PhillyDeals: Loews goes for lighter yet 'heartier' restaurant fare

Jonathan Tisch, Loews Hotels CEO, visits the refurbished hotel and restaurant, Bank & Bourbon.
Jonathan Tisch, Loews Hotels CEO, visits the refurbished hotel and restaurant, Bank & Bourbon. (            CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer)
Posted: April 15, 2014

So what happened, I asked Loews Corp. co-chairman Jonathan Tisch, to Sole Food?

The former fancy fish-themed street-level restaurant at Loews Philadelphia Hotel, Center City's third-largest, was replaced last week by Bank & Bourbon, part of what Loews says is a $25 million improvement, including room upgrades and a lot more places to plug in your devices.

"It was a concept we thought reflected a period when people were trying to eat lighter," said Tisch, whose father and uncle founded the Loews chain 70 years ago.

Loews has found that Americans talk low-fat but still prefer to eat and drink "heartier," as Tisch put it in a visit marking the upgrades.

So many details. Loews is a publicly traded company whose major businesses are energy and insurance. Its 20 hotels, Tisch acknowledges, are a thin slice of the company's $15 billion yearly sales. Still, he said: "I get involved in every detail. I pick every fabric. I work with interior designers. I have conversations with the chef."

A waitress glided up in neat jeans, gray vest, and blue-checked shirt. "I picked those out," Tisch said.

He blesses Mayor Nutter's administration for approving his new lobby. He's nostalgic for Mayor Rendell's boosterism. He praises local designer Karen Daroff, who helped fit the hotel into the ex-PSFS tower when it opened 15 years ago, and helped upgrade it, too.

Like the owners of the Radisson Blu Warwick, with its recent $20 million upgrade, and the Rittenhouse, which under new operators Jay and Neil Shah's Hersha hotels is polishing its rep as a high-end locally owned resort, Tisch hopes the new look will build market share over the next couple of years, before what he calls a "spurt" of new hotels open in 2016-17.

In approving the hotel upgrade, Tisch said he's counting on SMG, the Conshohocken firm that took over management of the Pennsylvania Convention Center, to come through with long-awaited "new labor contracts" that will draw more shows and overnight guests.

I asked how Tisch feels about Comcast Corp. cutting a deal with the Four Seasons to move its Philadelphia hotel into Comcast's new office tower.

He predicted "an incredible facility" that, like Comcast's expansion, will boost Center City's appeal. And Comcast, Tisch noted, is his partner, too: Loews co-owns four hotels in Orlando, including the new 1,800-room Cabana Bay Beach Resort, with Comcast's Universal theme-park and hospitality group, whose new Harry Potter attractions have packed them with guests.

I asked the co-chairman, who is 60, if young Tisches will one day run Loews.

"There are three of the next generation now in the business," he said, smiling a little. "But our generation doesn't plan on going anywhere. They should understand that."



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