Covid-19: Wine and Dine

Food and beverage operations will be tricky to navigate in a post-Covid environment.

Covers directly affect revenue per night, and although (in my experience) not many hotels run much of a profit on F&B, it’s an essential offer and important component of many of our businesses. The issues lie with hygienic practices, safe delivery and guest reassurance. How do we navigate these new concerns that pertain to things that good hoteliers have always practiced, but that have up until now been a given on the part of the consumer?

When a guest checks in and orders food to their table or room, they are putting absolute trust in you to deliver safe, hygienic, high quality product. The assurance (and reassurance) of this is crucial.

Buffet breakfasts are no longer an attractive prospect. Examine your breakfast offer, refine and re-cost your menus. Depending on your customer, it might be preferable to offer in room breakfasts or sealed breakfast bags or boxes, such as the Hoxton has previously done. Which hot options will travel best from kitchen to door, and how will a change in service impact the guest’s perception of value? Consider how an a la carte breakfast service at the table might look, and how social distancing measures could be respected without compromising the quality of the experience.

Serving customers with masks and gloves may help or hinder a hotel brand depending on service level, guest expectations and brand aesthetic. Implementing front of house PPE is inevitable but can be carefully planned to ensure a consistent and not-too-apocolyptic guest experience. Crucially, guest experience planning must now include (or even be centred around) post-Covid anxiety. This means removing all doubt surrounding sanitation and social distancing, and demonstrating purpose, kindness and awareness at every step. All decisions must be made by first considering your core audience. Who is your customer, or your ideal customer, and what do they want?

A restaurant service might now involve a white glove approach, which instead of appearing clinical could evoke eighties kitsch, or romantic old-fashioned luxury – depending on the context. Face masks could detract from a luxury experience, but what if you approach a local designer for a bespoke design? Consider using brand colours or pattern, if you have one. In the eyes of the guest, this will communicate reliability and cautiousness as well as dedication to brand aesthetic and guest enjoyment.

Staff levels should be reduced, which for a fine dining space, might mean rethinking a service style that involves a restaurant manager or maitre d’, sommelier, and a small number of tables per waiter.

Review your restaurant capacity and consider removing tables to give staff and guests more space to pass one another safely. Can you run a profitable operation with reduced covers?

The room service offer will be more important than ever. Do rooms need reconfiguring or refining to offer a more appealing in room dining experience? Will food served by a member of staff in a hazmat suit be off-putting, or reassuring? And how will the staff member feel about this? Their needs should be considered equally. Look at the menu and perception of value and cost. While your guests may have been comfortable ordering a £50 steak in the restaurant, it is unlikely they will do so in-room. Equally, the tired club-sandwich-and-chips will need upgrading. If dining in-room is the only option then it needs to be a memorable experience, not a quick-and-convenient alternative. The experience should be as elegant – or atmospheric, or convivial, depending on the establishment – as it would be in the restaurant downstairs.

It’s unlikely that we’ll be travelling abroad in Summer 2020, so your local market is crucial – and those who have cultivated a local audience and nurtured their community for years will really feel the benefits of their support. Attract customers from around the corner with an appealing F&B offer, replete with hygiene assurances and extra value for money. Many businesses have been offering increased value gift cards, such as £125 worth of product for £100, which could be implemented at this time.

A locally sourced menu has been a much-flaunted concept for the past couple of years, but the provenance of ingredients and traceability of the supply chain now has a more immediate appeal. Hygiene issues throughout the supply chain, safe, moral and ethical suppliers will become a crucial element of running a F&B business post-covid.

Contact Hannah

If you are looking to develop an existing or brand new hotel concept,
guest experience or creative strategy, I’d love to help.



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