Since its debut in 2002, Zuma restaurants have grown in popularity and in numbers. The Zuma brand, a sophisticated twist on Japanese Izakaya dining co-founded by Rainer Becker and Arjun Waney, is on its way to world domination. It has a presence in the United States, and locations in the United Kingdom, Italy, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Thailand, and Hong Kong.
We spoke to Marisa Colangelo, Zuma’s Director of Private Events, about how their global team coordinates event management, and how they’ve maintained their modern Japanese style while adapting the operation to new markets.
1. Tell us about Zuma — how is it different from other Japanese restaurants, and where are your venues located?
Zuma boasts 11 locations globally including London, Hong Kong, Istanbul, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Bangkok, Rome, Miami, New York, Las Vegas, and we’ll open our 12th location in Boston this spring.
At Zuma, our priority is the complete experience: food, drinks, music, service, and lighting. Each element is equally important and serves the same purpose: to complement the taste and flavor of the food. At Zuma, we serve contemporary Japanese cuisine in a sophisticated yet relaxed environment. Our menu is authentic, but the dishes are not traditional, although we do draw from old, classic techniques and the ancient food culture. This, along with our three distinctive kitchens, is what sets Zuma apart from any other Japanese restaurant you may have visited. We have our principal (main) kitchen, the sushi kitchen, and the robata grill all serving a variety of different dishes, flavor profiles, and textures to compliment your dining experience. All of the restaurants also have a vibrant bar and lounge, with amazing drinks and music, which provides guests alternative ambiance.
2. On average, how many events do your locations host each year, and do the types of events vary from country to country?
Our larger Zuma locations, such as Zuma New York, host more than 1,100 events annually. Yes, the types of events do vary from country to country but also city to city. The physical space somewhat dictates the type of event we can accommodate as well. Globally we have accommodated everything from Japanese tea ceremonies, sushi classes, sake and Japanese whiskey tastings, weddings, rehearsal dinners, bar and bat mitzvahs, to listening parties, live performances, movie screenings, product launches, brunches and so much more.
Zuma New York, Rome, Hong Kong, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi all have two floors that allow us a variety of event setups and dining experiences. Zuma Rome is located in the iconic Palazzo Fendi with a beautiful roof terrace and breathtaking views overlooking the Eternal City — a perfect location for a red carpet event or after party. Zuma Hong Kong is located in the prestigious The Landmark, an office and shopping development and features a garden terrace area perfect for a rehearsal dinner. Zuma Bangkok is located in the St. Regis and boasts a verdant garden and air-conditioned outdoor terrace as ideal locations for wedding ceremonies and much more. Zuma New York allows for so much versatility in the space with six private dining rooms, multiple semi-private areas, and two floors with state of the art offerings that allow for listening parties, movie screenings, and more.
3. What are some of the services, amenities, or design features you’ve implemented across the Zuma locations to capture the Zuma atmosphere and accommodate the particular needs of customers in each city?
Our private rooms are always an extension of the restaurant, this is in terms of the design, experience, and food offering. Glass dividers and partitions are sometimes used opposed to solid walls, enabling guests to see into the kitchen or dining room, or to still be able to hear the buzz of the restaurant within a more secluded setting. Our Dantai and Omakase menus feature a selection of our most famous and favored signature dishes so parties really get to experience the true essence of Zuma.
With regards to the services we offer in all the different locations, Miami is a good illustration as we offer private yacht catering. We are located on the Miami River so we have a unique opportunity to bring Zuma from land to the sea! We also offer private penthouse catering for exclusive at-home dining experiences, as there is a large demand for it in Miami.
4. Why did Zuma start using Tripleseat to plan its events and how has it helped with event management?
We understood that Tripleseat was the foremost event planning platform on the market and our aim was that it would allow our sales teams to maximize their revenue and time with guests. It has certainly delivered on this and all while recording and creating historical data for Zuma to build its private dining customer base.
Tripleseat has helped in a variety of ways, beginning with the platform being a live portal that our clients can interact with easily. The customizable options that Tripleseat offers their venues are without limit, This allows us to create new forms and documentation simply. A feature that has really helped our business practices and profit margins is the online payment portal. The days of billing mistakes are a thing of the past with the use of the online payment options through the Tripleseat platform.
5. Your team is spread out among a number of different countries and time zones. What Tripleseat features do they use the most to help them to communicate and streamline event management among locations?
There are a variety of features offered by Tripleseat that allow multiple locations to track activity. We use the Tripleseat lead emails and RFP forms to create an easy standard for all our private dining inquiries, as well as customized lead sources to track all incoming business. We also maximize the calendar to allow our corporate chefs, executives, and managers traveling to different locations to be able to view all restaurants. The most important Tripleseat feature we use across the properties are the reports we custom created to track and monitor our growth and improve on any weaknesses or missed opportunities —these include pace reports, leads reports, bookings by source, highest spending accounts, and clients and lost bookings. Having one form across the venues allows us to review all data as a whole.
Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in Tripleseat’s Seated magazine, 2019 Spring/Summer issue.