Skip to Content
East Coast Casinos Offer Exceptio

East Coast Casinos Offer Exceptional Dining Experiences for Meeting Groups

According to the National Restaurant Association’s “2024 State of the Restaurant Industry” report, industry sales, food service included, are forecast to top $1 trillion for the first time in history this year. The report also found that 90% of American adults enjoy dining out for “flavor and taste sensations they can’t easily replicate at home.” 

These findings bode well for the continuing expansion of casino dining. Margins are historically thin in food and beverage operations. Restaurants and bars alone may not be the primary reason or deciding factor for planners when choosing a group-capable gaming destination. Combined with lodging and entertainment, F&B makes up only 16.9% of the yearly revenue at U.S. commercial and Indian casinos, according to the American Gaming Association’s (AGA) October 2023 report on the national economic impact of the U.S. gaming industry. F&B revenue alone trends highest in Las Vegas.

Try to imagine a casino meeting or event without a great banqueting, cocktail or dining element, though. That’s when a well-conceived, positioned, marketed and executed F&B venue can be a deciding factor. 

As in Vegas, operators in the hotly competitive East Coast gaming market must continually innovate to attract new business and keep repeat customers coming back. Exciting F&B concepts are one way to create that buzz, a trend that casino leaders are getting behind. According to the October 2023 “AGA Gaming CEO Outlook,” investing in F&B offerings is a priority for 67% of respondents in 2024, compared to only 39% targeting hotel investments. 

Here are examples of how East Coast gaming destinations invest for F&B success—future talent included—to stay ahead.

The Many Appetizing Sides of Atlantic City

From old school to contemporary, the collective Atlantic City menu runs many pages deep. Illustrious off-Boardwalk guardians include Dock’s Oyster House (1897) and circa-1912 Knife and Fork Inn, relaunched in 1929 as a steak and seafood shrine and redolent with authentic Prohibition-era appeal. Independent event-capable hotspots include French-Afghan restaurant Setaara, Cardinal in the Orange Loop neighborhood and Little Water Distillery.

The openings last year of Gordon Ramsay Hell’s Kitchen and Nobu Atlantic City at sharply transformed Caesars Atlantic signified the strong celebrity chef culture in town, with the added pizzazz of Vegas import “Italian American-Psychedelic” Superfrico restaurant at the property. 

Other star toques include Jose Garces, whose long-time presence in Atlantic City includes tapas-driven Amada at Ocean Casino Resort. Another familiar Philadelphian, Michael Schulson, is bringing two new fine-casual concepts to Ocean’s culinary summer 2024 roster: Pearl & Mary oyster bar and Samuel’s, an all-day diner featuring an American-Jewish menu inspired by Schulson’s emigree grandparents’ butcher shop in the Bronx.

Nationally acclaimed Il Mulino at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City is top-class. Founded in NYC’s Greenwich Village in 1981, this local outpost has been a property anchor for years, offering relaxed service and classic Italian cuisine. Rentals include two 26-capacity private rooms and another for 50, plus buyouts of one of the two 80-person main dining rooms. 

New Jersey wines are attracting national attention. Groups can experience the roots of Garden State viticulture at Renault Winery & Resort, some 20 miles northeast of Atlantic City. Established in 1864 by French immigrant Louis Nicolas Renault, this fetching escape is among the nation’s oldest continuously operating wineries.

Planner’s Perspective – Dana Lancellotti

MT: How did you learn of Renault Winery & Resort?

“Meredith Dickinson, Renault’s manager of business development, reached out to our organization and invited me out for a tour. Blending modern accommodations and historic elements, the property is amazingly beautiful and serene. The charm includes the vineyard and award-winning wines, golf course, waterscapes, activities and versatile indoor and outdoor venues.”

MT: Sounds like you were ready to book!

“With all that Renault offers, we had the perfect stage for accommodating our annual board retreat, a three-part day and nighttime event comprising three distinct guest groupings.”

MT: What were those programs?

“First was our private Board of Directors lunch and meeting, held in a beautiful second-floor banquet room overlooking the scenic landscape. We then moved downstairs to welcome our industry partners, the companies that support and sponsor our association. That afternoon, they enjoyed the “Historic Tour and Taste of Renault” experience, which features intriguing historic spaces including the original footprint of the Renault estate, the speakeasy and onsite Glass Museum with wine tastings. It was like stepping back in time into the Prohibition era.”

Connecticut’s Casinos Have Culinary Cachet

Gordon Ramsay Hell’s Kitchen also opened at Foxwoods Resort Casino last year, adding star power to the property’s roster. 
Mohegan Sun’s prodigious F&B collection runs the gamut. Essential group coordinates include TAO Asian Bistro & Lounge in partnership with TAO Hospitality Group. The collaboration extends to the projected opening this fall of TAO’s energetic lifestyle-driven Beauty & Essex brand. Other evocative dining rooms include Tuscany-inspired Ballo Italian Kitchen and Michael Jordan’s Steak House.

