women in hospitality

Read our other Women in Hospitality installments.

 

Nia Grace is a renowned creator, connector, curator, and community advocate known for envisioning and executing inspired, award-winning hospitality and entertainment concepts in Boston and beyond. She is the President and CEO of Bar and Kitchen Hospitality, Inc., Owner of Darryl’s Corner Bar & Kitchen and the Underground Café & Lounge, Founder of Boston Music Festival, Co-Founder Boston Black Hospitality Coalition, and Founder of the supper club Grace by Nia.

The second location of Grace by Nia is set to debut at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut on May 22, just one year after its successful unveiling in Boston’s Seaport District last spring. 

Grace will once again partner with Big Night, a first-of-its-kind entertainment, hospitality, creative, and media company, to bring the concept to Foxwoods. Grace by Nia’s Foxwoods location will maintain a similar vibe to Boston, infusing timeless charm and the decadent aesthetic of supper clubs from the bygone era to create a destination unlike any other the area has seen before. The 5,000-square-foot venue will showcase the same gilded interiors with the sea-blue tones and gold detailing as the Seaport location. Live music featuring Jazz, R&B, soul, and hip-hop will also be a prominent feature. 

Bar & Restaurant News caught up with Grace ahead of the opening to discuss the new location, trends, her top challenges, and more.

 

Bar & Restaurant News: What makes Grace by Nia different? 

Nia Grace: Grace By Nia is the equivalent to a classic car; the Star Wars movie franchise; MOTOWN records - it never gets old. And that’s what makes it so special. On any given night or weekend day, you can walk into Grace by Nia and get lost in the sights, sounds, and smells of soulful music and soulful cooking in a gorgeous and dynamic setting.

nia by grace foxwoods
(Photo: Big Night)

 

Tell us more about the venue’s focus on live music. Why is this important to the concept?

Music is life. It’s what grounds and connects us. It has the power to uplift, break barriers, set a common tone amongst generations, cultures, and beliefs. Music has an enigmatic power to unify; and bringing people together is ultimately the reason why Grace by Nia exists. Furthermore, the world is filled with talented artists and the Grace by Nia stage was specifically crafted to showcase musicians and singers in an environment dedicated to musical enlightenment. 

 

Why did you choose Foxwoods for your next location? 

Foxwoods is the number-one casino outside of Las Vegas. It’s foundation is rooted in the preservation of culture, tradition, and empowerment; making it an ideal location for expansion. Statistically speaking, 15 million people visit Foxwoods annually, making it a great market to share our brand beyond the New England area. Lastly, partnerships matter - and the team at Foxwoods is first class in providing opportunities and creating space for entrepreneurial success.

 

Will operating the restaurant in a casino entertainment venue be different?

Yes, there are significant differences and exciting opportunities that come with operating a restaurant in a casino. 

The diverse clientele includes a mix of tourists, casual gamers, and high rollers - creating a vibrant atmosphere.  Casinos can attract large crowds, especially during peak hours or events, leading to higher volume and faster turnover compared to regular restaurants. With the high volume of customers and 24/7 operations, there's never a dull moment.

 

What are your some of your top challenges in restaurant operations at the moment? 

Finding and retaining skilled staff amidst ongoing labor shortages can be a significant challenge, impacting service quality and operational efficiency. Coping with increasing costs of ingredients, utilities, and rent, which can squeeze profit margins and require strategic pricing and cost-cutting measures. The abundance of dining options presents a significant challenge for restaurant operators, as consumers are spoiled for choice and their loyalty can be fleeting. With numerous restaurants vying for attention, operators must find ways to differentiate their offerings to capture and retain customers. This often involves not only providing exceptional food and service but also creating unique dining experiences, whether through ambience, storytelling, or innovative menu concepts. Hence the vision and purpose of Grace by Nia.

 

What trends are you currently observing in hospitality? 

In the hospitality industry, one prominent trend is the increasing integration of technology to enhance the guest experience and streamline operations. Restaurants are also embracing diverse culinary influences from around the world, incorporating flavors and ingredients from various cuisines to create fusion dishes that offer unique taste experiences.

nia by grace foxwoods
(Photo: Big Night)

What does it mean to you to have established the city’s first Black-women-owned and Black-owned liquor license-holding restaurant? 

This unique distinction signifies progress. It celebrates a significant milestone in breaking barriers and promoting diversity in the hospitality industry. It represents empowerment and inclusivity, providing a platform for underrepresented voices and showcasing the talent and entrepreneurship of Black women and Black-owned businesses. Moreover, it fosters a sense of community and pride, inspiring others to pursue their dreams and contribute to the cultural and economic vibrancy of the city.

 

Any advice for other women in the hospitality industry? 

One crucial piece of advice for women in the hospitality industry is to build a strong network of mentors, peers, and allies who can provide support, guidance, and opportunities for advancement. Networking can open doors to new opportunities, help navigate challenges, and provide valuable insights into the industry.

 

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