Thursday, June 4, 2009

This week's LVW Col: Phil Ruffin Reveals TI Plans

Here's this week's Strip Sense column from the Las Vegas Weekly. Don't skip the jump to the full column if you really want to know what all Ruffin's plans are for the TI. But here's one big hint: Mechanical bulls are BACK! Yee-haw! -sf

The Anti-Wynn

Phil Ruffin reveals big plans for that neglected niche: the mid-market


I was a bit confused when I showed up at the Treasure Island on Monday for lunch with its new owner, Phil Ruffin, and his assistant told me on the house phone to meet the Kansas billionaire at Francesco’s Pizzeria. I asked her to repeat that a few times, certain I had misheard her.

You see, until a few minutes before, Francesco’s was not a pizza joint. It was a serious, high-end Italian restaurant that was named by Steve Wynn himself as a tribute to Frank Sinatra. Had they created a spinoff? “Oh, we closed that up a little while ago and opened up this place,” said Ruffin, 72, squeezing into a booth after apologizing for no apparent reason for wearing a suit today. “This place does triple the business.”

The new Francesco’s has been moved from “Upscale Dining” to “Casual Dining” on the Treasure Island website. It offers serviceable paninis and pizzas, nothing too fancy or expensive. Out went the heavy china and stuffy service, in came a lunch shift.

“People don’t want high-end these days, certainly not from this place,” Ruffin said. “We’re getting all kinds of business from the Venetian, the Wynn, the Mirage, from people who don’t want to pay $15 for orange juice.”

And therein, Phil Ruffin has found his niche in the Las Vegas universe. Let MGM Mirage, Las Vegas Sands, Wynn Resorts, Harrah’s and even Boyd Gaming scramble after the ever-diminishing top end with their fancy suites, expensive restaurants and condo sales. Ruffin flirted with all that for years as he pondered what to do with the New Frontier site, bought in the late 1990s and always slated for some form of redevelopment. By the middle of this decade, Ruffin was facing a decision on whether or not to move forward with a plan to build a Swiss-themed luxury resort, the multibillion-dollar Montreux. Images were even circulated to the press.

Just before he had to pull the trigger, he realized the thing made no financial sense for one important reason: “I’m not Steve Wynn.”

Read the rest at LasVegasWeekly.Com


Anonymous said...

I'm all for this, people long for the Mirage and Treasure Island of old. There is a massive amount of people that want a middle class place, but with a hotel thats still first class. People dont' want a cheap joint a'la Excalibur, they want to live like a high roller without having to spend like a high roller. Kudos to Phil Ruffin, my only wish is that he maintains the place and doesn't cheapen it anyway, prices low, but maintain it as a quality hotel.

Anonymous said...

I like Phil's idea with realizing people dont like to be robbed with high food prices. He's got that area covered, now he must realize to get some good gaming odds back to the gambler and make them walk in the door more. Better Video Poker tables and Blackjack rules, he doesnt have to answer to shareholders and companies seem to forget all the little things that got them to this point. Maybe Phil hasn't. We shall see in due time.

Anonymous said...

We stayed at Bellagio and I went to the little take out place near the elevators banks to get breakfast for two. Two danishes, two cups of coffee, two orange juices, and I think one shared large cup of fruit. The cost was somewhere between $35 and $40. We stayed at the Wynn, it was more. I actually sat down to play poker to get two cups of coffee and then go back to the room because I liked the odds of it better and that was cheaper than Wynn's take out breakfast place. While the quality was very, very good, that sort of pricing gets old very fast.


Anonymous said...

RIP TI... I never had the chance to stay in the wonderful hotel, and now fear the next time I'm in Vegas, I'll have to walk around horse crap.

Ruffin will kill TI.

Anonymous said...

Steve: Great article. Very informative. Thanks.