DINING:

Station Casinos takes back reins on its restaurants

Station Casinos

The interior of Pasta Cucina at Palace Station.

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The dining room of Pasta Cucina at Palace Station.

After several years of experimenting with leased venues and private contractors, Station Casinos is back to running most of the restaurants at its properties.

The resort chain recently took over ownership and operation of several casino restaurants previously run by outside partners. Executives also renamed and redecorated a number of eateries to create consistent companywide brands.

Consider:

• Station-owned Grand Cafe soon will replace the privately owned Original Pancake House at Green Valley Ranch. The flapjack chain closed locations at Green Valley Ranch and Aliante Station at the end of October. Green Valley Ranch previously housed a Grand Cafe, but that restaurant closed abut three years ago when Station outsourced the business to the Original Pancake House.

• Metro Pizza moved out of Boulder Station’s food court and was replaced with Slices, a Station-owned pizza parlor and fast-food counter.

• Station last month rebranded its Italian restaurants at Sunset Station, Palace Station, Aliante Station, Texas Station and Boulder Station. All are now Pasta Cucinas. Station owned the restaurants’ predecessors but wanted to change their names to provide a consistent and recognizable brand to customers across properties.

• Similarly, company officials took over the former Camacho’s Mexican restaurant at Aliante Station, which was privately owned, and transformed in-house Guadalajara Mexican restaurants at Sunset and Boulder Stations into Cabo Mexican Restaurants. Cabo locations already were in place at Red Rock Resort, Palace Station and Santa Fe Station.

Mark LaVoie, Station’s vice president of food and beverage, says customers prefer company-owned restaurants and like knowing what to expect when they sit down for a meal. Eateries controlled by the company, as opposed to those operated under contract, allow for consistency across properties, he said.

“As the company grew, we realized we had similar restaurants under different names that were successful to different degrees,” LaVoie said. “It made sense to take the strongest brands — with their recipes, color profiles and designs — and expand them.”

Cross-branding gives Station “more bang for its buck” when developing recipes and building marketing campaigns, LaVoie said, and allows the company to incorporate restaurants into hotel and casino promotions.

But the changes in restaurant operations signal a shift in thinking for the Fertitta family, the Station properties’ owners. The Fertittas began divesting of Station restaurants in the late 2000s when Las Vegas sank into a recession and the company’s profits fell.

Starting in 2008, in an effort to save money, Station replaced almost a dozen in-house cafes at six properties with Denny’s and Coco’s. Casinos commonly outsource restaurants to reduce their risk and expenses, but such a move can also remove casinos’ control over quality and service.

The shift saved Station money, but the decision didn’t sit well with workers or the Culinary Union. Station spokeswoman Lori Nelson said at the time the company struck a deal with the chain operators to retain a majority of Station workers at equal pay and hours, but union members claimed the change resulted in longtime employees being fired. They also complained that health premiums for remaining workers skyrocketed.

Station Casinos for years has waged a vicious battle with the union. The Culinary has tried unsuccessfully for more than a decade to unionize Station’s 13,000 workers, and the fight has intensified in recent years. Union members allege the casino group, which owns or manages 18 valley casinos, mistreats Latino workers and has violated dozens of federal labor laws. Station Casinos accuses the union of engaging in an ongoing campaign of harassment.

Only since restructuring financially has Station found enough footing to once again take on the risk of running most of its properties’ restaurants. The company filed bankruptcy in July 2009, and CEO Frank Fertitta III and his brother Lorenzo Fertitta invested nearly $200 million to reorganize. The process allowed Station to shed more than $4 billion in debt, and the Fertittas emerged its largest shareholders with a 45 percent stake.

As the economy began to improve this year, Station announced it planned to hire 1,000 people, take back leased restaurant space and improve service. Three hundred of those jobs went to workers in five Grand Cafes that returned to space previously leased to Coco’s.

