When auto sales declined sharply in late 2008, the Rattlesnake Club, one of Detroit’s oldest fine-dining restaurants, quickly learned how closely its fortunes were tied to the OEMs and their suppliers.
“It’s been a lot of fun rebuilding the business,” says John Stroh III, chairman and CEO of The Stroh Companies, which acquired the 25-year-old restaurant after popular chef Jimmy Schmidt left in 2010. “We’ve watched the Caucus Club, Pontchartrain Wine Cellars, and Opus One close their doors, but our goal was to stabilize the business and then grow it.”
Where the popular eatery once relied greatly on auto industry parties, both at the restaurant and offsite — Big Three executives often had the restaurant cater events at their offices or inside their homes — today the Rattlesnake Club has built up an impressive list of wedding and corporate hospitality clients.
“We’re getting the restaurant more involved in the community, whether it’s a special offer for the (recent) Il Volo concert at the Fox Theatre, events at Eastern Market, or in our atrium here at Stroh River Place,” Stroh says. “A lot of those outside events serve to draw additional traffic to the restaurant.”
Stroh also embarked on several renovations, including the decor, private rooms, and atrium. Executive Chef Christopher Franz added an herb garden. The restaurant, which offers an idyllic setting along the riverfront, handled 30 weddings this year; so far, another 20 are booked for 2014. db