Lisa Richards started her catering business out of her kitchen while still a student at the University of San Diego.
The business, H Events Inc., has grown well beyond her kitchen and now encompasses Picnic People, Festivities Catering and Special Events, TK&A Custom Catering and Simcha San Diego Kosher Catering. New to her portfolio, is FIRST Avenue bar & grille at the Bristol Hotel in downtown San Diego.
Q: You have seven divisions in your overall collection and portfolio of brands. With so many varying divisions of catering capabilities already encompassed in your brand, what motivated you to take over a restaurant and the food and beverage operations of a downtown Hotel?
A: This exciting new challenge drives me and our management team toward new found greatness. This opportunity provides us with a sensational downtown banquet space which is a premium for our established catering company. The hotel restaurant aspect is definitely a new type of venture for our team. With our staff and a few expert consultants, we are giving the existing restaurant venue a new twist. The Greystone Group, owner/operator of the Bristol Hotel, have long wanted a different type of culinary experience for their guests, while making a serious commitment to grow their food and beverage division. Interesting enough, they reached out to H Events, because of our longstanding success in this marketplace, our plethora of clients, as well as our highly recognizable trusted brand reputation, for catering on such a diversified scale.
Q: Did you consider other locations throughout San Diego County in your search? Why was this hotel location the deciding factor in your decision to place your brand, experience and capabilities there first?
A: The eclectic, boutique and charming environment of the Bristol Hotel provides us with a comfortable and flexible location to begin to expand our business in the restaurant operation and management space. The owners of the hotel have given us artistic license and basically free reign to use our talents and experience to position FIRST Avenue Bar & Grille as a warm, unique and inviting venue for Downtown business people and residential locals; to immediately call FIRST “their place.”
Q: San Diego has a number of recognizable catering companies and restaurant brands with years of success. What does H Events bring to the San Diego community, specifically downtown, that these established restaurants don't currently provide to the general and sophisticated dining community?
A: First and foremost, we are exhilarated to be in such a heralded and accomplished restaurant district downtown. Over the years, we have always focused on delivering highly creative menus with an emphasis on healthy and delicious food. Our corporate executive chef is so talented and with our new FIRST chef de cuisine on site, we are introducing a lobby bar, separate intimate bar and full restaurant menu to excite the various pallets of our patrons. Our location on First Avenue is just off of Broadway, within a short walking distance of the court houses, dozens of office buildings, The Civic Theatre, Spreckles Theatre and our City Administration building.
Q: You promote your service and unique style of operation, what are our local diners in store for when coming to the hotel to dine with you?
A: FIRST will always be patron friendly. We are a calming environment and appropriate for a variety of wonderful experiences. We are going to serve “power breakfasts,” business lunches, scrumptious dinners, pre-theater specials and imaginative and tasty appetizers, to enjoy at the end of the business day in the relaxing comfort of our Lobby Lounge, complete with wifi and great street front floor to ceilings windows. The bar is cool, cozy and has a “Mad Men” vibe. FIRST is about what guests wanted, a place void of a specific thematic culinary and service approach, opting for a venue that can morph with the energy from the guests. Call it “no rules” if you will.
Q: What type of food will you be offering your guests and share some of the menu creations FIRST is offering that might be new to this marketplace?
A: A crafty twist on classic American bar and grille fair with menu items like, grilled flatbread eggs benedict and banana stuffed French toast for breakfast, sliced Texas beef brisket sandwich cooked slow 'n low and the house ground beef brisket & bacon burger for lunch and dinner. And for those of you getting ready for bikini season try our carb-conscious chicken, steak or salmon served with fresh farm veggies. And try our margarita con fuego, dark and stormy rum or our orange blast gin for happy hour in our bar.
Q: Regarding your back of the house, what changes have you made directly involving the food imagination and preparation in chefs and support staff for a new menu? What changes have you made to the menu reflecting your own creativity and that of the executive chef?
A: FIRST has hired Brittany Battistoni as our chef de cuisine. Battistoni's seasoned pallet comes from a diverse culinary career ranging from fine dining to casual California winery cuisine. She has a wonderful background and she is the perfect blend of experience we were looking for. Between her creativity and that of our Corporate Executive Chef Keith Lord, they mutually plan to introduce a wonderful array of items for all dining experiences. It is going to take some time to see what favorite dishes bubble to the top, as well as what our patrons like and some of their special requests. We want to respond to their culinary preferences as much as we can so FIRST becomes their “first choice” as the place they think of it “first” to go to.
Q: Assuming you are successful with your first hotel food and beverage operations, do you have plans for taking over other food and beverage operations at additional hotels?
A: Based on this experience, we are open to evaluating new opportunities with imaginative partners. FIRST has been great fun and professionally stimulating to create, so I would answer your question with a resounding yes!