Planning on a remodel of a restaurant, hotel room or a new build? 

Two of the biggest mistakes I see over and over again:

  • Architects and designers are not familiar with the unique needs of gamblers; and 
  • There is no central person that is coordinating the build. 

So first, let’s talk about your project team. Simply stated: designers design, architects draw, general contractors build, owners own, operators operate and controllers control. The truth is that each of these players in the building or remodel of your casino hotel or restaurant have an important role, but one vital piece is missing: the coordinating efforts of a gaming experienced advisor, also known as an owner’s rep/agent.  

A missing owner’s rep/agent will make itself known in the final product. For example, here’s how you can tell a new restaurant has been designed by someone who does not know gaming:

  • You’ll find that in some resorts, restaurants with front-of-house visibility do not have an attached kitchen, which means there are no proper corridors designed to transport something from the kitchen to the restaurant. The end result—staff has to walk through the casino.  
  • The improper understanding of negative and positive air pressure leads to cigarette smoke odors permeating dining spaces. Restaurants need to have a positive airflow that pushes out into the casino, which has a negative air pressure that pulls odors up and out through ceiling vents. 
  • Due to limited floor space, operators place slot machines directly in front of the restaurant. The transition and flow space becomes tight, and patrons are uncertain where to go, especially if there are no waiting areas insidethe restaurant. In addition, this lack of transition and flow space creates logjams making it nearly impossible for security and surveillance to adequately do their jobs. And no, players don’t want to play at those games nearest to a noisy restaurant or sports bar. 
  • Free beverage stations are improperly placed, attracting non-casino guests and transients to the gaming floor, causing a security issue. 

“A restaurant can make or break a casino customer’s experience,” said John Stewart president of Encompass Develop Design and Construct and a Raving partner. “I think a lot about the slot/table game player as well as the restaurant patron. If I am sitting at a slot machine and the smell of an amazing cinnamon dessert is wafting in my nose I might be distracted and head off to a dessert. If I am in the restaurant and the aroma of cigarettes is in the air, my food will taste different no matter how amazing it really is.

“A true gaming leader will think of every aspect,” Stewart added. “They’ll focus on everything that the customer touches, sees, smells, hears and tastes. Focus on the whole experience through the little things. Everything speaks.”

The hotel side can also suffering from the effects of missing design oversight: Furniture that is poorly crafted and shows wear easily and can’t be cleaned; HVAC vents that blow cold air on sleeping heads; showers that get you wet when turning them on and leak on the bathroom floor; no outlets where you need them or already occupied by other appliances; phones with buttons that can’t be read and don’t call the department you need; lamps that don’t allow a patron to read in bed; not enough storage for clothes in closets and drawers—the list is truly endless.

These are all symptoms of a common problem—lack of coordination.  After all, everyone involved with the process means well: designers make the hotel look pretty; architects draw up plans based upon the owner’s directions, using current building codes and mitigating changes from the designer and input from other contributors; and contractors build with a goal of coming in under budget and early, while managing the complexities of weather, change orders, multiple opinions, sub mistakes, designer modifications, budget creep and other unforeseen issues. This leaves those responsible for running the property—owners, operators, controllers—adapting to these lack of coordination issues, usually by throwing more money at the problems.  

All of this could be avoided by hiring someone to facilitate coordination, with the owner’s best interest in mind. A gaming advisor/owner’s agent would begin by delving into the operation to understand the culture, tradition and goals moving forward.  Having an understanding of the casino business and, for Indian gaming businesses, tribal culture, allows for a holistic approach that balances these attributes and provides a way forward for the project. 

Early and ongoing coordination meetings under the oversight of the advisor can also identify many awkward design flaws and correct them with little to no change in cost. For example: 

  • Meetings with the electrical sub and the interior designer can correct the placement of power outlets behind lamps and devices, eliminating the eyesore of long cords between them;  
  • Consulting with HVAC contractors prior to specifying the air units and placement of vents can eliminate common complaints about smoke odors in rooms and restaurants; 
  • Honest conversations with owners about quality expectations early in the process make certain adequate funding is provided and not done late in the project when the cost has a greater impact to the budget or requires value engineering; and  
  • Technology discussions early in the process make certain required infrastructure is accounted for during construction and budgeted properly.

This is a small list of examples, but they still have a huge impact on the success of a project, both in the return on investment and on guest perception. The right gaming savvy advisor will save you thousands of dollars and even more headaches.