“Even though there are financial ramifications, we talked to our guests and that’s what they wanted,” LaVoie said. “How can you not listen? We’ve been successful with restaurants in the past, and it was time to go back.”

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Discussion 9 comments

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  1. This is another fluff piece for Stations. The Fertitas should be indicted for fraud. They got out of bankruptcy with $6B in debt that was reduced to $2B and they still retain control of Stations. The Grand Cafe and Pucinas are no big deal. I just hope they don't spoil Austins at Texas Station where u can get a great meal at reasonable cost. They should remodel the Buffets at Palace,Fiesta, and Texas. Another point at some Stations (Texas,Fiesta) u have to many children. Is this a Casino or a school. Isn't America wonderful?

  2. Well that's very nice. The real issue is the new commercials being ran by Station Casinos where employees who are admitted immigrants with out citiizenship are singing the praises of thier employer for helping them learn English,buy homes,gain citizenship,provide discounted child care, while rubbing it in the faces of out of work American citizens. Of course the point of these disgusting advertisements is the Culinary Union does not provise these services.
    What Station Casinos fails to tell you is that when thier self induced financial breakdown happened they laid off employees with seniority while keeping employees with less vacation and retirement benefits, thus saving the corrupt Fertittas millions. The Culinary Union and it's agreements would have prevented that from happeneing. Now go talk to the employees who were vitimized by the immigrant touting Station Casinos and thier tasteless commercials.

  3. I was surprised to see the Original Pancake House at Aliante Station was closed last time we were there. To bad.

  4. Good point, Homer. Just another reason NOT to frequent Stations. WHY do people still play and eat at Stations????? I don't understand it.

  5. I am not defending Station Casinos. To me, it is a monopolistic ogre that should have been stopped years ago from buying up their competitors. But that's another story. With Culinary, it's all about the "Latino" workers. How about the others? They don't count, as well? Culinary seems to forget they represent all union members equally and quit BSing about "Latinos" being discriminated against or receiving "unfair" treatment. That's merely another "divide & conquer" "talking point" by leftists such as Culinary's leaders. It's not about "discrimination;" it's about growing the union's coffers so it can pump more money into leftist causes even if their members do not agree with the union's Socialist agenda.

  6. I agree with the above comments regarding the bankruptcy. As far as the restaurants are concerned, I have eaten in both the new Italian and mexican places and found that the prices were raised; ala carte was adopted, and the food is terrible, (especially at the Italian). Bring back Pasta Palace!!

  7. Masters of propaganda. They took back their restaurants because the franchises didn't want to pay the higher rents. Stations replaced them with their own brands? Slices? Are you kidding? Their pizza is so bad, nobody buys it. Stations even offers employees a 20% discount to spur sales. Not so unusual for a company to offer employees discounts but why not the other restaurants as well? Stations offers the discount because they can't sell the product.

    Fertittas invested $200 million in the buyout? Brothers and company executives Frank Fertitta III and Lorenzo Fertitta, and sister Delise Sartini and husband, Blake, will receive a combined $494.8 million for their remaining company options, unvested restricted stocks and share holdings at the close of the $5.7 billion buyout by Fertitta Colony Partners. They then RE-INVESTED $200 million to control 45%, versus 25% pre-bankruptcy. Don't listen to these con artists. Stations is owned and operated by remnants of their past history of running over the competition, exploiting workers, gouging partners and stiffing creditors.

  8. Stations what a joke. Of course my illegal friends LOVE working there! Wouldn't you if you were a CRIMINAL and protected by Stations Casinos. I always say, don't blame the Mexicans for over running the country. if it wasn't for companies like stations, most would still be back in mexico !

  9. Station casinos is only concerned about their bottom line. why would they get rid of the Pancake house just to replace it with their smelly old cafe. they ruined most of their buffets with mediocre food and chefs. they are jealous of the outsourced restaurants and their quality and service. case in point, the lousy Guadalajara Mexican restaurants where the food quality is horrible. no real chef just some culinary worker who needs a job.