Beau Rivage’s new president plans major hotel renovation | New York News

By MARY PEREZ, The Sun Herald

BILOXI, Miss. (AP) — Brandon Dardeau had a bachelor’s degree in marketing fresh from the University of Louisiana-Monroe and went to Las Vegas for a job in the casino industry.

At the time, a diploma didn’t make much of an impression, he discovered. He started at the reservation call center – making about $10 an hour – rather than in his dream casino host position. He thought that was a “glamorous job” and the reason he moved to Vegas.

Now 45, Dardeau has never really become a casino host in the 20 years he has spent entirely at MGM Resorts International.

He became the casino host supervisor, among many other positions he held on his way to become the new president and chief operating officer of Southeast Operations at Beau Rivage Resort & Casino in Biloxi and Gold Strike Casino Resort in Tunica.

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It takes him no time to get acquainted with the resorts and the staff. He has worked at both properties in various capacities, most recently as general manager and senior vice president of marketing and operations at Gold Strike.

He dines at the restaurants and occasionally stays with his family, he said, to experience the Beau Rivage through the eyes of the guests.

And when he holds the door open for VIPs checking in at the Beau Rivage or picks up a broken item from the main entrance and takes it to the trash, it’s without anyone knowing that he’s the person who now runs the resort.

One of the first things on his “to do” list at the Beau Rivage is investing millions of dollars to renovate all the hotel rooms, redecorate the Jia restaurant, expand the cafe and introduce a new themed area for buffalo slots fans.

The improvements began two years ago with the remodeling of the suites at the Beau Rivage. That refresh was meant to get to the hotel rooms quickly, but COVID hit and everything changed, Dardeau said.

Under the new timetable, work is to begin in April and all hotel rooms should be renovated by November, along with new carpeting, lighting and wall coverings in the hallways.

Guests sleep on the same mattresses in rooms at MGM’s famed Las Vegas casino resort Bellagio. They can check in, set the thermostat and, if desired, open the door of their hotel room on their smartphone.

The room makeovers are being designed by MGM Resort International’s in-house interior design group, Dardeau said. The decor is specific to Biloxi with a collection of sand, turquoise and other soft beach and sunset colors.

“It has a Southern flair, as do the suites,” he said, so guests feel like they’re on the Gulf Coast.

Jia restaurant in Beau Rivage has been “reinvented”, he said, with new furniture and lighting, the final touches are yet to come. Now the Asian restaurant is open to the casino floor and is next to the relocated Baccarat pit. During the renovation, a noodle bar was created and Vietnamese dishes were added to the menu.

Terrace café, just inside the main entrance and adjacent to the buffet, will be given more space and a new identity.

“The requirements for the buffets are not what they were before COVID,” Dardeau said. With nearly 700 seats for the buffet, the atrium area merges into the full-service restaurant that will be called Atrium Cafe.

At the far end of the buffet, a private dining room is converted into a Buffalo themed room, filled with the popular Buffalo slot machines.

Other changes are coming at Beau Rivage, Dardeau said. Like all MGM properties, the Biloxi casino will participate in the conversion of the M Life player rewards system to MGM Rewards on February 1. Dardeau said the new card will give customers points for non-casino activities such as hotel stays and meals.

Entertainment is back, he said, even though not all national acts have resumed due to the coronavirus. Big & Rich are scheduled for February at the Beau Rivage and Celtic Woman in April.

While entertainment is a big part of the Beau Rivage business, it’s not limited to headliners.

“Basically, everything we do is entertainment,” he said, on stage, the casino floor, and in the shops and restaurants.

Beau Rivage is the largest of the 12 casinos on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and with 1,792 rooms to fill, the drive-in customers are not enough.

They use the database of MGM Resorts properties in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Detroit and their other casino markets across the country, he said, to find players eager to try their luck in Biloxi.

“Our company has yet to bring in people from other areas,” he said. Sun Country Airlines flies people from 85 cities to the Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport and the Beau Rivage, with three flights a week from St. Petersburg, Florida, he said.

Many of these people have never visited Mississippi’s Gulf Coast, he said, and they’re welcomed with warm weather, glimpses of dolphins from their hotel room, and the Southern hospitality the resort is known for.

“Our service scores are the highest in the business,” he said.

Dardeau said that once he moved from Las Vegas to Biloxi, every year or two he was given more responsibility. Where he really stood out was when he helped grow the charter flights.

Dardeau, who lived in Las Vegas at the beginning of his career, said he had spent himself broke and decided to return to the South. He grew up in small Pine Prairie, Louisiana, north of Lafayette, with a population of approximately 792.

In July 2001, just two years after Beau Rivage opened, he was able to transfer to Biloxi within MGM Resort.

Casinos have so many different jobs that workers can move to another area if they want to, he said, or change food and drink and try to work on the golf course or operations without losing seniority.

From that first call center job, Dardeau said he started out as a slot assistant shift manager when he arrived in Biloxi, making over $10

“At that time we had coins and a cashier,” he said, witnessing the evolution of getting tickets paid in/out. He liked to work, but switched to marketing, “Then casino hosts manager,” he said, and managed the call center.

One of his main goals, Dardeau said, is to educate people about the opportunities in the casino industry as he has experienced it.

“We don’t just offer jobs, we offer careers,” he said. Ten percent of Beau Rivage’s staff has worked there since year one, and nearly half have been there for more than five years.

Now that he’s worked his way to the top, “I’m honored to be sitting here,” he said.

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