The idea was visionary: a European-style castle tucked away in the Ozark Mountains, overlooking the blue waters of Table Rock Lake. The Branson resort would be upscale, and guests would be treated to the finest food, accommodations and meeting space. It would welcome people from all over the region and beyond, who were seeking an escape from everyday cares, or who wanted to do business in a well appointed convention center, the first of its kind in the region.
Soon after the Chateau on the Lake was built, the hotel and convention center became one the state’s finest resort destinations. Featured on the cover of the premier issue of this magazine 10 years ago, the flagship property of the John Q. Hammons hotel group had already firmly established its reputation as an impressive castle retreat.
“Back then, our goal was to have high standards, and set benchmarks to aspire to,” said Stephen Marshall, vice president and general manager of the property. “In many ways we are the same—our fundamentals, the way we conduct business, are no different.” Recent additions of a $6 million full-service spa, new topnotch golf courses in the Branson area and creative amenities for groups have brought special appeal to this AAA fourdiamond resort. Road improvements and a new commercial airport, opened in 2009, have made it even more accessible.
PAST AND PRESENT
Marshall, who has been with the Chateau on the Lake almost from the time it opened in 1997, explained that before the resort’s arrival, Branson had been known for hosting military and family reunions, smaller faith-based meetings and motor coach groups. Part of the innovation of the Chateau on Lake was that it also branched out into new areas, welcoming association markets, group incentives and group corporate business to town.
The resort’s success ushered in a new era of growth in Branson. Those who met at the property saw what it had to offer, such as its restaurant, the Chateau Grille, which has continually won accolades including the “Award of Excellence” in 2009 from Wine Spectator magazine. Groups enjoyed the resort’s activities, including boating at the marina and nearby golf. In short, those who previously may not have made the trip to the southern part of the state did so, and they were happy with the results.
Planners can attest to the resort’s appeal. Shannon Latham, the vice president of Latham Hi-Tech Seeds, a seed supplier based in Alexander, Iowa, hosted a multi-day event for about 70 people at the Chateau this past December. She said the hospitality extended to helping her arrange her group’s activities, which included outings to see Branson entertainment, and a welcome dinner on the first night her group arrived. “I met with them and gave them an idea of what we wanted to do, and
they were great about putting together an itinerary and making people feel welcome,” she said.
Kim McGinn-Perryman, nurse practitioner and conference coordinator for Advanced Practice Nurses of the Ozarks, said her organization has had its annual meeting at the Chateau for the past 12 years. The meeting averages 300 attendees from several states including Michigan, Texas and Tennessee. McGinn-Perryman gives many reasons for choosing the Chateau including the beautiful and family-friendly setting, delicious
food, and helpful and courteous staff. “The location is a draw to our attendees, as they can shop, go to shows or relax at the lake,” she said. “We go back to the Chateau each year because of the rates and the staff. Our attendees continue to praise the Chateau and enjoy going there year after year.”
UNDER ONE ROOF
The Chateau has 43,500 square feet of total meeting space, including the 32,000-square-foot Great Hall ballroom. Function areas, including 17 dedicated event rooms, are easy to reach on the ground floor of the hotel, near the guestrooms and the lobby. A private dining room within the Chateau Grille restaurant is also available for private events. The lovely Great Hall, with painted murals and wrought-iron chandeliers, can accommodate up to 4,000 reception-style and 2,000 at round tables. It is also divisible into four sections for meetings of several hundred people. All of the meeting space is high-tech, with top-of-theline audio-visual services on hand to meet groups’ needs.
One of the resort’s biggest draws is the Chateau Grille restaurant. A recent menu featured several items representative of the “slow food” movement, an international effort aimed toward understanding where our food comes from and using local, sustainable ingredients. The menu also showcases the
culinary artistry of Executive Chef Doug Knopp, an expert at using food science techniques to develop dishes that surprise and please the palate. For instance, the hydro caprese soup, a refined tomato broth, is clear, yet retains all the richness and flavor of a fresh tomato. Grape tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and a basil gelée, essentially small wedges of basil-infused gelatin, complement the soup to create a rich flavor that embodies the taste of summer.
The kind of innovation and creativity taking place at the Chateau can bring an exciting element to your event. For one recent group, for example, Chef Knopp used his culinary magic to transform complex flavors into a kind of foam, for a special “molecular bar” menu that featured a lobster “fizz” martini, and a lobster salad served in a martini glass and topped with this airy fruit-flavored essence.
“Culinary and spa and service elements have really changed within the meeting structure, and have become a standard that meeting planners are looking for when they are putting a program together,” said Angela Davis, director of catering and conference services for the resort. “We can have sessions where our spa attendants come over and do little five-minute massages during the middle of a break. Or we can have everything from a Vintner dinner with wine pairings and bring in wine distributors and representatives from the wineries, all the way through to having our chefs come in to do tastings or demonstrations for a break or breakout sessions.”
A demonstration from Chef Knopp was one of the highlights for Latham’s group. Latham wrote about the experience on the company’s blog, and could not contain her enthusiasm: “To say that it was ‘Food Network brought to life’ would be a huge understatement! I learned more in 90 minutes from Executive Chef Knopp than I’ve learned after years of watching cooking shows on TV.”
MORE REASONS TO VISIT
Why else is the Chateau a fabulous place to visit? For one, the resort is stunning, and has been since the day it opened. Guests have an impressive entrance into the 10-story atrium and the lobby, which recreates nature indoors with verdant foliage and winding streams. All of the 301 guestrooms offer views of the mountains or Table Rock Lake, and 57 of these rooms are spacious suites.
The Library Lounge is a comfortable gathering place, with a giant stone fireplace and cozy chairs. The Sweet Shoppe, an old-fashioned ice cream parlor and sweets store with a veranda overlooking the outdoor pool, is a pleasant meeting area for families as well as meeting groups. The Crawdaddies Kids’ Club, which stays open through the summer season, and the 54-seat Sassafras movie theater, are other options that families love.
And then there is the resort’s spa, which opened in 2006. With 14,000 square feet and 10 treatment rooms, the spa offers traditional services such as massage and beauty treatments as well as yoga and other health and wellness activities. Design features including an outdoor Roman bath placed beneath a waterfall exude European-style luxury, and suit the
Chateau’s overall theme.
“There’s truly not a spa in this area that equals it,” Davis said. “It really has a stature that is equal to the four-diamond status of the hotel, and I can tell you almost every group that we have enjoys it, so it’s a nice complement for our meeting program.”
Finally, Branson offers family-friendly attractions and affordable entertainment, with shows that rival Las Vegas for their quality. Numerous nearby attractions include the ever-popular Silver Dollar City amusement park and the interactive Titanic Museum.
Natural beauty and the family-friendly appeal of Branson may bring them in, but groups have come back to the Chateau on the Lake because of the welcome they receive.
Latham said that when she saw the Chateau, she knew this had to be the place for her meeting. She says that unlike some upscale resorts, the attitude of the facility wasn’t pretentious. “It’s a great mix of first-class service, obviously first-class facilities, with hospitality that is just second to none.”
Marshall and Davis said they have seen many groups fulfilled by what the Chateau can offer. Marshall attributes the resort’s success to consistent service and loyalty to its customers. “Our fundamental way of doing business stands the test of time,” Marshall says. “If you provide a good
product, select the right people, and provide great service, and people can take away that there’s value— what more can you ask for?” MM&E
(Heather McNeill is a contributor from Kansas City, Mo.)
Chateau on the Lake Resort Spa & Convention Center
415 North State Highway 265
Branson, Missouri 65616
Toll Free: 1-888-333-LAKE (5253)