At an awards ceremony last week, Forbes Travel Guide named the Fairview Dining Room at the Washington Duke Inn and Golf Club a Four-Star Award winner for 2014. This award, along with the AAA Four-Diamond Award that it has received for the past 21 consecutive years, makes Fairview one of the only two four-star and four-diamond restaurants in North Carolina. Fairview’s success is the result of its long-term commitment to enhancing Duke’s reputation, said Director of Operations Don Ball.
“We are the living room and dining room of the University, and we strive to make the dining experience elegant yet approachable for our guests,” Ball said.
Fairview incorporates not only the items that are currently trending but also those that are historically popular, Ball said. The shrimp and corn chowder with bacon, for example, has been on the menu since WaDuke first opened 25 years ago due to its popularity.
“There will be a riot if we take that off [the menu],” Ball said.
The menu is changed four times a year, at the beginning of each season. These menus are created by a culinary team and selected by a committee based on composition, flavor and potential for popularity. The changes are also in place to ensure that all ingredients used are fresh and seasonal, Ball said. There are also special menus at Fairview throughout the year, such as on Christmas Eve, on Valentine’s Day and during graduation weekend.
In addition to serving exceptional food, Fairview also prides itself in the level of service it provides, Ball said.
“When we hire someone, we hire a smile rather than the skills. We want our employees to have a happy demeanor and the innate ability to make people feel welcomed or wanted,” Ball said.
By providing staff members with a positive working environment, WaDuke is able to retain many of its staff members for longevity of terms, said Jack Schmidt, director of sales and marketing. Jason Cunningham, Fairview’s executive chef, has been working with WaDuke for 14 years, and several of WaDuke’s staff members have been around ever since it first opened on Duke’s campus.
Moreover, WaDuke sets itself apart from other restaurants or hotels because it has a different sense of purpose, Schmidt said.
“We exist for reasons far beyond just making a profit. For many people, we provide one of their first impressions of Duke, and we are here to make this first impression a great one,” Schmidt said.
WaDuke is owned by Duke and about 60 percent of its clientele is connected to Duke, Schmidt said. Personnel related to Duke—including students, faculty and guests—receive a discounted rate for staying at the hotel.
"The team at the Washington Duke Inn has worked hard to create an environment that represents Duke well,” wrote Scott Selig, Duke’s associate vice president for capital assets, in an email Thursday.
Special personnel have been set aside to work with Duke and to ensure that WaDuke is able to tailor to the needs of the Duke population, he added.
“[WaDuke] is my absolute favorite place to dine in Durham. The food and the atmosphere never upset me and keep me coming back for more,” sophomore Mbenoye Diagne said, who also specifically referenced the staff and music.
Going forward, WaDuke will continue to achieve the highest level of customer service and help creating lasting memories of great experiences for its guests, Schmidt said.
“We look at things as generational rather than transactional. [Today's students] will come back for meetings and events and some of their children will also come to Duke," he said. "It’s this long term connection that we really value here and are striving to maintain."