Honeybees earn their keep at Dallas hotels, businesses
By MICHELLE PITCHER
Published: 03 July 2012 09:36 PM
Guests at several Dallas hotels and restaurants are beginning to discover what all the buzz is about.
Honeybees are among the long-term residents at the Fairmont Hotel on the edge of the Dallas Arts District. They also have taken up residence at several restaurants, including Bolsa in Oak Cliff, and they may soon get a sweet deal at the city-owned Omni Dallas Hotel downtown.
The bees are not unwelcome guests.
Placed there and maintained by the Texas Honeybee Guild, the bees represent the next step in the “hyperlocal sourcing” of ingredients among hotels and restaurants. For the Dallas-based guild, a conservationist group that highlights the role of honeybees in maintaining the environment, the hives are part of an urban conservation model.
Having bees on-site also helps the hosts enhance their status as eco-friendly companies, tapping into growing consumer interest in sustainability.
When the guild receives a call from North Texas residents with unwanted bees on their property, a team of beekeepers goes out to remove the hive. These bees are taken to willing residents or business owners.
The guild has been placing rescue hives around the area for several years. There are colonies at grocery stores, in parks and on the roofs of restaurants like Bolsa, where they’ve been for more than two years, said manager Kyle Hilla.
Many businesses express interest in hosting a rescue colony, said Susan Pollard, co-founder of the guild. Dallas does not require permits to host beehives.
No colony is set up, however, unless the guild deems the location suitable for the honeybees based on space, stability and commitment from the host.
The Fairmont, part of a chain in which almost 20 locations nationwide host rescue colonies, was one of the first businesses in the Dallas area to adopt the model.
“The Fairmont offers a great place for this because [the company has] done it before,” Pollard said. “It was the first hotel we chose. We do different venues. Not a lot, just enough to let people know that bees can live among us.”
The guild gives half of the honey produced on the hotel’s property to the Fairmont to be used in its Pyramid Restaurant & Bar, and the other half is sold at farmers’ markets and organic stores. For the restaurant, it’s a convenient and cost-effective way to provide fresh, local ingredients to customers.
Chefs help out
No money changes hands and the guild keeps the skimpy profit from the honey sales, which is just enough to live on, according to Pollard and her husband, guild co-founder Brandon Pollard. Members of the guild regularly visit the sites to maintain the hives, with occasional help from the hotel or restaurant staff.
In the event of an accident, the guild has a $2 million liability insurance policy.
The chefs at the Fairmont, who also maintain the hotel’s vegetable garden, have become well-acquainted with the bees during their two-year stay. The honey is used in food and drinks in the restaurant and bar, and the culinary team works with the bees and provides support by moving the bees or extracting honey, according to executive sous chef Paul Peddle.
“Through the palate and presentation, our conservation effort is born,” Pollard said. “The chefs capture a different audience than we do at conservation centers.”
At the Fairmont, the hives are on the rooftop terrace, which also features the hotel’s vegetable garden and swimming area.
For guests at the Fairmont, the presence of the bees is often a surprise, as is the explanation that they are not pests. Since the bees are not contained in a secure habitat, guests can encounter them while strolling through the terrace gardens.
Fear of injury
The bees frequently leave the hive to collect pollen from the flowers, but they rarely stray far and are not within splashing distance of the pools.
Valerie Broussard, the W Austin’s chief “forager” and director of purchasing, is solidly behind the local sourcing movement. But she expressed concern about having bees on-site, fearing an increased risk of injury or that misconceptions about bees may make some guests uncomfortable.
However, the guild insists the safety of guests is not compromised by the bees, which will not approach guests unprovoked.
Katie Norwood, the Fairmont’s marketing manager, said business at the hotel has improved, in part because of its commitment to sustainability.
“I hope other businesses follow the example,” she said. “It’s a wonderful way to help the environment — even in an urban environment.”
Ed Netzhammer, general manager of the Omni, said the hotel is interested in hosting hives but has not finalized a deal. Executive chef Jason Weaver has been in contact with the guild since before the Omni opened in November. He said a deal will probably be completed in a matter of weeks.
The honey from the bees will be used in the hotel’s Texas Spice restaurant, one of only two restaurants in Dallas to receive a two-star green certification from the Green Restaurant Association.
“We use locally produced ingredients in our restaurant wherever we can,” Netzhammer said. “We like to make sure everything is hormone-free and humanely raised.”
Netzhammer sees the adoption of beehives as “a step in the right direction.”
There are several other hotels on the guild’s radar, Brandon Pollard said.
Last week, the Pollards attended a restaurant trade show in Dallas to boost interest in and awareness of locally sourced honey.
If the “planets align and conditions are perfect,” Brandon Pollard said, new deals are expected to go through within the year.
- Posh Hotels Are Buzzing With Tiny New Guests: Bees (abcnews.go.com)
- Bees cause buzz at NYC hotel (toledoblade.com)
- Honey hospitality: Jersey City Hyatt’s rooftop bee hive is first to buzz in N.J. (nj.com)
- Urban beekeeping all the buzz among posh hotels (cbsnews.com)
- Honeybees add buzz to Waldorf-Astoria New York (cbc.ca)
- Guess who got the penthouse? Honeybee hives get new home on rooftop of New York’s Waldorf-Astoria hotel (dailymail.co.uk)