Blackberry Farm: #1 in America for Food & Drink

Featuring Andy Chabot, SVP of F&B at Blackberry Farm

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Today, we’re learning how Blackberry Farm became the "Best Hotel for Food and Drink in the U.S."—according to Food & Wine Magazine’s rigorous award process, which included input from 180+ travel and food journalists and a panel of expert judges. The lessons Blackberry Farm’s head of food and beverage, Andy Chabot, shares transcend just its culinary program and offer insight into what world-class hospitality can look like.

Let’s get into it…

How Blackberry Farm became #1 in America

Blackberry Farm SVP of F&B, Andy Chabot

Blackberry Farm, a luxury resort in Tennessee, was recently awarded "Best Hotel for Food and Drink in the U.S." by Food & Wine Magazine. The property is renowned for outstanding hospitality and culinary excellence.

Today begins a three-part mini-series on how they run their business with Blackberry Farm’s SVP of F&B, Andy Chabot. You can listen to us here on the podcast, and I’ve summarized some of my top takeaways below.

Great hospitality starts with treating guests like they're visiting your home

According to Andy, Blackberry Farm embraces a culture of hospitality that runs deep in the Southern way of life.

We really treat it like we're inviting the guest into our home, and we take care of them the way we would like to be taken care of.

Takeaway: Treat your guests as well as you would your friends coming to your own home.

Put this in action:

  1. Engage with people personally, remembering their names and preferences.

  2. Train your teams to prioritize delighting guests above just staying “on script.”

  3. Foster a team culture where every member feels responsible for the guest experience.

  4. Design and deliver small, personalized touches in guest interactions to make them feel at home.

Allow your guests to "taste" your place by showcasing local cuisine

Blackberry Farm emphasizes local cuisine, ensuring guests experience the regional flavors and ingredients of East Tennessee. Their ingredient-forward and vegetable-heavy approach showcases the area's agricultural richness, offering an authentic culinary experience.

[Guests] coming to this part of the country expect to taste this part of the country.

Takeaway: Enable your guests to experience your area through the food and drinks you offer.

Put this in action:

  1. Source ingredients from local farms and producers to highlight regional flavors. (Marc Lores had a great episode about this last week if you missed it.)

  2. Design menus that reflect local culinary traditions and seasonal produce.

  3. Educate guests on the origins of the dishes and ingredients you offer.

  4. Collaborate with local chefs and food artisans to bring unique regional dishes to your menu.

Do the basics well

One of Blackberry Farm’s biggest hits is biscuits and gravy. This focus on doing the basics exceptionally well sets them apart and delights guests with unexpected, high-quality comfort food.

Great biscuits and gravy is a special thing. And I think we do it really, really well.

Takeaway: Master and elevate the basics to surprise and delight guests.

Put this in action:

  1. Perfect classic dishes with high-quality ingredients and expert preparation.

  2. Regularly test and refine staple menu items to ensure consistent excellence.

  3. Incorporate guest feedback to continually improve these dishes.

Nobody is above serving

Andy often mentioned the late chef and restaurateur Sam Beall in our conversation, who led by example at Blackberry Farm. Nobody is above serving.

I worked alongside Sam. He was the owner of the company, but he was in the trenches too with us. I think that's a good way to lead.

Takeaway: Engaging directly in front-line service can build a strong team culture around service.

Overstaffing isn't a bad thing

Blackberry Farm intentionally overstaffs to ensure excellent service and prevent employee burnout. This proactive approach helps maintain high service standards and employee well-being.

We focus on being slightly overstaffed if we can.

Takeaway: The right staffing is crucial for maintaining high service quality and preventing employee fatigue and burnout.

Put this in action:

  1. Monitor staffing levels regularly to ensure they meet service demands - and help prevent burnout for your team.

  2. Allocate budget resources to maintain a flexible and adequately sized team.

  3. Offer cross-training opportunities to enable staff to cover different roles as needed.

  4. Implement a system for tracking and managing staff workload to prevent overworking.


The “funnel” offers a roadmap for understanding a guest's journey from dreaming about travel to booking a stay at your hotel. It is broken down into four key stages: Discovery, Planning, Booking, and the Guest Experience. Learn how this framework can guide you in effectively attracting, engaging, and delighting guests at each stage.

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Thank you for reading, and I hope you have a great weekend ahead.


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