Coasting on a Dream
Del Mar’s Most Decadent Centerpiece
Written By: Mary McNulty
Photographed By: Karl Garrison
The Expert: Shaun Beucler
Credentials: General Manager of L’Auberge Del Mar
Staying at L’Auberge Del Mar requires some tough decisions. Should breakfast be enjoyed via room service or outside taking in the ocean views on the Waterfall Terrace? Is it a day to stroll the beach or to enjoy a relaxing spa treatment? To get the inside track (pun intended, due to the proximity of the Del Mar racetrack) we asked General Manager, Shaun Beucler, for his take. After 14 years at various Ritz-Carlton locations in the Southwest desert, St. Louis and Florida, Beucler accepted the L’Auberge position in the fall of 2014 and could not be more thrilled. He offers a unique perspective on the hotel and local activities.
Q: L’Auberge Del Mar is a small boutique hotel with only 121 rooms. What challenges do you find in catering to such discriminating guests?
Shaun Beucler: We strive to get to know the guests on a personal level. Some guests wish for over-the-top service while others, quite frankly, want to be left alone. That’s why I think it’s very important to get to know them individually. This allows you to deliver personalized experiences which ultimately create lasting memories.
Q: How would you describe a typical day of a L’Auberge Del Mar guest?
SB: We like to customize the experience for the individual. What is exciting about this hotel is that it appeals to so many different travelers. You could be a corporate attendee visiting for a retreat, a couple here for a romantic weekend getaway, or a family wanting to spend the day at the beach. The options for customization are endless. What I think is most enjoyable is that you have opportunities to create your own experiences while not having to get in your car. The sunsets are amazing from our patio, and the next day waking up having breakfast on your private balcony taking in the ocean views is also great. Perhaps a jog or hike along the beach for the adventure seeker. Then there’s charming Del Mar for an afternoon of shopping. It’s different for each person.
Q: Managing a hotel is a 24/7 enterprise. As the general manager, your responsibilities must be all encompassing. What is your typical schedule?
SB: Let’s just say I’m available. Technology is a necessary evil. You’re right; our doors never close. My typical schedule begins with walking the property and greeting the associates and guests alike. I spend most of my day either on the business at hand, strategizing with the team or creating engagement.
Q: With all the amenities the hotel offers, how do you prioritize?
SB: There are so many amenities to focus on, but it’s most important to spend my time where it really matters. Simply put, the guests and associates come first. My second priority is how we position the hotel in the market place to achieve our business objectives.
Q: Who are the members of your management team, and how do you guarantee that the highest hospitality standards are maintained?
SB: The resort is a AAA Four Diamond Award winner. The L’Auberge Del Mar Spa is ranked as one of the top 25 in the U.S. by Condé Nast. It’s a dynamic team. We have a diverse group of ladies and gentlemen, all working towards a common goal, which is to create exceptional memories for our guests. We are looking for people excited about hospitality, who truly strive for excellence. We take a lot of time and effort when we select someone for this team. The behavioral side is equally important as the technical acumen.
Q: With such high standards, the team member to guest ratio must be small. How large of a staff does it require to support the 121 rooms and amenities?
SB: It fluctuates seasonally. Peak season for our hotel is the summer, and we’re 250 talented employees strong. We average two guests per room, so we are close to a one to one ratio.
Q: When is the best season to book?
SB: All seasons of course! It depends on what you’re looking for. If you want to be here during race season, July through September is best, the Del Mar racetrack is literally within walking distance and is obviously a prime time for us. However, the amazing weather makes Del Mar an attractive year round destination.
Q: Spirits are not forgotten at L’Auberge Del Mar. Poolside drinks are served at the Bleu Bar, and the Lobby Bar attracts locals. Which is your favorite, or is it dependent upon time of day? Is there a specialty drink you might suggest?
SB: We want our hotel not only to be a destination hotel for a traveler, but we want it to be your neighborhood bar and local restaurant. The design of the hotel is that of a welcoming beach estate. It’s open and bright with dramatic views of the pacific ocean. I especially enjoy the Living Room, which is a great place to see and be seen while enjoying the warmth of the fireplace, great entertainment and a tasty libation.
Another signature moment of the hotel is the sunset on our expansive patios. With a glass of Champagne or a handcrafted cocktail, it is truly a memorable experience.
Q: For fine dining, there is Kitchen 1540. Give us a brief background on the chef and the menu.
SB: Although sometimes perceived as fine dining, our signature restaurant has an upscale feel but in a warm, inviting setting. Executive Chef Brandon Fortune is from the Southeast. He has spent time honing his craft with the Four Seasons Hotel Company and has brought his personal travels to this restaurant—Southern, home cooking cuisine. It’s unique to this area, which is exciting for our guests. The signature item Kitchen 1540 is known for is the Shrimp ‘n’ Grits and the award winning Chicken & Dumplings.
Q: For more casual dining, there is the Waterfall Terrace. What do you suggest the guests try?
SB: Everything is great. One of our signature items is the shrimp tacos. It’s a little different take on the traditional shrimp taco San Diego is so well known for. Also, we have an exciting new concept being developed which we will be rolling out later this spring. It’s a little too soon to share all the details, but a few tag lines we are playing around with are Bubble & Bites and Taste & Sea.
Q: Del Mar is one of Southern California’s most beautiful areas. What local activities would you suggest outside the resort?
SB: There are many unique experiences in the San Diego area. Obviously the Del Mar racetrack is a tremendous draw. If you are looking for the adventurous side, just outside our door we have 6 miles of beautiful beach. Less than a mile and a half is the Torrey Pines State Reserve. You’re less than 20 minutes away from SeaWorld and downtown, and if you’re with your family, Legoland is right down the street. For the indulgent side, we have a world class spa and amazing food and beverages. There is shopping in the Del Mar Village. And I always recommend enjoying the afternoon poolside. It’s all about the unscripted discoveries of whatever appeals to you.
Q: What does the future hold?
SB: As mentioned previously, we plan to re-concept our terrace restaurant. Furthermore, Executive Chef Brandon has some exciting new additions coming to Kitchen 1540, such as his take on Buttermilk Fried Chicken. We are also embarking this year on a world class pool experience. The design is underway and will touch everything from the furniture to ultra-luxury cabanas, to the F&B offerings, to the actual pool design and hot tub. We believe this will truly set us apart from other luxury resorts in our market.
Q: L’Auberge has numerous locations. Obviously leaving Del Mar would be extremely difficult. Is there a location you would consider transferring to?
SB: I’ve been here for 5 months, and my wife and I have fallen in love with San Diego County. Right now, my opportunity is to take this hotel to another level. My wife and I are very excited to be here, and I am lucky to have a phenomenal team and a beautiful property to call my home by the sea!
L’Auberge Del Mar
1540 Camino Del Mar
Del Mar, CA 92014