As hotels across the U.S. start to ramp back up, operators
are getting creative when it comes to crafting new, socially distant dining and
“Most likely, a restaurant that used to have a certain
number of tables will now only have half as many,” said Lynn Mohrfeld,
president and CEO of the California Hotel & Lodging Association. “Hotels
have to figure out, will that restaurant go to reservation only? Are people
going to be congregating while waiting? There’s a lot to consider.”
California hotels are permitted to begin welcoming back
leisure travelers starting June 12. According to Mohrfeld, guests will likely
find the traditional hotel breakfast buffet replaced by individually packaged
grab-and-go items, while at properties where kitchens remain closed, restaurant
delivery options might be offered in lieu of room service. Other hotels have
already pivoted their food and beverage operations amid the pandemic, catering
to locals by launching takeout and curbside pickup options.
A recent loosening of state law also allows California
venues to sell cocktails and other alcoholic beverages to go, which Mohrfeld
said has proven especially popular.
“Californians have been very appreciative of that rule
getting relaxed,” he added. “And I think, quite frankly, it’s created a new
At the luxury end, some hotel restaurants are taking at-home
dining to the next level. In April, California’s Malibu Beach Inn debuted a
series of virtual dinner parties for Los Angeles-area locals, offering
four-course dinners from the property’s Carbon Beach Club, complete with wine
or spirits pairings. The meal and drinks are delivered to participants the day
of the event, with diners then logging on to a Zoom meeting at a predetermined
time and enjoying a guided and interactive pairing experience.
Malibu Beach Club’s next virtual dinner party, set to be
held on June 25, will be hosted in partnership with Volcan Tequila and priced
at approximately $100 to $150 per couple.
For those looking to dine out, Malibu Beach Club has also
been offering a Private Dining Suite package. In addition to a one-night stay,
the package includes a customized tasting menu with wine pairings and a
pre-dinner cocktail, all served in a suite with a beachfront terrace. The
Private Dining Suite experience is priced at $995 and must be booked at least
72 hours in advance.
An outdoor dining pavilion at the Resort at Paws Up in Montana.
For other properties, dining in a post-Covid-19 world will
mean bringing more meals into the great outdoors. The Resort at Paws Up in
Montana has taken full advantage of its 37,000-acre ranch setting, recently
expanding its outdoor dining options with an outdoor open-fire kitchen concept
and mobile pizza truck. Outdoor dining pavilions and picnic table areas are
plentiful, and the resort’s accommodations, all of which are standalone homes
or glamping sites, lend themselves well to private dining experiences.
“Our guests can have a chef come into their home, or we can
up set up everything for an in-home barbecue, and just last year, we added a
brick oven pizza delivery service,” said Drew Bishop, director of sales for
Paws Up. “We’re also adding more areas to dine outside, and with all our land,
anything at Paws Up can become private dining. So that’s certainly something we’ve
brought to the forefront, because we know it’s something that’ll be attractive
to our guests right now.”
Scheduled to reopen June 16, Ocean House in Watch Hill,
R.I., is similarly leveraging its surrounding green space with a private “luxury
picnic” experience that the property can set up anywhere outdoors. Priced at
$65 per person, a small group can customize a family style, sharable menu from
a selection of sides, entrees and desserts.
“You can request a table on the lawn, in a private beach
cabana or on the patio in your suite,” said Daniel Hostettler, group managing
director at Ocean House Management Collection. “Everything will already be set
up when you arrive, but there will be a server there, and you can wave them
over if you need them. The idea is really to offer this very upscale, elegant
picnic in the location of your choice, at the time of your choice.”
With traditional bars still prohibited from reopening in the
near term in Rhode Island, Ocean House came up with a workaround in the form of
a Ferrari-red bar cart. A bartender will take the cart door to door between 5
p.m. and 7 p.m., offering wine, mixed drinks or a cocktail of the day as well
as serving complimentary, individually boxed canapes.
Likewise, Ocean House’s small Secret Garden dining venue,
which operates in partnership with Champagne brand Veuve Clicquot, has been
reconceptualized as a private dining and event area, which can be rented out in
two-hour blocks to groups of 15 or less, in line with state regulation, with a
$500 food and beverage minimum. According to Hostettler, the space had received
10 reservations just one day after opening up to bookings on June 10.
Guests can mix drinks on the blender bike at Ocean House's Taco Shack pop-up restaurant.
On the more casual side, Ocean House added an outdoor dining
concept with the launch of its Taco Shack pop-up, which showcases
grab-and-go tacos and cocktails featuring Tito’s Vodka. Within the shack,
guests can mount stationary bikes with pedal-powered blenders to mix, for instance, a TitoRita margarita.
“People can grab their tacos and sit outside or walk the
beach,” Hostettler said. “It’s a good way to social distance while still
offering a fun and Instagrammable experience. People are looking for something
memorable when they get away, and we didn’t want that to change with Covid-19.
Our goal is to continue offering a great experience while still acknowledging
that the world’s in a different place.”