No riffraff: South Florida luxury condo developers embrace private dining

Latest amenity trend is all about exclusivity, prestige, and martinis on-call

From left: Chef Shaun Hergatt, Camilo Miguel Jr., Gil Dezer and Chef Todd English
From left: Chef Shaun Hergatt, Camilo Miguel Jr., Gil Dezer and Chef Todd English (Getty)

UPDATED, May 16, 11:05 a.m.

Gil Dezer was hanging out at Porsche Design Tower’s pool with a friend when his sweet tooth kicked in.

The friend “made a phone call, and within five minutes I had a piece of chocolate cake in front of me,” Dezer said. 

Dezer developed the 60-story, 132-unit Porsche Design Tower in 2016, which includes an exclusive restaurant and bar. Only unit owners, their family and guests can eat and drink in the building and by the pool.

“It’s the only restaurant in Miami it costs $5 million to get a reservation,” Dezer joked.

Well, not the only one. Private dining in condos has been around for a long time, but as a new wave of luxury projects hits the market, developers are doubling down on the concept to attract buyers. Adding the feature creates a private club-like atmosphere, developers say, and that’s the kind of buyer who shows up.

“They’re not just foodie people, they’re also private member people,” said Douglas Elliman agent Dina Goldentayer.

Camilo Miguel Jr.’s Mast Capital plans residents-only restaurants and speakeasies in the Perigon and Cipriani Residences Miami. Related Group is implementing the concept across a slate of projects, including St. Regis Residences, Miami, Six Fisher Island, and Rivage Bal Harbour Residences. Dezer’s Bentley Residences Miami in Sunny Isles Beach will have a private restaurant headed by celebrated chef Todd English. Dezer’s Rosewood Residences Hillsboro Beach, his joint project with Related Group, will also have the amenity. Terra and One Thousand Group have partnered with Major Food Group on the Villa, which will include both public and private dining options. 

Gil Dezer and Todd English
Gil Dezer and Todd English (Dezer Development)

Restaurants are famously expensive to operate, with high overhead and slim profit margins. To make it pencil out, several developers calculate the cost of operation and fold that into homeowners fees for the buildings. Some are giving restaurateurs deals, like covering the cost of the build-out for the kitchen and dining space.

“We, as the developer, are providing the build-out investment. That burden doesn’t exist there,” Miguel Jr. said. “The intention of the restaurant is not to be a profit center.”

Dezer took a similar approach to sweeten the deal for his food and beverage partner.

“We factored in the labor in the HOA. They’re not paying rent on the space,” Dezer said. “[Todd English] doesn’t make any ongoing revenues from this. I made him a nice deal on an apartment.”

In Dezer’s opinion, it is crucial for the success of residents-only dining that menu prices stay relatively low.

“The food prices are normal,” he said. “You’re not paying $20 a burger.”

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Adding restaurant operations to HOA budgets obviously raises the cost, but developers say buyers aren’t batting an eye. They just want the service.

“We haven’t gotten pushback on our HOA costs based on running a food and beverage service,” said Eric Fordin, senior vice president with Related. “If they want these luxuries and amenities, they cost.”

Brokers and developers say buyers like the feature for a number of reasons — privacy, exclusivity, prestige, and convenience, to name a few.

“All developers are trying to put their spin on amenities,” Fordin said, calling private dining “critical for a luxury building’s success” in the current market.

That said, a private restaurant isn’t everything. “[If it’s] not a well recognized developer, not a spectacular location, I don’t believe that a hot restaurant brand can save it,” Goldentayer said.

Related and its partner, Integra Investments, tapped James Beard winner Fabio Trabocchi, an Italian Michelin-starred chef, to head its private restaurant at the planned 46-story, 150-unit St. Regis Residences, Miami. Ena Espino Pereda of One Sotheby’s International Realty is on the sales team for the tower, and said Trabocchi’s brand helps build trust with prospective buyers. 

“[You] know that the quality is going to be of a certain level,” she said.

Related has yet to announce its chef partners for the private restaurants in Rosewood, Rivage or Six Fisher Island. 

Six Fisher Island's Restaurant
Six Fisher Island’s Restaurant (Related)

Shaun Hergatt, a highly decorated Australian chef, is heading the restaurant and speakeasy in the Perigon. He doesn’t normally take private gigs, he said, but he went for this one. He said it isn’t very different from running a public restaurant.

“It’s the same process and same programming,” he said. “Having the same people, you have to learn their preferences and make sure they’re satisfied with the product. Even in a regular restaurant you have to track with a regular client what they like and what they don’t like.”

The regularity offers an uncommon level of intimacy. 

“The chef knows everybody there by first name, he becomes your own private chef,” Dezer said of Porsche Design Tower. Residents get to socialize with the chef, and each other, brokers point out.

“The buyers like it because it’s a way for them to meet other owners in the building,” said Ida Schwartz, a broker with Compass. “It’s not for riffraff. They want to see their neighbors.”

Add to the mix another key feature of private dining: delivery service. Across projects, food and drinks can be delivered almost anywhere in the building. 

Said Dezer: “You can have a martini sent to the hair salon!”