Article by Lisa Lance
In the past 28 years, Lodging Hospitality Management (LHM) has grown to include 17 hotel properties, eight restaurants and two commercial properties in the St. Louis region. Two of its standouts are the Sheraton Westport Plaza Tower and Sheraton Westport Chalet Hotel.
Westport Plaza, the 42-acre business and entertainment district at I-270 and Page Ave., is an ideal location for events. Convenient to Lambert-St. Louis International Airport and just 15 minutes from downtown St. Louis, it’s easily accessible from all parts of the city and the nearby suburb of St. Charles. “Westport is a great location,” said Todd Hotaling, vice president of revenue and marketing at LHM. “It’s central to all the attractions throughout St. Louis. It has a complimentary airport shuttle and complimentary parking, so it has a lot of value-add amenities that downtown properties don’t have, and really it’s
able to provide a great experience to your group.”
“We have over 15 dining and entertainment options right there in walking distance from the hotel,” he added. “Your guests and the attendees in your group don’t need to travel far to find great food options or good entertainment when they’re there for a meeting or event.”
The district boasts 18 shops and several restaurants, including Paul Minneo’s Trattoria and Trainwreck Saloon. Guests looking for a night out needn’t go far. Stop by Bradford’s Pub for a pint in an authentic English pub atmosphere. For laid-back vibes, visit the Backstreet Jazz Club. The Funny Bone Comedy Club books stars like Saturday Night Live alum Tim Meadows, and hosts a weekly open mic night. Sing along with the musicians at the Jive and Wail dueling piano bar, or take in some local theater at the Playhouse @ Westport Plaza.
This summer, LHM added to the Westport entertainment scene when it opened a new outdoor event space to host free concerts and movie nights, happy hours, festivals and events. The new space is available to rent for parties and receptions, and can accommodate up to 1,000 people in a festival setting. Hotaling said the company also plans to open a boutique bar and restaurant this fall with games like bocce ball, shuffleboard, darts and snookball—a cross between pool and soccer. The new venue will also include two karaoke rooms on the second floor that can hold up to 30 people each—perfect for birthday parties.
The Sheraton Chalet also boasts a new atmosphere as it completed a room renovation last year. “If guests haven’t visited us in
a few years, they’ll notice a facelift,” Hotaling said.
Flexible Meeting Spaces
The two hotels offer a total of 44,000 square feet of event space, and the 11,000-square-foot IACC-approved Westport Conference Center (also part of the Sheraton properties) is made up of 12 meeting rooms.
“We do everything from small board meetings to weddings and large corporate fundraisers and corporate meetings,” said Hotaling.
The Chalet meeting space includes 14 meeting rooms on two different levels, ranging in size from the 567-square-foot Zermatt room, which can accommodate from 25 to 75 people depending on the configuration, to the 8,320-square-foot Versailles Ball Room, which can accommodate up to 1,100 guests and offers impressive views of Westport Lake.
The Westport Plaza Hotel includes 12 meeting rooms ranging in size from the 640-square-foot Plaza 1 space, which can hold groups as small as 16 people up to 80, to the 4,717-squarefoot East Ballroom, which can accommodate up to 650 people.
The Conference Center includes four conference rooms and eight smaller board rooms. The largest is the 1,806-square-foot Meeting Room A, which has a capacity ranging from 26 people in a conference-style set up to 144 in a theater-style configuration. The board rooms range in size from 176 to 368 square feet and can accommodate anywhere from six to 28 people, depending on the configuration.
Dave Koll, chief learning officer at CGB Enterprises, recently planned a multi-day leadership event at Westport Plaza. For the event, 350 of the company’s front-line supervisors would attend three different sessions in groups of 20-30 at a time. “We needed a venue that could really adapt to what our requirements were and also be very flexible in some of the timings when we were going to be meeting,” said Koll. He looked at the Sheraton properties at Westport Plaza and decided the Conference Center was the best fit because of its flexibility.
“Conference Room A is [a] multimedia [space] and really lays out logistically very nicely for our main room session,” he said. “We also wanted the flexibility of smaller breakout meeting rooms that could be right there in proximity to the other meeting rooms. Sometimes in very large venues you just feel like you’re so far away. I was looking for a more intimate feel [while having] the full capabilities of that meeting space.” Koll said he appreciated the venue’s willingness to let his team set up the rooms in a non-conventional way for the series of leadership events.
“One of the things that is crucially important to our sessions is we really spend a significant time on how the room feels,” Koll explained. “In a learning environment, you have to reduce barriers, reduce anxiety, and make people feel as comfortable and safe as you possibly can so you get that knowledge transfer. We wanted a partner like Westport that could really understand that and let us do things that may be considered very different, like hanging banners and room decoration and room setup in a way they may not have had before. We really wanted the environment to match the experience, and that experience was just as important as the content we were talking about.”
Customized Dining Options
The Sheraton’s in-house dining options include the Terrace Restaurant and Lucerne Restaurant, as well as a private dining area for smaller gatherings. In the summer months, guests can also order snacks, wine, beer and frozen cocktails at the poolside Tiki Bar.
The Sheraton properties also offer full-service catering with several hot and chilled breakfast and lunch options, dinner buffets, break menus, reception menus, and even holiday-themed meals.
Koll said the break service options were a key catering consideration for his leadership events. “[The Sheraton properties menu] has all different kinds of options, so you’re not just stuck with the Danish and a coffee—you have all different sources of beverages, and you also have nuts and more health options, which they provided.”
For lunch events, Koll said his group primarily used the Terrace Restaurant. “I’ve been to a lot of venues. In my career, I’ve dealt with some of the best hotel solutions. The Terrace, from a quality and a consistency [standpoint], really over-delivered against our expectations. And it’s right in house.”
He also worked with the sales and catering teams to plan several different types of dinner events. They used the banquet services to plan a BBQ by the lake and a sandwich-themed dinner. They also planned an interactive evening with the Weber Grill Academy, learning to grill from Weber chefs and then holding a hamburger cook-off. “The hotel was very receptive and actually brought those ideas to us, which we thought was fantastic,” he said.
Remarkable, Relationship-focused Service
“When I start an engagement with any sort of long-term relationship like we have with Sheraton Westport, I don’t want a situation where we just sign on the line and then we forget about each other,” said Koll.
He called the customer service at the Sheraton Westport properties remarkable. “It sounds cliché, but they listen,” he said. “They asked great questions and allowed us to articulate what we saw as our vision.”
One example that solved a problem for his team was an issue of storage space. Since CGB was holding more than one event at the hotel, the team had a lot of materials that would need to be shipped out and brought back for different return sessions. The Sheraton staff came up with a simple on-site storage solution.
“We call it ‘our closet’ and take material we use in the room and store it for the next session,” said Koll. “That little idea has been a huge labor savings.”
LHM is making Westport Plaza a welcoming place for meetings and events.
Chief Learning Officer, CGB Enterprises
VP of Revenue and Marketing, LHM