Best of Closing the Deal
BEST PLACE FOR A BUSINESS CONFERENCE
Sheraton West Des Moines Hotel
The Sheraton West Des Moines Hotel books so many conferences and conventions that last fall, its owners decided to convert its former restaurant, Damon’s, into meeting space to meet the needs of its customers.
“With new business development in the West Des Moines market, there’s a real need for meeting space, and it’s really been beneficial to us to have our expanded facilities,” said Stephanie Tigges, the hotel’s director of sales.
The Sheraton now has 23,000 square feet of meeting space, up from 15,000 square feet prior to the Damon’s conversion. According to Tigges, complimentary parking, a convenient location off Interstate 35-80, flexible walls that permit varied room configurations and an “excellent audiovisual department” also make the hotel a popular choice for business conferences.
Formerly the Holiday Inn University Park, the hotel changed to the Sheraton brand in February. In addition to additional meeting rooms, the property’s new managers, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc., invested a significant amount of money to remodel each of the hotel’s 285 guest rooms, perform exterior work on the front of the building and make several updates throughout the hotel. In 2007, the hotel’s ballroom will be redone.
Runners-up: Des Moines Marriott; West Des Moines Marriott
BEST RESTAURANT FOR A BUSINESS BREAKFAST
With a central location in Des Moines, ample space and a great menu, the Drake Diner is the best place for a business breakfast, according to Business Record readers.
General Manager Jody Valentine said the restaurant draws its much of its weekday breakfast business from the fact that it is located within minutes of downtown Des Moines and is easily accessible from Interstate 235 for business professionals based in other corners of the city.
Though the Drake Diner lacks meeting or banquet rooms, Valentine said the dining area has enough space to accommodate small and large gatherings, and large booths that provide privacy for business meetings.
“We have breakfast clubs that meet here weekly,” she said. “And when the patio is open, that’s a great place to have a meeting.”
The Drake Diner maintains a staff of about 50 employees, and Valentine said the restaurant has not undergone any major changes in the past year, nor are there plans to make any in the near future.
“We’ve got a good thing and we’re keeping it the same,” she said.
Runners-up: West End Diner; Palmer’s Deli and Market on Ingersoll Avenue
BEST PLACE FOR A BUSINESS LUNCH
When Centro opened, co-owner Paul Rottenberg said, some people complained that its bustling atmosphere made it “too noisy” for a business lunch, but the opposite has proved true for the restaurant, which was voted the best place for a business lunch.
Centro has exceeded its owners’ expectations since it opened nearly three years ago. Rottenberg said the restaurant’s location, unique food and atmosphere make it an ideal destination for downtown business people.
“I think that George (Formaro, head chef and co-owner) has done a great job with innovative food,” Rottenberg said. “I think his food is a great mix between comfort food that people like to eat and food that is interesting.”
Centro’s salads, sandwiches and New York-style pizzas are popular choices for lunch, Rottenberg said, and although the restaurant is often filled to capacity for the midday meal, service is surprisingly fast.
“You can’t do business at lunch if you can’t be fast in Des Moines,” Rottenberg said. “This is not a town of two-hour lunches.”
Runners-up: Latin King; Nick’s Bar & Grill
BEST PLACE FOR A BUSINESS DINNER
801 Steak & Chop House
At 801 Steak & Chop House, customers are treated to USDA prime cuts of beef, fresh seafood and an extensive wine menu, as well as service and atmosphere that make it the best place for a business dinner, bar manager and sommelier Sheri Osborn said.
In addition, the restaurant’s location in the heart of downtown Des Moines, near offices and hotels, makes it conducive to business dinners. The restaurant’s private meeting rooms can accommodate up to 60 people, and private dining areas can seat up to 14.
“It’s easy to discuss business without being bothered by the person sitting next to you.”
Osborn said weeknights are 801’s busiest time, but the restaurant offers a lobster special on the weekend to attract local customers.
“We’re looking forward to staying busy and always improving our service and trying to make our food and our wine list up-to-date to keep people interested,” she said.
Runners-up: Runners-up: Latin King; Nick’s Bar & Grill
BEST SPORTING EVENT FOR ENTERTAINING A CLIENT
Attendance is running slightly ahead of last year as the Iowa Cubs head into their final games of the season, and a lot of business hosts and clients must have been among those 403,000 fans. A visit to Principal Park for a triple-A baseball game was once again chosen as the best sporting event for entertaining a client.
According to Assistant General Manager Jim Nahas, the I-Cubs sell “tens of thousands of tickets to thousands of groups” every summer. If hosts want maximum comfort for their guests, they can rent a skybox for $425 per game; that price includes 10 tickets and each skybox has a capacity of 25 people.
When next season rolls around, fans will have a refurbished stadium to enjoy. Several million dollars are to be spent on a remodeling project that will begin as soon as the Cubs’ season ends Sept. 4.
Runners-up: Drake Relays; Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino
BEST BROWN BAG LUNCH
Palmer’s Deli and Market
Stop by any of the four Palmer’s Deli and Market locations in Greater Des Moines over the lunch hour and, with the bustling crowds, it’s easy to see why this restaurant was once again named the best brown bag lunch in Des Moines by Business Record readers.
Lunchtime diners are treated to a variety of sandwiches, breads, soups, salads and desserts, as well as some grab-and-go options for people in a time crunch.
The restaurant, owned by Gayle and Carol Palmer and their son, Joe, opened 17 years ago at 7509 Douglas Ave. in Urbandale. The Palmers have since expanded their operations to include restaurants in the Kaleidoscope at the Hub and on 50th Street in West Des Moines. Last fall, they opened a restaurant, their largest, on Ingersoll Avenue that offers an extended menu, including breakfast, as well as longer hours.
Runners-up: In the Bag; Jason’s Deli
BEST AFTER-WORK BAR
Winston’s Pub and Grilled
Winston’s is on the skywalk system, surrounded by big buildings full of workers; it’s casually elegant, with lots of wood and brass; and the bartender has been there for several years, so he must know what he’s doing. Put it all together, and you have a fine place for a drink after work.
Craig Laws and Steve Little have owned Winston’s for about nine years. “It’s the kind of place Winston Churchill would have liked,” Laws said. “Good scotch and fine cigars.” The after-work crowd includes “attorneys, stockbrokers, investors, Wellmark executives, people from Principal and Ruan,” he said.
During happy hour from 4 to 7 p.m. all drinks are reduced in price, and the combined bar and restaurant area can hold about 75 people. On Friday evenings in the winter, the owners open the back room to double the capacity.
Runners-up: Mondo’s of West Des Moines; Nick’s Bar and Grill
BEST BAR TO ENTERTAIN CLIENTS
People who bring their clients to Centro’s bar after work have a unique vantage point from which to see the city, according to Paul Rottenberg, part-owner of the restaurant.
“What people like about the bar is that it’s just a fabulous place to sit and watch the world go by,” Rottenberg said. “It’s on an extremely busy corner. You can sit in the corner and watch the new Wells Fargo building going up, along with the neat architecture of the Allied (Insurance) building. I think that’s why a lot of people meet up here.”
Rottenberg said he is “extremely pleased” with the amount of business Centro’s bar brings in. Earlier this summer, Centro began opening its doors on Monday evenings, the one night during the week it had been closed. Rottenberg said this decision was based on the large number of business travelers in Des Moines throughout the week.
“A lot of downtown business bars have trouble making it, and I think the openness of our place and being able to sit and have a drink and watch the city go by really strikes a note with our customers.”
Runners-up: Mondo’s of West Des Moines; Court Avenue Restaurant & Brewing Co.