Director of Restaurant Operations Alexander Homs from The Puccini Group

Customer Profile – The Big 4 Restaurant / Puccini Group

Posted by R.W. Smith Co.

We had the privilege of interviewing Puccini Group’s Director of Restaurant Operations, Alexander Homs, to get a more in-depth look at the Big 4 Restaurant, its renovation and locally-sourced menu offerings.

Director of Restaurant Operations Alexander Homs from The Puccini Group

Customer Profile – The Big 4 Restaurant / Puccini Group

At the beautiful and elegant Scarlet Huntington Hotel lies the historical and iconic Big 4 Restaurant. Established in 1976, the restaurant was named after the “Big Four” industrialists – Collis P. Huntington, Charles Crocker, Leland Standford and Mark Hopkins – all of whom played a big role in San Francisco’s history and early development.


In early 2014, Grace International, owners of the hotel, and The Puccini Group teamed up to renovate the iconic restaurant with subtle aesthetic changes. Recently reopening in May, the Big Four Restaurant has retained its sophisticated look filled with remarkable collections of original artifacts and memorabilia from historic times in California.


We had the privilege of interviewing Puccini Group’s Director of Restaurant Operations, Alexander Homs, to get a more in-depth look at the Big 4 Restaurant, its renovation and locally-sourced menu offerings.


R.W. Smith: Please take us through the journey of how Big 4 Restaurant grew from conception.


Alexander Homs: In our very early conversations with the Hotel owners, we were asked to determine a direction for the Big 4 Restaurant. Should it retain its classic look and feel or should it be positioned as hip and cool, similar to many of San Francisco’s restaurants? We had the answer right away. It was crucial that the Big 4 retain the integrity of its design in order to maintain and further solidify the many relationships it had formed over the years. So we refreshed the Big 4’s famous and sophisticated interiors and partnered with a new chef, Executive Chef Kevin Scott, to update the restaurant’s menu to include classic Californian-inspired cuisine.


Thanks in large part to those early decisions we made for the Big 4, we’ve seen significant increases in sales from previous years, and have seen a great response from the Big 4’s longtime friends. Last month, we enjoyed the largest cover count we’ve had since reopening in May of this year when we invited the Bay Area community to celebrate National Pot Pie Day with us. In addition, we were thrilled to receive an extremely complimentary review from the San Francisco Chronicle. We are expecting exciting things for the Big 4!


RWS: What were your biggest challenges and proudest successes during this project?


AH: Challenges: When working with the restaurant’s over 30 year history, we’ve placed a huge importance on listening to longtime guests to ensure  we don’t lose sight of those elements that distinguish the Big 4. One of our missions this year has been to introduce a new generation to the Big 4 family, and we will continue to focus on this front into 2015 as well.


Successes: See above. In addition, solidifying relationships with friends and partners of the Big 4 has been extremely rewarding. We love greeting familiar faces and we feel fortunate to be working with so many wonderful groups to improve the Nob Hill and San Francisco community as a whole.


RWS: The restaurant offers an array of seasonal cuisines that combines classic San Francisco with contemporary sophistication. Of the many popular creations by Chef Kevin Scott, which have guests raved about the most?


AH: One thing to note about our menu is we aren’t driven by seasonality, but rather by what is accessible in the local market. So, our motto when creating the menu has been to always look to the past and what has worked, then, add our own contemporary touch through sourcing ingredients which are fresh and available to us in the local market.


Some of our more popular items have been the Mushrooms en Croute, Crispy Artichokes, Mediterranean Fish Stew and, of course, the famous Big 4 Pot Pie. Choosing to place a pot pie back on the menu after the reopening is an example of adhering to our motto; Chef Kevin added his own flavor to the dish and has received great reviews from both new and returning guests.


In addition, our cocktail program, helmed by Puccini Group’s Rafe Gabel, has really made a name for itself. (Read this article for more about our offerings.) From barrel-aged cocktails such as The Crocker (named for one of the “Big Four” industrialists), to our take on classics such as The Martinez, we’re looking to the past to define the future at the Big 4. We’ve partnered with another San Francisco icon—Anchor Brewing Company—to bring attention to San Francisco’s storied past as it relates to the “Big Four.” For The Martinez, we went with Anchor’s newly released Old Tom Gin as the anchor, so to speak, of the cocktail. In addition, we are excited to announce that Anchor’s annual Christmas Ale release will be kicked off at the Big 4, with a dinner we are hosting on November 3rd (in partnership with Anchor) to celebrate the brew. (Purchase your ticket now, before we run out! Additional details can be found here:


RWS: Using locally-sourced ingredients has become a trend within the foodservice industry. How important has it been for Big 4 to be part of this movement?


AH: Again, while we aren’t driven by seasonality, Chef Kevin and his team place a high importance on sourcing fresh ingredients that are accessible in the local market. Kevin’s long history with the Bay Area restaurant community has enabled him to form many relationships with Bay Area purveyors, local farms and companies. This means he’s always on the pulse of what is hot and available in the market. In addition, Kevin’s commitment to shopping at local farmers’ markets has made it possible for him to keep an eye on what’s available and fresh, while making a point to include those ingredients on the Big 4’s menus.


RWS: For private dining, the restaurant hosts a variety of events from weddings to cocktail parties to even corporate events. What stand out qualities does Big 4 have among other venues?


AH: You’d be hard-pressed to find another private dining room like the Big 4’s Central Pacific Room in the Bay Area. It’s covered floor to ceiling with historical artifacts and photographs, and is reminiscent of rooms that would have been found in the “Big Fours’” estates. Appropriately sophisticated for a holiday party or reception on Nob Hill, the room is also very cozy and comfortable, and we even have a resident historian on-staff to provide historical presentations at your event.


RWS: What changes in restaurant dining or evolution in menu offerings have surprised you the most?


AH: One that has surprised me, but is absolutely welcomed, is a return to classic ingredients and recipes, despite the push by many Bay Area restaurants to cater to young and trendy crowds. While trends don’t define the Big 4, we’re so happy to see an increase in cravings for the familiar and classic, as this ties together the Big 4’s philosophy. When our guests offer suggestions that include trendier fare, we welcome those dialogues and ask ourselves, “How can we make this happen while still adhering to our commitment to the classics?” When we do choose to incorporate trends into our offerings, we make sure to add classic elements that will yield an offering that is familiar and on-concept.

Added by R.W. Smith Co. on October 23, 2014 at 8:20 am - No Comments

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