was lacking.
“Traditionally, the restaurants were kind of ancillary to the game. They’re there merely
as a convenience. Now you’re seeing a new wave of customers coming in … they’re looking for more than just a casino.” – Sean Tanner
The new concept netted Boyd and Las Vegas–based DEZMOTIF Studios a “Best Singular Hospitality Space” win at the 2016 ANDYZ Awards for interior-design projects.
Ondori Asian Kitchen
Within a few weeks of debuting Alder & Birch, the resort opened Ondori Asian Kitchen. Koji sushi bar closed shortly before Ondori opened, and its space was combined with Brendan’s Pub, another Orleans staple, to make way for casual dining spot Bailiwick.
Even the coffee shop has been rebranded as Copper Whisk Café.
“It hits a lot of the greatest hits for what you would expect out of a coffee shop, but it’s definitely an elevated experience over what was there before,” Tanner says. “And it fits in.” Next up will be The Orleans buffet.
Such change is necessary for survival in this city, and Tanner is not afraid to say that Boyd Gaming’s goal is to attract a new generation of visitors.
“That the restaurant becomes the destination,” he says. “[Customers] want to come and enjoy a nice dinner. So it’s a broader experience—more than just gaming. If we want to connect with that customer base, [we] have to elevate the product. Turn [the] restaurants of The Orleans, or Gold Coast, or Sam’s Town into something that [people will] specifically come for.”
From Tanner’s Notebook: What’s Hot and What’s Not
1. For colors, gray is in; brown and beige are out.
2. Social areas and communal tables with USB ports and electrical plugs remain all the rage.
3. In the buffet, themed cooking stations are out and a large residential-feeling kitchen design is in, and individual portions are in order.
4. Next on the agenda is to completely redo the East Tower room at Downtown’s California Hotel & Casino and Ping Pang Pong at Gold Coast, which will move to the larger, former showroom space.