Case Study

Provista's Hospitality Portfolio Helps Grand Casino Mille Lacs & Hinckley Elevate Experiences

July 23, 2020
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Gaming, entertainment, dining and lodging are among the hospitality services offered by Grand Casino Hinckley. The business is owned and operated by Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures in central Minnesota. The business arm of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures owns and operates 27 businesses, including the casino, supporting more than 4,700 shareholders.

“We completely fund what our community does,” says Mike Engel, general manager, Grand Casino Hinckley.

To drive savings, efficiencies and customer service, the casino relies on dedicated business partners, competitive contracts and regular analytic reports. That’s because even though the casino’s diverse range of businesses keeps customers engaged, it also leads to several pain points, including:

  • Getting maximum value on purchases across the business
  • Optimizing the organization’s venues to deliver enhanced value to customers
  • Gaining the most benefits from volume purchasing
  • Overcoming a labor shortage

“The challenges that we’ve seen as an operation are finding the best value, making sure we can leverage our strengths and our volume purchasing, and be as impactful and efficient as we can,” Engel explains.

Consistency is a priority across Grand Casino’s many lines of business. It leads to seamless, enhanced customer experiences.
“The main thing we’re focusing on is consistency. We have great standards, so we have to deliver to our standards for every guest, every time, and make sure we’re hitting that mark,” Engel says. “Then we’ll take the next step, which is consistency plus one—find a plus one in each department.” He notes that consistency has different meanings for each business area.
“It means one thing in hotel housekeeping. It means something different in restaurants. We have to be consistent in everything,” he points out. “This is important for us as an organization to deliver, but it’s also important for us to get. One thing Provista brings to the table is consistency.”


Grand Casino has been working with Provista for four years. The relationship has provided reliable pricing and quality in products and services, including items in Provista’s hospitality contract portfolio. Working with Provista also helped the casino overcome legacy programs and take advantage of new offerings.

“We had contracts and relationships with manufacturers from a food and beverage standpoint that go back 20 years,” Engel points out. “With Provista, we’ve seen a lot of our good contracts get even better. And we’ve seen an opportunity to bring things to Provista and say, ‘How about this item or this area where we have partners?’ It’s been a great relationship.”

He also relies on Provista custom analytic reports to help identify which contracts are best for Grand Casino, as well as when it’s time to switch. Eggs are just one of Engel’s examples.

“We’re now using eggs that are on contract and seeing a savings,” he says. “It came up on the quarterly reports. When you’re serving 2,500 to 4,000 guests a day, something as seemingly insignificant as an egg can mean a lot. We use up to 40 cases of eggs per week.” 

Sampling Foods at Personalized Tastings

Not surprisingly, food is a big expense for casinos and resorts. Culinary offerings are also critical factors in guest experiences. This challenges Grand Casino to ensure it is serving quality food at competitive prices. Provista helps in numerous ways, from providing industry-leading hospitality contracts to setting up food tastings between suppliers and Grand Casino.

“We’ve done food immersions with Provista,” Engel notes. “Most of them have been with our Broadline distributor utilizing its kitchen. It gets us out of the operations, which is good because sometimes, we don’t have the time to fully concentrate on new food.”

The tastings are full-fledged food shows for four to six people. Representatives from Grand Casino sample foods before deciding which items to offer in their restaurants. “Provista brings offers to the table that we can take advantage of as operators and extend that value to our guests,” Engel adds.

This played out early on in the casino’s partnership with Provista. Grand Casino had a great relationship with a food company for years and thought it was getting the best price. Then Engel sat down with that company and Provista. The meeting opened his eyes to the savings Provista can bring to hospitality members.

“We met with the same people we had been talking to for years, but now they’re talking a whole different language and bringing new pricing into the table. It gave us opportunities to do things we weren’t ready to do in our previous pricing structure,” he says. “We were able to change a couple SKUs and get better quality for a similar price. It makes a difference from our standpoint, and I know our guests see it, too.”

“We fight for the same dollars that movie theaters and sporting events do. We want to give people a great experience and make sure they see value. Provista helps us do that.”

Solving Challenges and Knocking Down Barriers With Provista

Provista has helped Grand Casino overcome several top challenges, including:

  • Securing best pricing and gaining new value from Provista contracts
  • Making informed decisions on new food and beyond the plate purchases 
  • Purchasing food items that require minimal preparation
  • Using analytic reports to drive contract opportunities

Savings are always important too, and Provista delivers. “Our savings are anywhere between 5 and 7%,” Engel stated. “We were really good at what we did before, but we found little gold mines in the Provista contracts and the relationships they have.”

For example, to help Grand Casino overcome a labor shortage, Provista identified foods that could be easily prepared. “Minimizing how much a knife has to touch something or how much a cook has to prep something saves time,” Engel says.

Provista contracts also help the casino better serve customers.

“Ultimately, my goal is to ensure that every guest who comes onto the property feels like they got a great value for the time and money they spent,” Engel says. “As I shared with our CEO when we signed the contract with Provista, the gold is in the relationships outside of food, like in operations. Provista brings a lot to the table that people don’t necessarily think about, but it has great value.”

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