Front & Back of the House
A Position of One’s Own!
If someone offered you a position as vice president of food and beverage in an upscaling, remodeling, rethinking casino/resort, with the world still struggling with C-19, would you jump on it? Possibly yes, but probably not as fast as Zoey D’Arienzo did. Oh, and by the way, it is a position new to the organization so there is no model and no precedent for activities or accomplishments.
Zoey D’Arienzo has now spent just two months as VP of F&B at the STRAT Hotel, Casino & Skypod and is already feeling the confidence sinking in. “It’s honestly been scary and incredible at the same time,” said D’Arienzo. “If you would have asked me ten years ago, if I thought I'd be a vice president, I might have told you no, because I didn't think I had what it took at the time. But now I know that I’m really meant for this and plan to hit it out of the park!” she added.
D’Arienzo has literally worked her way geographically down the Strip, starting on the south end with MGM Resorts International. She was the director of beverage at MGM Grand and then Luxor and Excalibur for about seven years. Her first management position was at The Venetian/Palazzo (pre-Palazzo opening). D’Arienzo’s most far-reaching position was at Caesars Entertainment where she was the corporate director of F&B strategy. Here she did everything from buffet development, to working with the Hell’s Kitchen rollout, to pricing Starbucks items in Mississippi.
“It’s such a fun experience to be all over the Strip, and then end up at some place as iconic as the STRAT,” D’Arienzo said. “It’s one of those places that you see every time you look at the Strip; I feel like I’ve worked my way into being at one of the best properties around.”
D’Arienzo has spent her first two months listening, making notes and asking a lot of questions. How? Why? And perhaps most importantly, “Is there anything you think we should do differently?” She has found when transitioning to other properties that many people won’t speak up because they don’t think they’re being heard. When she listens, she gets ideas and insights into the real workings of the restaurants and is much better prepared to provide support and make changes.
Much of this comes naturally to D’Arienzo. She obtained a degree in communications because she is fascinated by interpersonal communication, the human interaction. Working in restaurants while in college, she saw the fit between F&B management and
At the STRAT, D’Arienzo has seven food outlets open, and four closed: the pool service, which is seasonal, and the buffet, room service and McCall’s Heartland Grill due to C-19. When talking about the food at the STRAT, she starts right at the top with the Top of the World Restaurant in the Skypod, 800 feet above
“I went to Top of the World 12 years ago for dinner,” she said. “I would bet money that no one would believe what it is like today. The food offerings developed by Bradley Manchester, our executive corporate chef, are nothing short of incredible.”
She goes on to tout the lobster mac and cheese, served in an open lobster shell, the tomahawk steak for two, and the Tajima Wagyu ribeye from Australia, plus many new appetizers and sides. One of her goals is to promote the reputation of the Top of the World as a destination steakhouse. She knows it is already up against stiff competition with STK and SW Steakhouse!
D’Arienzo knows her way around a menu and she knows how to bring out the best in a chef:
“I've never met a chef who didn't want to be creative. When you’re helping a chef with a menu, the number one thing you have to do is take a look at costs. A lot of times they feel like they're handcuffed and aren't able to be creative because of the costs involved. But if we look at the menu as a whole, reduce the menu a bit and do 15 really amazing dishes instead of doing 30 that are really good, we can possibly reduce costs, get creative and serve items that people are going to order every time.”
D’Arienzo brings years of experience to her job, not only in strategizing and management, but in training as well. Her ability to communicate, coupled with her energy and enthusiasm, will help make the STRAT a better place to work AND, a better place to visit.
The STRAT is the flagship property of Golden Entertainment, which owns nine other casinos, 60 PT’s Pubs and video gaming operations in more than 1,000 locations. The company’s mission statement shows that it wants guests—no matter the venue—to feel like it’s “their place.”