Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Perfect Hotel Restaurant – and it's in Florence, South Carolina!

The bar in Victor's Bistro
 I am very fortunate to have traveled around the world with my job. But I very rarely eat in hotel restaurants. I find them quite bland and lacking in atmosphere, and I prefer to taste some of the local culture. So I usually venture outside of the hotel doors. But although hotel restaurants can get a bad rap from people like me, there has been a countervailing trend gathering strength over the last decade or so, and some of the hottest restaurants are now opening in hotels, proving to be destinations for locals and tourists alike. Spearheaded by topnotch hotel/restaurant partnerships in Las Vegas, hotels are recognizing that a lot of people travel for culinary reasons, and a great restaurant brand or a well-known chef not only promises a superior dining experience, it brings celebrity status to a hotel.

Imagine my surprise to find evidence of this trend last week in Florence South Carolina. I was there doing some research looking at the potential for tourism development in the Pee Dee region, and I was blown over with what I found. I stayed at the Hotel Florence, a relatively new boutique hotel in the revitalized downtown district. The 49-bedroom hotel is made up of three of Florence’s historical buildings that have been renovated to create one space of 35,500 sq. ft. The old Schofield Hardware structure is the main hotel building, which includes the hotel lobby, guestrooms, and the hotel restaurant Victor’s Bistro.

Victor’s has been an integral part of the Florence community for almost 15 years. Awarded “Best of the Pee Dee: Fine Dining” for the past 8 years, Victor’s is recognized as one of the area’s most upscale and elegant restaurants. Tim Norwood, a native of Darlington, South Carolina, purchased Victor’s Bistro in 2003. Tim graduated from Francis Marion University with a degree in political science, and has been an active member of the Florence community for many years.

The restaurant moved into the Hotel Florence last May, bringing with it a host of experienced personnel including Steve Gibson as General Manager and George Floyd as Operations Manager. The pair were headhunted from Columbia where they had both been working for many years in the fine dining sector. “It’s really exciting to be here,” says Gibson. “People here say they are looking for a lot out of us all. We’re supposed to be the best. We’re doing this by taking advice from guests and improving the experience for everybody.” With a background at Columbia’s trendy Motor Supply Company and Ruth’s Chris, Floyd came to Victor’s last March to help with the renovation and transition. “It’s been really neat the number of local people who’ve come in and said ‘Gosh, we’ve come into New York City!’” says Floyd. “But when people from New York and Boston and Chicago come in and say the same thing, that’s when it really hits home.”

With its upscale décor and ambiance, first-rate food, mellow musical entertainments and meticulous service, Victor’s and the Hotel Florence are the cornerstone of the downtown revitalization project. Can’t wait to see how the forward-focused area progresses!


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  2. A trip to Florence is thé perfect get-away. One weekend or a couple of days in Florence will be enough to make you feel one with the city and forget about the daily routine back home. Wander around, experience the arty culture, shop until you drop, visit the highlights, just relax in a city park and enjoy the stunning view from the Eiffel tower. Sleeping in Paris doesn’t have to be expensive; Florence has a city-campsite and lots of hostels. But if your budget allows it and when you are looking for more luxury, there are also plenty of fancy hotels in Florence. Cheap hotel Florence