The good news is that hotels are steadily reopening, with occupancy rates increasing from an abysmal 22 percent in early April—the lowest point—to nearly 44 percent for the week ending June 20, according to the most recent statistics from STR, a lodging data analytics company. With corporate meetings virtually non-existent and air travel at a bare minimum, the majority of those rooms are filled by local or regional visitors looking for a quick getaway close to home.
“We’re targeting the drive segment for overnight stays, which is guests who are two to three hours away by car,” says Skip Harless, GM of the Skirvin Hilton Hotel in Oklahoma City. Since the hotel is a historic property with a strong local following, the team has been actively promoting its recent reopening through social media and email marketing to draw in regulars for dining.
According to GM Joseph Cerione, the Park Hyatt in Washington, D.C., is targeting local fans of its Michelin-starred restaurant, Blue Duck Tavern, as well as staycationers and families looking for a fast getaway. “The drive-in company will be the first to recover. Some museums are beginning to open, and the sights would entice people to visit Washington, D.C.,” he says.
Jeff Klein, vice president and managing director of the JW Marriott Turnberry Resort & Spa in Aventura, Fla., is also “hyper-focused on the drive market,” promoting “healthy, local experiences for families.” Our summer company in Florida is already more local, and we’re seeing more daycationers and staycationers this year,” he says. The resort has a water park, spa, and a few dining options, and Michael Mina’s Bourbon Steak, the property’s fine-dining restaurant, is always 70 percent local, he says.
Increasing the safety margin
During the pandemic, several hotel restaurants offered takeout and delivery, but most waited until the properties’ official reopening dates to resume operations. During this time, hotel and restaurant employees received intensive sanitation and safety training. To open, the hotels must adhere to the rules of the states and jurisdictions in which they are located, but the major chains—Hyatt, Hilton, and Marriott, for example—have all released more stringent guidelines to protect and reassure guests. For more details about sales and marketing click here.
“For its certification programme, Hyatt collaborated with the Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC), and training is at the forefront of every initiative,” says Philippe Cavatore, director of operations at the Park Hyatt Washington. “Every Hyatt property has a hygiene captain, and when workers return, they go through a rigorous training session.” In addition to learning the correct technique for donning and doffing PPE, employees are given a comprehensive overview of all sanitising chemicals as well as an understanding of “dwell time,” the variable that allows sanitizers to function properly. Click here for info about housekeeping.
Marriott’s Commitment to Clean programme, like Hilton’s CleanStay with Lysol security programme, includes comprehensive training and sanitation upgrades. According to Klein, the JW Marriot Turnberry installed a thermal camera in its lobby to monitor both guests’ and staff’s body temperatures, and an electrostatic spray system is used to sanitise all rooms and high touchpoints, including restaurant areas. Before interacting with visitors, associates at the Skirvin Hilton undergo 36 hours of cleaning procedure experience.
Dining in a unique way
These additional safety precautions apply to food and beverage activities, resulting in service and menu improvements in hotels, bars, and other locations. According to Harless, the menu at the Skirvin Hilton’s Park Avenue Grill has been simplified and revamped to make takeout choices more convenient.
For breakfast, there’s a fresh overnight oats superfood parfait that can be made ahead of time, as well as a breakfast Cobb salad with a firm poached egg and bacon. A lunch or dinner choice is an ancient grains bowl with salmon. Harless notes, “All hold up well and can be packed for guests to pick up outside their door for touchless room service.”
The catering industry’s new look
Hotels are partnering with clients to co-create catered events and parties in order to comply with social distancing and other protection guidelines. “We retrofitted 10 tables with glass box displays to shield the food because some people do want buffets,” Klein says. A gloved and masked server divides the objects into individual portions.
The Park Hyatt Washington isn’t hosting any traditional buffet-style parties, either. “The food is shown behind glass for visitors to see, and it is served by staff,” Cerione explains. “Preordered packaged meals with the customer’s name printed on them are also becoming more popular.”
Self-service buffets are prohibited at the Skirvin Hilton, but there is a server-assisted option. Clients are also given a catering menu with many prepackaged meal options for meetings and groups. “We want to offer diners options close to those found at a buffet, so we have three entrees, two salads, and at least two desserts,” Harless explains.
Catering events may become more common as limits on the size of gatherings are removed. However, most hoteliers believe that the self-service buffet is a thing of the past, at least for the time being.