How Are You Using Your Space to Connect with Customers During the Holidays?
December is a busy time of the year for The Great Lakes
Culinary Center. Among the 21 events already on the calendar, there’s an
“Iron Chef” cooking class hosted by the Detroit Free Press,
a “Chopped” event for a local company, and a slew of weddings and
holiday parties. One client is even attempting to use the event space to
make 4,000 cookies in one day, says Marc Israel, the president of Great
Lakes Hotel Supply Co.
Located in Southfield, Mich., the Culinary Center has been huge
in introducing the local business community, and up-and-coming chefs
and restaurateurs to the distribution arm of the business, which shares a
building with the event space. Just last month, several guest chefs and
hundreds of foodies gathered at the location for one of Great Lakes’
signature events, The Great Lakes Great Chefs dinner. Now in its fourth
year, the five-day dining experience is the brainchild of Israel and
treats diners to amazing creations from both local and national chefs.
“We bring in two guest chefs each night for five straight
nights, and each prepares a five-course meal,” said Israel, adding that
the Great Chefs dinner also serves as a fundraiser for local charities,
such as the Gleaners Community Food Bank.
Chefs are invited to visit the Culinary Center before the event
to check out the kitchen and its capabilities, giving them a chance to
put together a menu for the 150 guests who attend the dinner each night.
It’s also an opportunity for the chefs to connect with Great Lakes
Hotel Supply Co.
“For many of the chefs, it’s their first exposure to the
center,” said Israel. “This is a home-run marketing effort because they
are exposed to high-end equipment that they actually get to cook on and
try. Many become customers.”
There’s also the 750 guests the dinner attracts. Many are
peers, restaurant owners, purveyors, and distributors and represent the
perfect target audience for the equipment and supplies side of the
“They get to come to the other side of the building, meet our
design team and become acquainted with our capabilities,” said Israel,
who uses the event to showcase Great Lakes’ strengths to restaurateurs
as well as to the manufacturing community. “They get to meet the chefs
and see firsthand our innovative approach to selling their equipment.”
While the Great Lakes Culinary Center is a roaring success now,
that wasn’t the case initially when Israel presented the idea to his
cohorts. “The staff thought I was nuts when I told them my idea for
attracting young chefs,” he said. “If you build them a playground, they
will come and see it. When young chefs walk in, they are like kids in a