Written by Selcen Kavruklar Editor-in-Chief
Makeup by Beatriz Ruiz
Photos by Ella Gagiano
The STK at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas redefines what a fine dining steakhouse is with its high-intensity, chic club-like atmosphere where dining is far more than eating– it’s a social experience. With dining room décor that’s a sleek, contemporary design and an in-house DJ spinning high-energy beats, guests are sure to be entertained. While patrons flock to STK Las Vegas for the food, Emil Chamie, Business Development Manager at STK, talks about the STK brand and their latest innovative approach to utilizing a new app called LEVELS for a seamless dining experience.
The LEVELS App allows guests to make reservation requests even when the restaurant is sold out and eliminates waiting for the check at the end of dinner, allowing guests to simply get up and go once they are done dining.
Emil Chamie, Business-Development Manager of STK, alongside Jonas Frey, CEO of LEVELS, gives us wonderful insight on how this new technology is taking the dining experience to the next LEVEL.
Q: Can you tell me about STK at The Cosmopolitan and its unique dining experience?
Emil: STK is a unique concept that artfully blends the modern steakhouse and chic lounge into one. We like breaking the barriers in the restaurant industry with live DJ entertainment. Guests frequently make new friends with other tables; they will join them for shots, making this a very interactive social environment. The energy here is all about social connections so you have people mingling, dancing, and dining together.
Q: How would you sum up STK’s at The Cosmopolitan approach to cuisine?
Emil: We have a very modern take on cuisine, so we can cater to a high-volume while being a high-quality steakhouse; we deliver excellence and efficiency to our clientele.
We have a lot of new eye-catching dishes, especially the shellfish platter with a dry ice presentation; our goal with tables is to create a dining experience mixed with a little extravagance.
Q: What’s your favorite item on the menu?
Emil: The yellowtail crudo is a must-try at STK. The yellowtail sashimi is thinly sliced, drizzled with a spicy ponzu sauce, and finished with garlic crisps. It leaves you wanting more. Our prime cut Delmonico rib eye is just that; it is uniquely dry aged upwards of thirty days and the tenderness is unrivaled. The concentrated flavor and texture make it my favorite steak on the menu, without question.
Q: What’s a dessert we must try?
Emil: #The-Cloud— it’s a big hit at STK, masterfully created by Chef Brigette Contreras. #The-Cloud is a full-on presentation of cotton candy dessert comprised of Angel food cake topped with white chocolate cremeux, strawberry ice cream, strawberry compote, and whipped cream all hidden within a cloud of cotton candy. The cotton candy is drizzled in liquor and set on fire for a dramatic effect when served. It’s a big hit with celebrities and social media. We’re all about presentation at STK.
Q: What is something that people might not know about the STK at The Cosmopolitan that they should?
Emil: The first thing that strikes guests is walking into a steakhouse and having a live DJ playing in the restaurant. It’s not your typical steakhouse, it’s about leaving your worries at the door to enjoy an intriguing social environment. It’s not just the food, décor, or nightly music– it’s the combination of all these things that creates a vibe you can only find at STK. It’s a full-on social experience.
Q: What are some of your personal highlights in the industry?
Emil: Growing up with a Lebanese background, dining for me isn’t just about sitting down to have a meal, it is about wanting to create a unique experience full of love. I have a strong passion for this industry from traveling and working in fine dining venues internationally. I was a big fan and a frequent guest to STK when they first opened for their unique atmosphere. I was immediately drawn to the STK culture; the team we have make this brand
successful- we like to call them the STK family. Our DNA is simple- we let our character and personality shine, we respect each other, and most of all, we have fun in the process. After all, we are all about creating memorable experiences and that starts with our family. Passion and love is everything from the inside out here at STK.
Q: What’s next for STK?
Emil: We are about to open our San Diego location this year, located at Andaz San Diego. It is a highly anticipated opening, as every other location has been, and everyone is eager and excited for it. STK has locations in New York City, South Beach, Chicago, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Orlando, Denver, Toronto, London, Ibiza, Milan, Dubai, and more projected openings to come.
Q: We noticed STK at The Cosmopolitan is using the LEVELS App. Why does it open doors for clients?
Emil: By using the app, we get to see what the App calls the “level” of the clients which translates to their spending and dining behavior. Rather than just having a guest walk in blindly, we get a good indicator on what type of person is coming. So far, we have not been disappointed. At STK, we are usually fully committed every night and this is a good way for us to offer a benefit which they call “preferred seating” to only certain level-users – by that, we know who is having seats reserved and accommodate accordingly, more often than not even last minute.
A cool thing is that the App sends the client their bill after dining automatically, so we don’t have to drop a check at the end of dinner which saves time and makes the whole process much more efficient for the guest and the restaurant. It seems LEVELS has found a solution to offset the awkwardness of the check drop after a fantastic meal.
Q: How does LEVELS work when making a reservation?
Emil: Everything works through a messenger on the App, and guests are usually notified immediately as soon as reservation is made. They simply walk-in, get recognized by the host,- since the App shows us a picture of the client- and get seated; it’s a simple process. I like that it gives the guest and us the opportunity to remedy possible mishaps directly, rather than the guest going to a public platform without a bidirectional interaction. I feel clients are happier if we can do something immediately for them over having to write about their encounters online.
JONAS FREY, CEO OF LEVELS App
Q: How long did it take you to create and launch LEVELS? How does this App change this growing market?
