The new face of hotel dining

Last updated: November 4, 2020

Staying safe: The science of Covid safety in hotels. We look at specific aspects of hotel safety, such as digital check-in, spas and ventilation

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When you go away, a big part of the experience is enjoying meals in new restaurants and, if you are staying in a hotel, being able to relax with an evening meal, knowing that you only have to take a lift to your room. But during the Covid-19 pandemic, things have changed, and some hotels are not running their own kitchens or they have several safety policies in place.

So, what can you expect when you visit a hotel, and how safe can you feel dining at your chosen holiday location?
You may find that hotels cease to offer dining, at least for the first few weeks of opening. And if you enjoy buffet dining – a stalwart of the breakfast service – you might be disappointed, as this has been one of the first casualties of the coronavirus crisis.

However, room service menus could be expanded, as hotels encourage guests to consider private in-room dining instead.

QR codes in Andalucia

The Califa group of boutique hotels and restaurants in Vejer de la Frontera, a picture-perfect hill-top town close to the coast in Andalucia has put in place Bienvenido a tu Casa (Welcome Home), a strict protocol of 30 hygiene measures. Among them is a clever alternative to the menu - instead of reading a paper or laminated menu, diners receive their menus via QR code scanning. The Califa's owner James Stuart has prepared a novel system of separate entrances and exits with a one-way system to reach the restaurant from the town’s Plaza de España.

While you are immersing yourself in the romance of the,El Jardín del Califa, with its lush palm-filled courtyard, set in a 16th century building, behind the scenes all crockery, cutlery, and glass is cleaned and disinfected by new state-of-the-art equipment from Winterhalter.

Fresh-baked breakfast in London

Closer to home, The Gyle, a boutique hotel in King’s Cross, London, has recently reopened. All rooms have a tablet, which can be used to access takeaway menus. The Gyle doesn’t have its own restaurant, but its sister hotel The Megaro, does. Group Operations Director Christian Kaberg explains: 'We will ask, what time do you want to eat breakfast, do you want to eat it down here or we will leave it on a tray outside the room. We have a bakery oven here and bake breads and pastries. It smells wonderfully of pain au chocolat and fresh bread in the morning.’ The staff are also happy to call in a takeaway company for hungry guests.

'The Megaro eatery is over two floors and very spacious, so there will be no problem with a 2m rule,’says Christian. ‘But if people would rather stay at the Gyle, it’s a 60-second walk from here so the team will bring food over.

Table service

Douglas Waddell, Operations Director of Hand Picked Hotels, says: ‘Our guests are allocated a socially distanced table solely for their use throughout the duration of their stay. Seating times are pre-arranged to ensure that we have a manageable number of guests in any one space at a time. 'In our restaurants and lounges we will offer table service only, to avoid guests having to approach the bar and reduce the amount of contact with our team.

‘Guests will be able to enjoy their dining experience either in our restaurant, on the terrace or in their bedrooms and they are able to make use of our designated lounges or their own private dining room dependent on the size of their party.’

Signs that a restaurant is following UK government guidelines:

  • Minimising customer self-service of food, cutlery and condiments
  • Providing disposable condiments
  • Assigning a single staff member per table
  • Preventing congregation – no guests at bar
  • Using screens at tills and bars etc
  • Glasses and crockery removed between guests.

Face coverings

Do you have to wear your face mask in the hotel restaurant? It is now mandatory to wear a face mask unless you are seated at your table. It is also mandatory for staff in restaurants to wear face coverings unless they are behind a protective screen - at the till, for instance. According to the CDC in the US, there is no evidence that the virus can be transmitted via food and the UK’s Food Standards Agency says that staff preparing food only need to do so if they are exposed to air-borne risks or need to protect ‘high-risk’ foods.

Room service

If you want to avoid other guests in the interests of safety, room service is a great option – and a number of hotels are broadening their room service menu to meet demand. This is how room service should look, according to trade organisation UKHospitality [https://www.ukhospitality.org.uk/page/UKHospitalityGuidanceforHospitality]

  • Staff should wash hands before taking a tray to guests
  • Trays will not be taken into rooms, but left outside, preferably on a disinfected butler’s tray, light table or luggage rack
  • Staff will knock on the door then step away while the guest picks up the tray. Then staff will remove the table or rack
  • Paperwork should be avoided and any tips added to the bill to avoid cash
  • The hotel should make clear what you are supposed to do with the tray when you are finished. Hotels should have a system for quick collection.
  • Crockery, glassware, linen, and trays must be disinfected, and single-use items should be used where possible.

Eating out

To reassure yourself about food safety, check that the hotel or restaurant is following UK Government guidelines for food service, including:

  • Contactless ordering where possible, if not, using laminated menus that can be disinfected between customers

  • Location of card readers should allow for social distancing

  • You should be able to see the following being cleaned between customers: tables, card machines, chairs, trays and laminated menus.

  • There should be clear instructions about how you should social distance, use masks, sanitisers and so on, and staff should remind customers about keeping to these rules

  • Taking guests’ details for NHS Test and Trace purposes.

  • Only allowing groups of six or less to conform to the government’s ‘rule of six’

Useful links Find up-to-date guidance on travel, safety, Covid-19 research and more.

RightRooms believes all information to be correct at time of going to press. As guidance, research and facts around Covid-19 are changing constantly, the information provided here is for general information only and does not constitute professional advice. Please check with venues, locations and attractions before travelling.

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