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How COVID-19 Will Change the Hotel Food Business

How COVID-19 Will Change the Hotel Food Business

The next time guests check into a hotel, it might be a vastly different experience from past stays.

A hotel stay without a breakfast buffet, an in-room minibar and a coffee station would have been inconceivable to many Americans just four months ago. But the onset of COVID-19 has prompted an abundance of changes that could alter everything from how guests check in and eat to how rooms are cleaned.

Hotel experts predict that the pandemic will drastically alter hotel stays in the coming months, prompting many properties to embrace a host of new practices, up to and including temperature checks upon guests’ arrivals.

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Because of the reactive nature of the hotel industry, it’s taken a pandemic for many hotels to take a harder look at safety procedures. In recent days, safety-conscious procedures have been enacted at the Four Seasons Hotel in New York City as a prime example of the changes that could be coming soon to hotels across the country.

The Four Seasons’ guinea pig journey began last month, when H. Ty Warner, the property’s owner, said he would open his hotel’s doors to medical professionals working on the COVID-19 battlefront. The announcement set into motion a series of moves that have overhauled the hotel’s standard operating procedures.

With the elimination of touch points and human-to-human contact throughout the hotel, room service has been discontinued, and the hotel’s restaurant, bar and complimentary coffee station are closed indefinitely. The hotel’s new dining option: pre-made boxed meals, available in an industrial refrigerator in the lobby.

Management teams are also working to minimize human contact when it comes to breakfast, which means reinventing crowd-pleasing breakfast buffets. They are looking at single-serve options instead of buffets and having a team member serving guests at buffets instead of allowing guests to help themselves.

The new procedures at Four Seasons New York were adopted out of the hotel’s awareness that many of the medical professionals it is lodging have been exposed to COVID-19. About half of the guest rooms in the hotel have been reserved for medical personnel. But many of the hotel’s new safety protocols are now being sought by hotels around the world for all guests, not just properties housing medical professionals.

Of course, these new standards and procedures will evolve as time goes on, but increased safety precautions will likely remain. While guests may miss some of the elements of hotels they have come to appreciate, they can now expect a hotel experience that is far less hands-on.