Jonas: First, LEVELS was created by a team of people – no great thing is built by one man. The App launched on March 7th, 2018- a team of now almost 40 has been working on this project for the past 2 years. I believe that the luxury market is one of the only markets which has not been completely automated yet. There is a huge variety of excellent services in the market but also an even bigger selection of useless overpriced tourist traps; for the consumer, it is hard to distinguish by looking at common online rating platforms since many of the truly great luxury services live on a recurring client base and do not boast great websites with automated booking procedures due to the lack of volume. These sometimes complicated booking procedures and the absence of transparency hinders new clients to “try” new things. By implementing one standard, one button- what we call inflatable payment-method, which is authorized by the face of our clients- we want to make this market more transparent and accessible to create a seamless lifestyle experience worldwide.
Q: How did you get funding for LEVELS?
At the beginning of 2016, I pitched the idea to Andreas Weishaupt who took the risk of the initial funding of $150,000. After completing milestone by milestone, he continued to be the sole investor with an investment which is now almost $6 million. An interesting fact about this relationship is that unlike many other investors, Mr. Weishaupt is extremely involved in the development of the business on a strategic level. I would say no matter at which location of the planet he or I are at any given day, we speak at least one hour on the phone. I believe this played a big part in our recent success since Mr. Weishaupt represents the target group of our higher levels and gives me real life advice and feedback which I could not buy at any consulting firm.
Q: Which markets are you currently in?
Las Vegas was our very first market. Quality is our number one priority and since we are introducing a whole new way of paying, we needed to make sure that everything worked flawlessly- this perfection process took us almost one year. We reached this point and are now adding on new partners daily.
Within the last year, we already established partnerships in Beverly Hills, Miami, New York, Munich, London, Paris, Singapore and a few more. These cities will be the focus of expanding our service in the next 12 months.
Q: How is LEVELS different from other reservation apps?
Jonas: LEVELS is not focused on restaurants alone but sees the luxury market as a way of life. Therefore, we cater to anyone that wants a reliable and seamless lifestyle experience for fine dining, great shopping, spas, travel, etc. It cuts out the unnecessary, such as waiting for a check and paying a tab. Also by adding benefits such as “preferred seating” at the best locations worldwide, a client not only knows where to go but also knows that he or she will be granted access even last minute. We work with a variety of brands including LVMH, Mandarin Oriental, Waldorf Astoria, Baccarat, Nobu or special services like the LAX Private Suite, European private commercial terminals, and many more. The app has an accessible chat messenger, a 24/7 multi-lingual concierge, and you can even add family and friends to your account— it’s all designed around that particular lifestyle.
Q: Does LEVELS cost anything to join? Can anyone be a member?
Jonas: There is no membership or subscription fee, and it only takes a profile picture, your name and phone number to join. We believe that clients who spend a large amount of money should not be hindered to join the LEVELS community by imposing a symbolic but annoying annual fee.
With us, you will never be charged more as if you were to pay cash; it is a free service, but by rising through our levels, you benefit from your spending habits.
Q: What are some of the benefits of being a member?
Jonas: Your reputation precedes you wherever you go. The actual benefits are in the thousands! Every LEVELS Partner offers different benefits for the various levels. For instance, as a Methusalem Level-User (which is the 6th of the eleven levels), you pretty much get in to any restaurant at any time and also receive little recognition perks like the best tables in the venue, complimentary welcome cocktails, or desserts on the house! A benefit I personally love is personal after-hours shopping in our boutique trading partners. Personal recognition eliminates any need to sign for receipts or bills wherever you decide to bring your business, which allows for ease of lifestyle and better security. You get a copy of your receipt sent to your phone and email after it has been processed.
In case you forget something at the merchant site or need to ask any questions following your purchase, the chat messenger allows for smooth communication and quick response without disclosing your personal information to the partner.
Q: What’s the ultimate level?
Jonas: The highest level is the Midas level. The first level is Piccolo which starts at $0 a year; from there on, the more you spend, the more benefits and advantages you earn, but we don’t disclose how much the spending threshold of the highest level is.
Q: How does LEVELS ensure security and privacy for members?
Jonas: Security is our number one priority. LEVELS works with facial recognition: the restaurant sees the face of the customer on the app, therefore there’s no need to sign anything since the merchant can recognize the client. We also securely store clients’ credit card information in a third-party, bank grade security system so there is no need to hand out any form of payment to the restaurant, eliminating any possibility of stolen information.
Q: What is an interesting fact about the LEVELS App?
Jonas: An interesting fact is that no one else is doing something like this; it’s a
600-Billion-Dollar market, but the number of clients fueling that market is relatively low. In the “normal” world, everything is already “app-etized,” meaning that there is already an app out there for every need. This wealthy area is such a hidden market, that there is still a lot of potential for growth.
Q: What’s next for the LEVELS App?
Jonas: We plan to enter the Asian market in Tokyo and Hong Kong as well as Russia in
St. Petersburg and Moscow in 2019.
About STK Las Vegas at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
STK is a unique concept that artfully blends the modern steakhouse and chic lounge into one, offering a dynamic, fine dining experience with the superior quality of a traditional steakhouse. STK distinguishes itself by focusing on the social experience with a sleek, contemporary design and an in-house DJ who creates an infectious, high-energy vibe. The menu features reimagined classic American cuisine with signature dishes like bite-sized Lil’ BRGs made with Wagyu beef, Lobster Mac & Cheese and, of course, the highest quality steak. STK defines the modern fine dining experience with incredible food, world-class service, and the perfect atmosphere. STK has locations in New York City, Miami, Chicago, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Orlando, Denver, London, Ibiza, and Milan with additional locations coming soon to San Diego, Mexico City and Puerto Rico. For more information about STK, please visit www.stkhouse.com.