West coast businessman and restauranteur Willie Rhine isn’t a gambler, and not likely to throw the dice on a frivolous concept.
So when the hospitality industry was contracting nationwide during the pandemic lockdowns, Willie and his business partner Chad Gardner of Gardner Hospitality Group were thoughtfully opening a new concept in the affluent community of Rancho Mirage, Calif.; often called the “Camp David of the West.”
In a community that has hosted past presidents, from Eisenhower to Obama, as well as Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, Rhine and Gardner opened Willie’s Modern Fare in July with one aim: to provide modern American fare — steak, seafood, duck, rabbit, pasta— in a white tablecloth setting.
“I’m not much of a gambler,” Rhine says. “But I was pretty confident we were going to be successful because people have to eat. And we’re in a community where people like to eat well. I knew that if we could provide quality food at reasonable prices and could provide the experience of a good evening out, then people were going to come.”
And come they did! In this week’s Boxerbrand blog Recipe for Success, Rhine discusses his newest concept.
Boxerbrand: How did you find opportunity at a time when the hospitality sector has been so strained?
Rhine: We’d just come out of the pandemic and my business partner came to me with an opportunity to partner on a 2nd restaurant with him. We already had one successful venture, the 1501 Gastropub in Palm Springs, when he found a great lease deal in Rancho Mirage, which is 20 minutes from the gastropub, in the East Valley.
We found a 9,000 square foot space, which encompasses an outdoor patio, that had been empty for quite some time. We jumped on it. We were able to get a quick sale and did a complete remodel.
Boxerbrand: Why Rancho Mirage?
Rhine: There were a number of reasons why it was a logical next location for us. For starters, I’ve worked in restaurants in Rancho Mirage in the past, and already had a following. And we also had a customer base there, who were traveling to our restaurant in Palm Springs.
The demographics of the area also made it a good choice for a restaurant. It’s a seasonal resort community where people winter in their second homes. The Annenberg Estate, which has hosted past presidents including Obama, is here. And in general, it’s an affluent community that appreciates old-style dining experience.
Boxerbrand: What is the experience at Willie’s Modern Fare?
Rhine: I tried to create a space that has an old-style service, with white table linens, but with a modern European flare in the decor. Our cuisine is modern American—steak, seafood, duck, rabbit and a few pasta dishes. Our most popular dish right now is our Duart salmon with crispy skin, onion soubise, orange gel, watercress, fennel, ruby grapefruit supremes tossed in citrus vinaigrette.
Boxerbrand: And the menu covers are working out for you?
Rhine: I chose the most elegant menu covers, and we invested in them as we did in our restaurant’s overall ambience. The experience of dining out is about more than food, it’s the entire experience, from the music and atmosphere to the presentation of the menu in its covers, our service and our reliability. —Willie’s Modern Fare of Rancho Mirage uses Boxerbrand Shimmer Menu Covers in its table presentation. Thank you!