Hotels have invested enormous amounts of time and money in dealing with the pandemic – from installing furniture, partitions and social distancing sanitation systems, to providing pre-portioned take-out and sealed and more.
Hotel companies across the country are still determining how much of this model will carry over to the rest of 2021 and beyond.
“Even though the ‘everything is clear’ was given on June 15, not all customers and guests were comfortable throwing masks, gloves and shields in the wind,” noted Manfred Lassahn. , Executive Chef of the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort and Spa in Huntington. Beach, California. “We have had and still have many groups requesting presentations similar to what we experienced during the pandemic. We actually have a group in January 2022 that requested pre-pack, shields, and attendants to their events. “
With the Delta strain on the rise and neighboring Los Angeles County seeing a thousand new cases per day, he added, “a lot of what we invested in might just have to get out of storage.”
“The transition has gone smoothly in this post-pandemic meeting landscape,” said Don Barnett, director of sales and marketing for Hilton’s LondonHouse Chicago. “We have prepared ourselves for several possibilities and we find ourselves operating with fairly normal procedures according to the expectations of our customers. “
Kim Murray, general manager of Westin Memphis Beale Street of Senator Hospitality Group, LLC in Memphis, Tenn., Said most hotel groups have resumed operations since the vaccines were rolled out.
“We will make arrangements with groups who want some of the guidelines we were applying during COVID if they feel more comfortable,” Murray said. The facility has maintained its sanitation stations and always asks guests to distance themselves as much as possible.
In some areas of a hotel, the sealed / portioned food model might continue, such as for poolside service and at golf course events. The catering of pre-portioned meals may also prove to be at least a partial response to the work crisis by not forcing chefs to work in event catering stations.
Many hotels have been tasked with handling additional packaging waste and pre-portioned food containers during the pandemic. Murray reported, however, that the Westin Memphis Beale Street had very little trash.
“Our suppliers adapted to what we needed and sold us prepackaged items because they knew our restrictions,” Murray said.
During the pandemic, when only small groups got together, the prepackage items “made a lot of sense and were quite easy to perform,” Lassahn said. “Now that you have much larger groups of 150 or more people, the time and labor to get there is tough from a production standpoint. “
Pre-portioning reduced food waste, “but it did nothing for landfills with the amount of packaging that went into it,” Lassahn added.
Other companies are finding the transition to post-pandemic operations a bit smoother.
“It’s been going really well for The Langham since we stayed open throughout the pandemic, ”said Elizabeth Van Dyk, restaurant manager at Langham Hotels and Resorts in Langham, New York, Fifth Avenue in New York. . “We have also always offered take-out options for customers on request. “
What has been amplified, she added, are the questions staff members ask customers during the booking and planning stages. For example, if they prefer the setups and / or service to have social distancing or prepackaged / portioned dining options.
“If the customer requests special food service options or configurations, we are as flexible as possible and very transparent about what we can and cannot do,” said Van Dyk. “But we’ve changed all of our capacity limits to reflect social distancing, so people can be directed to spaces that before the pandemic served 100 guests but can now be used for 50 guests.”
Many of the protective measures put in place during the pandemic will continue. Management at luxurious hotel decided to keep both portable hand sanitizers and individual hand sanitizers for each shift.
“Customers have told us that they love having them there and that it reminds attendees to keep their hands clean throughout the event,” Van Dyk explained.
Pre-packaged foods in take-out containers work great for corporate meetings, where attendees occasionally move to other spaces for different parts of the program or workgroups.
“Again, this was an option before COVID, but now we’re openly offering it to all meetings in case it’s a priority for them,” Van Dyk said. “We found it very popular. “