Hotels ready for event resumption with new structure around dining, social functions

Coffee breaks and cocktail events need to be rethinked to adhere to social distancing measures

Attendees of business events held within hotels can expect different formats around dining and social functions as gatherings are once again allowed.

Taking into consideration physical distancing needs and heightened hygiene and safety measures, buffet lines will have to give way to pre-packed food boxes or served set meals, hoteliers told TTGmice.

Coffee breaks and cocktail events need to be rethinked to adhere to social distancing measures

Tim Alpe, Ovolo Group’s chief operating officer, Hong Kong and Indonesia, noted that buffet dinners would likely be less popular among event planners, and set menus would be offered instead.

“We will also use larger event spaces for smaller events to ensure the appropriate distance between tables,” Alpe added.

Frequency and size of social functions during events, such as coffee breaks, will have to be kept to a minimum.

Javier Pardo, vice president of operations for Avani Hotels & Resorts, said coffee breaks at his properties in the near-term would probably be “shielded or served from behind a Plexiglass screen by a certified kitchen team to reduce contamination”.

There will be markings on the floor to help delegates adhere to social distancing.

Over at Accor, Kerry Healy, vice president sales Asia-Pacific, predicts “staggered break times for smaller groups or more use of outdoor space to provide the opportunity for fresh air”.

“We also think that cocktail events will see stricter handling of food items with less sharing plates and more individually-served items. There will also be greater use of local ingredients and freshly-sourced produce as people are looking to support their domestic markets even more,” she added.

The new requirements around dining formats will necessitate greater empathy and flexibility from venues, opined Alpe, who said his properties may lower or even get rid of minimum spending for smaller events, as a way to encourage gatherings with fewer people.

Charles Yap, Onyx Hospitality Group’s vice president, marketing communications, said a collaborative approach between hotel representatives and meeting planners would be taken for discussions on preferred dining formats as well as safety and hygiene enhancements, “such as capacity guidance, seating layouts and the deployment of protective shields on food presentation area”.

Even though hoteliers expect to see smaller meetings, reduced banqueting and conferencing demand in the coming months, they are confident that the sector will eventually rebound once travel restrictions are lifted.

Healy said: “We are confident that when it’s safe to do so, people will return to meetings, events and conferences because these are essential to teambuilding, to celebrating, and to creating a corporate culture.”

“It is in our human nature to meet, interact and reunite,” remarked Yap, adding that he is anticipating increased demand for hybrid events which combine physical meetings and video conferencing.

“Venues with superior technology and connectivity will be more sought after than older establishments (which have not renovated),” Yap noted.

For this reason, Onyx is making use of this downtime to renovate all the meeting and event venues at Amari Watergate Bangkok, as part of a larger refurbishment programme that includes guestrooms and the water, plumbing, air-conditioning and boiler systems for the entire building.

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