What is a traditional F&B practice that will either go away or be different from now on due to the pandemic?
Buffets and receptions present the most challenges in our current environment. It’s difficult to display food in a way that ensures it is not exposed to cross contamination. Plexi-glass barriers and manned food stations are a solution, but still the buffet experience is changed. Other challenges with these types of events include crowd behaviour—people forming lines and mingling/networking around bars and food stations. In many states this isn’t even an option based on their current gathering restrictions. How do we plan a networking event when everyone has to remain seated?
What do many meeting professionals traditionally overlook when considering attendee health and safety during F&B experiences?
Now more than ever planners need to rely on the expertise of their facility planning partner. They will be able to advise how to keep guests safe. One of the biggest changes might be to the meeting agenda. More time is needed for cleaning meeting rooms and the safety measures in place for breaks and buffets mean that timing for guests to break for these meal events should be staggered to reduce lines and crowds.
What progress is already being seen with a shift to more health and safety-focused F&B experiences?
We’re currently operating in an environment where an abundance of caution is prevalent. I think this is key to recovery. Planners and guests need an assurance that their health and safety are our top priority. I feel confident that all major hotel brands are doing everything they can to ensure a safe meeting environment.
What is experienced or observed recently that gives hope that our industry will be successful at creating safer F&B experiences going forward?
We have hosted many large meetings over the past couple of months in states where larger gatherings are allowed. In every case (groups as large as 800 people!) we’ve kept our guests safe and healthy and have received rave reviews from our planners. This is very encouraging and gives me hope that more planners will see that it’s possible to hold face-to-face meetings safely.