The restrictions and unknowns related to the current pandemic environment make food and beverage operations a challenge to reopening for the fast-approaching winter season. The question for operators goes beyond what the regulations tell us we must do (a capacity question), to how can we run F&B operations in the coming season in a practical and cost-effective way.
The question is especially important considering that, typically, food and beverage represents a resort’s second largest source of revenue. In addition, food and beverage operations provide an opportunity to define brand and differentiate individual resorts.
LEMONADE FROM LEMONS
Food and beverage operations can be a sore spot with customers, even without the challenges posed by COVID-19 restrictions and limitations. But that need not be the case.
How can you transform food and beverage into a positive experience in the age of coronavirus? Local culture, regional products, and placemaking can all contribute. A period of six-foot separation requirements and sterile, touchless settings heightens the importance of style, creativity, and experience. You want your guests to Instagram where they are, what they are doing, and how cool you, as the resort operator, have made it.
Creative options. If there is a silver lining in our current environment, it is captured in the old chestnut: “Necessity is the mother of invention.” There are a lot of good ideas bubbling up from leaders who are seeking out good solutions for opening. Pop-up, to-go options allow guests to eat on the go. Resorts can partner with local vendors, including food trucks, allowing resorts to share the pain and benefits with the local community. After a long day of skiing, no one feels like cooking. How about a to-go option that can be eaten by a family of four on their drive home, or even back at the condo?
Creative packaging, box lunches, and fun names, e.g. “Quarantine Kits,” can transform a “solution” into a memorable experience that will be talked about for years. A small gift, the equivalent of the toy in a Happy Meal, could seal the deal. Or even better, include a souvenir acknowledgment that a portion of the purchase price will benefit first responders or a local charity.
Pop-up fondue. Last winter, Le Massif, Que., partnered with a company to offer fondue on the ride up its gondola, transforming each cabin into a private dining car (photo, far left). Brilliant! That contrasts sharply with some properly spaced but empty-feeling dining spaces complete with yellow, “crime-scene” tape that we’ve seen.
A FON-DO, FON-DON’T APPROACH
These examples show that there is a “Fon-Do” and a “Fon-Don’t” approach to pandemic dining. In some cases, new concepts will not only solve problems for the coming season, but could become experiential, brand-based opportunities to define food and beverage over the long haul.
Tech and temporary structures. Boyne Resorts is using temporary facilities and technology to address the challenge head on. “We will be introducing advanced technology throughout our food and beverage operations that provides both new and familiar options, as well as innovative spaces for family dining experiences,” says Brad Keen, Boyne’s senior VP of food and beverage.
According to Mike Unruh, Boyne’s senior VP of mountain operations, “Boyne is creating flexible, prototype fabric structures to cost-effectively supplement guest service space at resorts ranging from Brighton, Utah, to Sunday River, Maine.”
Sizing, layout, engineering, lighting, and available options will be standardized, using Sprung Structures as the basis of design. As Unruh puts it: “These temporary facilities will provide additional capacity, for dining, rental, restroom, and employee uses, while accommodating recommended social distancing on behalf of our employees and guests.” Each resort, though, can customize the way it uses these spaces.
Throughout its portfolio, Boyne is making additional investments to streamline operations and augment safety protocols for the 2020-21 season. “We will offer the convenience of pre-ordering online using a smart phone. We we will message our guests when their food is ready for pickup, or to let them know when it will be delivered to an assigned and properly distanced table,” says Keen. Using an app today helps keep the doctor away, for both guests and team members alike.
FIVE EASY PIECES
As part of a “Proactive Evolution” effort within the industry, SE Group and Bull Stockwell Allen have teamed to offer strategies and a vision of what’s possible. We present five illustrative food and beverage concepts here, in addition to the Fon-do and Igloo examples, intended to prime the pump on creative thinking. These ideas draw on recent hospitality trends, including glamping and other one-of-a-kind experiences in nature.
“Tailgate Delivered” transforms a premiere, paid-parking lot location into a socially distanced, outdoor dining space.
“Playa de Nieve,” with a beach-style snowfront, is based on a seaside restaurant in Cabo San Lucas.
“Ski-In/Dine-Out” offers boxed, picnic lunches on slopeside platforms.
“Chuck Wagon” draws on the idea of BBQ dining around a campfire.
“Rent-a-Tent” allows families and small groups to reserve a private warming hut or “day lodge.” In other words, the winter equivalent of a well-stocked poolside cabana.
So, buckle up. These ideas are only the beginning of what we hope we can inspire—a slew of clever solutions that draw on your resort’s personality and culture.
Reopening the mountains this winter season will inevitably be one wild ride. But this is an industry that is quite literally capable of making moguls out of molehills. A creative approach to guest services, including food and beverage, may transform the bumps in the road into an exhilarating, once-in-a-lifetime thrill ride.