This January, Mohegan Sun celebrated the 20th anniversary of its annual Sun Wine & Food Fest. One of the largest and most popular culinary festivals in the Northeast, the multi-day event features celebrity chef appearances, exceptional culinary showcases and luxury spirit tastings. 

The event also serves as a stage for students from Mohegan Sun’s Culinary Internship Program to demonstrate their skills. Commenced in 1996, this unique apprenticeship opportunity is a bright example of owner-operator Mohegan Tribe’s commitment to people and industry leadership.

Getting Their Chops Down

Chef Lynn Mansel, with Mohegan Sun since it opened in 1996, is executive pastry chef and a director of culinary for the property. He is also closely involved with Mohegan Sun’s Culinary Internship Program, mentoring interns, organizing their schedules and working with them on projects like the Sun Wine & Food Fest. Mastering the culinary arts takes time and training; as Mansel explains here, Mohegan Sun gives young talent a head start

“This exceptional one-year program allows future chefs and pâtissiers alike to obtain invaluable, hands-on experience. All interns become fully immersed as Mohegan Sun team members, rotating through areas including banquets, casual and fine dining, room service and the ever-popular pastry shop. Unique opportunities include assisting with the yearly assembly of a 28-foot-tall, life-size gingerbread house that resides in The Shops at Mohegan Sun during the holiday season. 

International culinary students can apply for a J-1 visa via our partnership with the International Cultural Exchange Organization (ICEO). Once accepted and cleared by the U.S. Embassy, they receive complimentary travel to the U.S. and assistance with finding temporary housing for the duration of their time with Mohegan Sun. Previous international students have hailed from countries including Thailand, Korea, Poland, Japan and various areas of South America.

In addition to culinary education, interns are also offered training and orientation in preparation for careers in tourism and hospitality. All interns within the program receive compensation comparable to what they would receive as official team members. 
Upon completion of the program, interns can apply for permanent employment at Mohegan Sun, based on availability. Since the commencement of this program in 1996, Mohegan Sun’s culinary department has welcomed nearly 800 students and has a 97% success rate.” 

U.S.-based interns are encouraged to submit applications for the Culinary Internship Program and International interns can contact ICEO to submit. 

Pennsylvania Is the Land of Plenty

Completed last year, the multimillion-dollar expansion of Wind Creek Bethlehem added a second hotel tower with 276 luxurious rooms, doubling its key count to 550 and nearly tripling the property’s total meeting space to 60,000 square feet. 

Backed by the 23,000-square-foot centerpiece Foundry Ballroom, the new tower’s stunning two-level lobby is home to chic new cocktail bar Mixx. Molten Lounge is for martinis and other crafted cocktails. The star of the dining portfolio is The Chop House. Formerly Emeril’s Chop House, this event-capable classic American steakhouse is a destination restaurant unto itself.

AAA Four Diamond-rated Mount Airy Casino Resort in the picturesque Pocono Mountains focuses on experiences for groups, and that includes peak dining at award-winning Bistecca by Il Mulino and modern Pan-Asian concept Lucky 8 Noodle + Sushi Bar. Planners can coordinate breakfast, multi-course dinners and custom menus with the resort’s executive chef.

Vegas Influences, Local Flavors 

As the major casino-resorts bookending the region, MGM National Harbor in Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C., and Encore Boston Harbor in Everett, Massachusetts, within sight of downtown Boston, offer large-footprint dining for groups. The former’s portfolio includes Voltaggio Brothers Steak House from Maryland-born brothers Bryan and Michael Voltaggio, who recently brought the concept to Mandalay Bay in Vegas. 

Encore Boston Harbor looks and feels like its Vegas siblings, but there is no mistaking the local flavor within its glamorous trappings. Celebrating five years this June, the 671-room Wynn Resorts’ property, integrating 50,000 square feet of indoor space and 21,000 square feet of outdoor lawn space, has a decidedly Boston accent, dining included.

Dunkin’ Donuts, founded in 1950 in nearby Quincy, is as local as it gets. Restaurateurs Frank DePasquale and Nick Varano, veterans of Boston’s historic North End, or Little, brought Fratelli and more casual Frank and Nick’s to the resort. And it’s Boston meets Vegas meets Boston at the resort’s newest concept, Seamark Seafood & Cocktails.

Conceived by Vegas-based Carver Road Hospitality, which is owned by Boston native Sean Christie, the restaurant is helmed by James Beard Award-winning Boston native Michael Schlow, whose menu showcases New England’s fresh-caught coastal bounty. Venues at the highly anticipated nautically inspired restaurant include Old Wives’ Tale, a hideaway maritime-themed speakeasy-style bar that will serve as the 16-capacity private dining room. Large group buyouts are also available.

We offer a comprehensive suite of 360-degree hospitality solutions utilized to develop personalized strategies for our partners.