Capital Buzz: The Ritz bakes up a new revenue stream


Part of David Collier’s strategy at The Ritz-Carlton, Pentag City. (Marie Steffany/Courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton)
November 13, 2011

The Ritz-Carlton, Pentagon City is always looking for ways to make money, so it hired pastry chef David Collier this past April, in part because he pitched them on a new revenue stream.

Collier, 43, convinced the upscale hotel chain, run by Bethesda-based Marriott Internationa l , on his idea of baking and selling wedding cakes for the receptions it hosts. Up until now, half of the wedding cakes were made by bakers from outside the hotel — with The Ritz getting zip.

Now it keeps all the money. The new business already has put $80,000 into the hotel’s coffers.

“The hotel has been able to double its revenue from wedding cakes,” said Shannon Hadley, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing.

Collier, who came to the Ritz from the Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas, said most newlyweds-to-be ask for chocolate cakes. He offers 216 combinations of cake and frosting and fruit.

The cakes aren’t cheap. A typical wedding cake for 250 runs $3,000.

“One bride asked for a five-tier cheesecake,” he said. “It weighed as much as a car.”

Collier also is working the groom side of the pastry business, creating “groom cakes” that reflect a hobby, a favorite sports team or a sports car.

The average wedding for 150 guests at The Ritz costs $35,000.

Ka-ching.

The Buzz Hears:

Mom’s Organic Market has begun the “TerraPass Your Gas program,” designed to offset carbon emissions from each customer’s trip to the organic grocer. Mom’s, with eight stores in the region and two more on the way, will buy carbon credits for customers to offset the pollution from their auto mileage to and from the store.

The TerraPass program is free and voluntary; it requires a Zip code so Mom’s can estimate the mileage and carbon offsets required.

D.C. entrepreneur Morris Panner was named chief executive of Phoenix-based Dicom Grid, a Web company that shares medical diagnostic imaging. Dicom Grid’s flagship product enables people to share complex diagnostic images between hospitals and specialists.  

The Dupont Circle Hotel , owned and operated by the Doyle Collection , was named to Fodor’s 100 Hotel Awards in the “clubby atmosphere” category.

The ink isn’t dry on Bethesda-based KoolSpan, Inc.’s $5 million in venture capital investments, and the firm, which makes a chip that protects cell phones/smart phones from hackers, is already hiring new executives.

The 15-person firm hired telecom veteran Francis Knott as senior vice president.

Knott, who will focus on market strategy, corporate development and aligning strategic partnerships for the mobile security firm, co-founded and served as president of Uppidy, a text message application.

KoolSpan’s chief executive is Gregg Smith , formerly of Aether Systems , Acuity Mobile and Karch International .

An ace in the hole

T in Cup , the golf-stenciling business founded by Jim Millar and the rest of the clan running Hitt Contracting, is on track to gross $1 million this year, up from $450,000 last year.

The company is in 620 stores around the United States, including 12 PGA Superstores, 50 Edwin Watts stores and 420 pro shops at golf clubs.

Tin Cup, run day-to-day by vice president and partner Cabell Fooshe, has sold more than 100,000 of the little half-spheres, which allow the buyer to customize their imprint on golf balls.

The company added a college line this year for Navy, University of North Carolina, Wake Forest, Maryland, Arizona State and USC.

Nick Green of Bethesda-based MacDuff Consulting is also a partner in the venture.

Carlyle Watch:

The Carlyle Group, which is likely to go public after the new year, filed documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission last week that said that some of its portfolio companies and other investments declined in value during the last quarter.

Although all the numbers aren’t yet in, “we currently expect that the total fair value of the assets held by our carry funds as of September 30, 2011 declined from June 30, 2011. Accordingly, we expect that our results for the nine months ended September 30, 2011 will be adversely affected by reversals of previously accrued performance fees and investment income due to these declines”

Translation: District-based Carlyle, which refers to itself as an asset management firm with nearly $153 billion in assets under management, took a hit just like the rest of us.

Thomas Heath is a local business reporter and columnist, writing about entrepreneurs and various companies big and small in the Washington Metropolitan area. Previously, he wrote about the business of sports for The Post’s sports section for most of a decade.
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