The Great Staycation

Since the easement of lockdown rules, hotels, B&Bs, caravan parks, lodges
and campsites have all seen a surge in bookings – not from overseas visitors, but from residents within the UK and Ireland. The “staycation” is the new vacation and business has been booming in tourist areas throughout the summer season.

As we move from the warmth of summer to the cool days and nights of winter, relying on alfresco dining to adhere to social distancing guidelines
becomes significantly more difficult. Revenue from breakfast and dinner is an important part of the profit and turnover mix for the hotel sector, so finding solutions to accommodate diners is critical to continue trading through the pandemic.

BEATING THE BREAKFAST BLUES
Breakfast is an integral element of the experience for a consumer when staying at a hotel, however the traditional breakfast buffet will need to be reimagined. The Délifrance Hotel F&B: Beyond the New Report shows a significant split in attitude towards breakfast buffets following the pandemic, of those who would usually use the breakfast room 37% would want to continue and 41% would be prepared to eat breakfast in their room.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to providing breakfast for guests, but here are a few ideas to inspire you:

• Breakfast All Wrapped Up
Whether breakfast items are wrapped on site to simplify self-service, or bought individually wrapped, they can reduce touch points which
spread the virus.

Cereal bars or breakfast drinks are also great “on the go” options; “We know that as the hospitality sector adapts to the new postCOVID-19 world, they will need to find new and innovative ways to offer their consumers healthy and nutritious food that is easy to prepare, convenient and with hygienic packaging. The Weetabix Food Company offers a delicious range of trusted products in portion packs to help the hospitality sector safely deliver breakfast to its customers, including Weetabix, Ready brek and Alpen.” Says David Bone, Foodservice National Account Manager, Weetabix.

Coffee brand Taylors of Harrogate have recently launched coffee bags to hotels, ensuring every guest has access to high quality coffee while limiting touch points. “Each coffee bag is individually wrapped for freshness and contains fresh roast and ground coffee. They work like a tea bag, brewing in just two minutes, making it easy for guests to enjoy a delicious cup of coffee from the comfort of their room or from a breakfast bar.” Comments Natalie King, OOH Manager at Taylors of Harrogate.

Perfect Timing
45% of consumers would be willing to pre-book a time slot for breakfast in order to ease congestion1
. “We are taking bookings for breakfast at specific times ensuring there are peaks while keeping a spacious and calming atmosphere in the dining area.” Comments Karl Richardson, Executive Chef at the Waldorf Hilton, “We have also shifted from offering a buffet breakfast service to à la carte menu meaning that not only do we minimise the contact between guests but also enhance their experience with a more luxurious offering.”

• Technology First
To remove the need to constantly sanitise menus or print disposable menus, technology can be applied to order breakfast from hotel rooms or while at the table. We anticipate seeing a rise in technological solutions to ordering – from in room televisions to mobile apps or menus projected onto tables.

Table Service Reimagined
Depending on how large your dining area is, your layout options may be flexible enough to have a serving table for each set of guests. Situated adjacent to their dining table, refreshments and food can be set out on the
serving table to order, for guests to collect and leave their plates when they have finished. This removes the need for close contact with serving staff.
Alternatively, you could try presenting a mini buffet at each table, with all hot food cooked to order. “Limit the amount of items that are being presented to the table, but increase the quality so that the guest does not feel that they aren’t getting the same value.” Lorraine Sinclair, Executive Chef, Pan Pacific Hotel.

PERSONALISED PICNICS
The rise in afternoon tea delivery kits to celebrate special occasions proves we all still enjoy a treat. The concept can easily be implemented across all business types in the catering sector, and hotels have a fantastic opportunity to go to town with beautifully presented, self contained breakfast, picnic or afternoon tea kits. Get creative and add a touch of haute cuisine to a picnic box or breakfast hamper and build excitement with attractively wrapped parcels of food and little notes informing diners of any locally sourced produce. Picnics can be eaten in guest rooms, in private pods, dining areas in the hotel grounds or as a takeaway for tourists to
enjoy while sightseeing.

Dine with a difference

Outdoor dining experiences launched by John Lewis, Coppa Club, Jimmy’s Lodge and Aviary in previous years have provided valuable inspiration for hoteliers, here are just a few concepts which we are sure we will be seeing more of this month:

  • From greenhouses to gazebos, tents and mini ski-chalets, large out buildings supply additional space which can be transformed into a magical winter wonderland for group bookings or simply to maintain the number of pre-COVID-19 covers whilst adhering to social distancing guidelines
  • With a little ingenuity and design, boutique hotel bedrooms can become a romantic, private dining space for overnight guests. Add a little extra luxury with in-room butler service to present your meals or create and enact a wintery theme for a more experiential dining event
  • If you don’t have the space to accommodate group and individual diners, Air B&B or apartment locations can make a great venue for a group dining experience with food cooked on premise. Look for locations nearby and build cross promotions to generate unique offers
  • Private pods and igloos are no longer a new concept, but they are developing in style to reflect the brand of the hotel or restaurant and are a very good way of delivering a more normalised socially distanced dining experience. Used not just for dinner but picnic style lunches too, they are very versatile and have the potential to deliver strong return on investment with the right concept
  • Cornish based St Moritz Hotel & Spa introduced Breakfast at the Beach Huts for summer 2020, serving locally-sourced breakfast in a traditional striped beach hut. Demand for their Anti-Social Club pop up restaurant led to the installation of classically cute British beach huts that come as an accompaniment to the hotel’s King Rooms. Although breakfast on the beach in winter may not be appealing to some, we can certainly see this concept following an igloo style dining experience
  • Not got the outdoor space? Try installing bespoke barriers around your tables to create cosy indoor pods which reduce the loud clatter of a busy restaurant and turn a large dining room space into something more intimate

Of course, installations can be expensive and many hoteliers may not know where to start; “If you want to install a more robust outdoor structure, find a local exhibition stand manufacturer who can design something unique and build it to meet the appropriate safety standards. The events industry is quiet at the moment and many of us have capacity to help” comments Ross
Emerick, Sales Director, ESM.

Combining a bit of your own creativity with a basic structure can be more cost effective and will create something unique, exciting and memorable. Turning gardens into a winter grotto, fairy story or astrologer’s paradise could be the beginning of a winter activity that you will want to repeat year after year.

Once more, the words innovate and adapt must be applied to the sector, but we are also seeing real creativity in this space which is being richly rewarded with repeat custom and (in some cases) premium price tags, as consumers who have spent many months apart from friends and loved ones, are keen to get together and make lasting memories over the festive season.