Industry Insiders: Sims Foster, Denihan Group VP of Restaurants and Bars

The Denihan Group is redefining what a hotel restaurant and bar can be, and Sims Foster, VP of Restaurants and Bars, is leading the charge. Lately he’s been spending his time in Miami Beach, helping launch spots at the new James Royal Palm hotel, including CATCH, Florida Cookery, and SL Miami. We chatted with Foster to find out how he finds the right mix for the hotel’s stylish clientele, and how important it is to appeal to local residents as well.

How do you decide on the particular mix of restaurants and bars you have at a property such as the James Royal Palm?

Whenever I look at a new hotel property and think about what kind of restaurants and bars we want to build, the first question is “What kind of place will the locals support and appreciate, and what can we do that fits with what the area wants and also be unique?” This often brings me to neighborhoods and chefs/operators who might not be on other hotel operator’s lists. In New York I’m constantly looking at what’s happening in Brooklyn or Queens. In Miami I was seeing what was happening in Brickell, the Design District, and ultimately the Miami Modern district, where I found Red Light and Kris Wessel (now chef at Florida Cookery). The other part of Miami that couldn’t be ignored was the “scene” aspect and the idea of having operators and a concept that would fill the need to have a spot that was experiential, energetic and would become “the place.” That’s where CATCH really shines. But unlike other operators in the genre, Mark Birnbaum and Eugene Remm from EMM Group have amazing service and food standards which will breed longevity and not just be white-hot for a moment.

And then there’s South Shore at the James.

South Shore is an intimate bar that focuses on rum. Can’t get more Miami then that.

What’s the thread that ties them all together?

The thread is that, hopefully, all the different restaurants and bars on the property will be places that local Miamians will find valuable and fit with their lifestyles. If that’s the case it’s amazing for our hotel guests as well because our guests want to eat and drink at places that the locals love.  If they don’t have to go somewhere else to get that experience then I know we’ve got it right.

What have you learned about the type of guests the hotel attracts?

Today’s guest is super savvy with food. It’s amazing how much our guests do research and understand food and restaurants. Call it the Food Network influence if you like, but if you think you can just build a generic restaurant with some oversaturated chef brand name on the door—a chef who shows up once a quarter—you’re behind. Your guest is going to demand more and they deserve more. Don’t get me wrong, there are great chefs out there who are massive personalities, but they have to be an active part of the concept and they need to be interesting and right for whatever city and neighborhood they’re in. It’s got to be real and authentic.

You were a professional jazz musician in your twenties. Do you still play music? Is there anything from your musical background that you draw from when you do your job now?

I get asked that a lot. And the answer is I don’t really play much anymore. Which usually then gets an “awwww, that’s a shame” response. But I’m totally fine with it and I know I will again someday. But I find music in everything. Music is an amazing medium that requires precision and discipline as well as creativity and an open mind. And you have to figure out how to make something complicated make sense and connect with your audience. Almost every part of my work taps into each and all of those aspects. Plus nobody can argue with me when I ask to program the music at the hotels and restaurants. I just drop, “You know I have a degree in music, right?” and they let me do my thing.

In Their Own Words: Four Entrepreneurs’ Favorite Apps

What do a dominatrix, two celebrity chefs, and a fitness founder have in common? Not much. So we brought them all together under one umbrella question: “What is your favorite app?”And like most things that can fit inside your phone and purse, these apps give great insight into who these stop-at-nothing entrepreneurs are. It’s like hacking into someone’s cellphone, but with descriptive consent. Here are these four visionaries’ favorite apps, in their own words.

Aarón Sanchez
Aarón Sanchez is the co-star of two Food Network series (Chopped and Heat Seekers), and the culinary visionary behind NYC’s taqueria Tacombi, Kansas City’s Mestizo, and Crossroads restaurant at House of Blues nationwide. Sanchez was recently a guest chef at the White House and received the “National Award” at the Flavors of Passion Awards, honoring the nation’s best Latin chefs.

"Since my wife, a pro musician, and I are constantly on the road, we like to use SongKick to find which of our favorite bands are playing in the cities we travel to. It’s also a great way to track lesser-known artists who may not have the reach of bigger acts. It’s brilliant.”

Brynn Jinnett
Brynn Jinnett is a former dancer with the New York City Ballet and the founder of Refine Method, a chain of boutique circuit training studios in NYC, whose clients have included Ivanka Trump and Kelly Ripa. Rooted in the latest research in exercise science, Refine exercises your body by using its own weight – pairing squats, kicks, and pushes with its own unique pulley system and high-intensity cardio. Since opening in 2010, Jinnett’s Method has exploded, expanding to three locations across NYC.

“My favorite app is MindBody Biz Mode [FREE], which allows me to schedule clients on my iPhone. With our third location opening this month on the Upper West Side, it’s great to be able to manage multiple locations while on the go!”

Hung Huynh
As the executive chef of NYC’s Catch seafood restaurant in Meatpacking and third season-winner of Top Chef, Hung Huynh is joining with EMM Group again to open the second outpost of Catch in South Beach, inside the James Royal Palm on Collins Avenue.

“My favorite app, Seafood Watch [FREE], keeps me up-to-date with current and fresh fish from the area’s nearby restaurants and stores, inspires new ideas, and educates me on the importance of sustainable seafood.”

Nina Payne
Nina Payne is the founder and president of Domi Dollz, a company of professional dominatrixes who bring kink out of the dungeon and into the mainstream with their New York-based workshops and educational performances. This month, the Dollz are launching their first eBook titled Kinky Amour; with personal stories and kinky tips from Payne and company, as well as video tutorials and photographs, the Dollz’ teachings will be downloadable and available worldwide.

“The Domi Dollz love the Dirty Game – Truth or Dare app [FREE]: it’s a huge collection of very naughty and wild truth or dares. It’s such fun to revisit the game we played as teenagers, bring the app to parties, and spice things up.”