Special '716' discount; dining area part of almost $11 million renovation
As it turns out, American money spends just as well as Canadian money in downtown Niagara Falls.
Tourism entities have worked tirelessly for the past two decades to attract out-of-town guests for spring and summer visits, in the meantime suggesting year-round sales could be bolstered if local businesses reached out to local customers. Some do, but many don't - not necessarily intentionally, but by discouraging neighbors with high prices or even higher-concept dining, exorbitant pricing and a lack of parking.
Who wants to leave their house to drive down the street, pay $12 for a car sitter, and then an extra $10, $20 or more to eat the same meal they could find just a few more streets over?
That's not a great business or marketing plan - and locals are opting to eat elsewhere.
American Niagara Hospitality recognized this, and set out to create a space where everyone - both tourists and locals - could feel at home. Its Chill 443 restaurant opened earlier this summer inside the newly renovated and renamed Wyndham Garden Hotel (formerly Days Inn).
Though the hotel brand is more upscale, the restaurant was designed to be welcoming for everyone - from breakfast and lunch guests, to those eating on the run; for sports fans watching a Buffalo Bills game or couples looking for a romantic night out.
To this end, Chill 443 has different quadrants. There is seating in a cozy lounge area with soft lighting; areas with couches, chairs and TVs; a bar accessible from multiple sides; a second, family-room-type lounging area; and even a large community table, just outside the main dining room, where guests can snack and use their laptops, pads and phones.
Chill 443 offers a full menu for lunch and dinner, with chicken wings, burgers (both traditional and the meatless "Impossible" sandwich), chicken, steak, Chilean salmon and specialties such as flatbreads, street tacos and West Coast lettuce wraps; a Starbucks; and a grab-and-go section with drinks and sandwiches.
"It's a traditional American menu, with inspiration from all over the world," culinary director Tom Sukmanowski said. He added, "Everything is pretty much handmade in house daily to increase freshness and quality for the guests."
The restaurant also offers a free pool table, foosball and darts. Pong is headed here next.
"Really, what we were trying to accomplish with this concept is we really wanted something that would fit all aspects of the tourists that are coming through in the summertime, but then really have a nice, downtown restaurant for our locals, which is lacking in the downtown area right now," said Maggie Barnett, director of eCommerce and marketing for American Niagara Hospitality.
She added, "We've got other restaurants in the Sheraton Hotel, and we understand the impact between offseason and in-season. We want to make sure that we're building something not only for the tourists, but for the locals. That was a big influence on the concept of what we were coming up with."
Tourists will find 188 renovated rooms inside the Wyndham Garden Hotel, including four suites on the eighth floor with striking views, plush beds, flat-screen TVs, a fireplace, mood lighting, an in-room Keurig and a microwave. And did we mention the showers offer rain mist and multidirectional jet streams? Hotel guests also are afforded dining deals.
But it's the amenities offered for Niagara Falls neighbors that really make the Wyndham Garden Hotel and Chill 443 stand out from other downtown entities:
•Discounts: "We're actually giving 15 percent off to all locals who live in 'The 716,' " Barnett said. "In our mind, that 15 percent kind of cuts that tourist price out."
The discount applies to everything in Chill 443 except happy hour.
Locals can enroll in a program to receive emails on additional specials and seasonal promotions.
•Theme nights: Just like a neighborhood pub, Chill 443 offers pop-culture brain games.
"We're doing trivia nights every Wednesday," Barnett said. "We had over 70 people in here last night. We had a 'Friends'-themed trivia night. That's been really popular. We've had a good mix of locals and in-house guests. We're going to be doing more nights like Disney and 'The Office.' "
There's also a growler program with free fills and discounted refills.
•Food specials: "We're doing fish fry Fridays - a staple in Western New York," Barnett said. "We're doing a lot of happy hour specials, as well, Monday through Friday. 3-6 is our happy hour."
Sukmanowski said seven of the 12 draft beers are local and rotate seasonally.
He noted Chill 443 offers 75-cent chicken wings and $9.99 flatbreads for Buffalo Bills game days.
Moreover, the kitchen serves daily specials, so regular guests can find something new each visit. Chill 443 also offers gluten-free and vegetarian/vegan options.
•Parking: "One thing that we have at both of our properties - here, as well as the Sheraton - is free parking for restaurant guests," Barnett said. "We've got all metered streets now, so we want to make sure it's easy for people to come down here."
As a result of these offerings, Barnett said her company has seen an influx of local guests.
"I think people want to come to downtown Niagara Falls - locals - but, for some reason, (they don't)," she explained. "They're scared of that Grand Island bridge, and they're worried, 'I'm never going to get parking, because it's tourist season and there's a million people down here, and there's kids running around everywhere.' But I think there's a good balance in taking the time to actually look at our marketplace and say, 'There is a space for locals here, for both the Buffalo and the Niagara County people.'
"It's really just finding what works, and I think we've done that with our Rainforest Café (at the Sheraton). We've got 'Family Fun Nights' in the offseason. We're really trying to get locals to come, and that's been a great success."
At Chill 443, "We've got a lot of local breweries on tap. We've got local liquor distributors here. We're really trying to support the local area, along with giving people a nice place to go in downtown Niagara Falls where they don't have to worry about all of that" parking and pricing.
Barnett said, "We're encouraging all the locals to come in, give us a try, get that 15 percent off."
The Wyndham Garden Hotel's renovations also include a new fitness center, board and banquet rooms. The property is located at 443 Main St., Niagara Falls. For more information, visit www.wyndhamgardenatniagarafalls.com
, or call 716-284-8801.
Wyndham Garden Hotel