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Flower Power for Penny Pinchers

During the launch period of a new restaurant, a hefty portion of costs are often designated for large, festive floral arrangements. “But once the restaurant is established, and especially if business tapers a bit,” laments Wolfgang Thom, owner of Wolfgang Design in New York City, “it is often the first category cut.”
Having designed floral displays for Jean George restaurant, Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG), and other high-end restaurants as well as for more casual chains, Thom has some insight into the challenges and practical solutions for cost-conscious restaurant flower arrangements.
According to Thom, the first rule is to avoid flowers with a short life and those with a strong scent. The good news is that “Over-the-top arrangements, which come with an equally elaborate price tag, have given way to super simple but elegant arrangements that suggest a strong use of natural elements,” the designer states. “They compliment the space they are in, not overwhelm it.”
Inexpensive blueberry bush stems, pussy willows, grape vines, and tall wheat stalks are all examples of the new “organic” theme in floral arrangements, many of which will last indefinitely. “A monochromatic holder that also serves as a piece of art will complete the drama in this type of arrangement,” Thom adds. “Freshen it regularly with a single elegant bloom, and you have a great arrangement without breaking the bank.”
Ideally, floral arrangements should be refreshed mid-week and replaced weekly. And, of course, there are those occasions when someone has one martini too many and falls into the flowers, necessitating additional repair work.


Beauty on a Budget

Using the talent right under your nose is another of Thom’s tips. He says there are staff members in the majority of restaurants who possess a knack for creating floral displays. Owners and managers who appreciate the aesthetic value but are on a limited budget should tap into their in-house artistic pool.
Simple, chic, and low enough for guests to see over—not through or around—are the primary rules governing tabletop flower arrangements. But rather than a predictable orchid in a glass vase, Thom suggests a poppy pod or a unique vegetable or fruit stem. They’re distinctive and affordable, yet are still in keeping with the natural theme popular today.
For restaurant chains, he has another money saving suggestion. His company was contracted by W Hotels to create arrangement “recipes” that could be duplicated by local florists or in-house staff at all of the company’s locations. Supplying a how-to page and photos of each arrangement, the floral designer helped the restaurant group to create smart-looking but do-it-yourself floral decorations. “Designs are basic enough to be easily duplicated,” Thom explains. “The company pays the consultant one time, based on the number of designs he [or she] is contracted to create. It’s a great way for chains to maintain uniformity, keep costs in line, and still have elegant designs that compliment the décor.”

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