The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in many wedding cancellations and postponements at hotels. Now hoteliers must work with couples and their budgets to rethink event size and how F&B is served going forward.
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—Many couples have had to cancel or postpone their wedding day, and hoteliers are doing their best to be flexible and work with parties to get a new date on the books for later this year or in 2021, sources said.
The Aspen Meadows Resort in Aspen, Colorado, is usually booked year round with corporate meetings and events, but the COVID-19 pandemic has opened up the calendar and made room for wedding bookings at the property down the road, said Jason MacEachen, director of catering and conference services at the resort.
The property closed on 1 April and they hope to reopen on 1 June pending approval.
“(We are planning on) slowly, gradually opening, focusing more on our local business, state business, drive-to business versus we're going to open the doors and get our 300-person conferences back,” he said.
Aspen Meadows Resort currently has a limited number of people on staff, but those who are working are checking in with repeat clients to see where they are and helping them think through how they might host events at the resort in the future, whether it’s a small leadership meeting of 10 to 15 people or something else, MacEachen said.
The catering, culinary and food-and-beverage team is focusing on attracting wedding and social events from the local market, he said. Since the hotel is normally shut down to social business because of other events that take up much of the summer at the hotel, MacEachen said his team is trying to find ways to accommodate the community for birthday parties, elopements and other social events.
Hotel Emma in San Antonia, Texas, is still open to the public and has seen a few couples who have chosen to celebrate their honeymoon on property, but the hotel started seeing wedding cancellations in early March and is seeing a trend in weddings moving to 2021, said Beth Smith, VP of marketing and public relations at the hotel.
The contracts made with couples to have their weddings at Hotel Emma in 2020 did not address the pandemic of course, so the hotel is allowing couples to move their weddings or reduce the size of their weddings without penalty, she said.
The Hotel at the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland, has seen many cancellations and rebookings for weddings with some postponing to late this summer and into fall, said Sesyle Moorhead, director of catering and conference services at the Hotel at the University of Maryland. The hotel is temporarily closed.
The hotel isn’t charging any extra fees for moved wedding dates and is working with families to keep concessions and pricing in a price point that works with their budgets, she said.
- Click here to read how the Hotel at the University of Maryland and others are using virtual communications and social media to connect with guests during the pandemic.
F&B and event set up
Smith said she’s seeing a trend in weddings scaling down on size amid the COVID-19 outbreak, and the hotel is encouraging less buffets at weddings and suggesting chef-manned stations instead to maintain social distancing for wedding events going forward.
MacEachen said his property is having internal conversations about how food will be served at events, and he believes more employees will be needed to staff meetings and events.
“I don't say that having to have more staff based on volume of business, I say that in having to have more staff to manage the situation at a meal period,” he said. “The days of just opening a double-sided buffet and allowing 300 people to go through it and everyone's touching the same tongs and then the lid of the shapers is, in my opinion, going to go away, at least for the immediate future. Having staff out there in aprons, and, I hate to say it, but they might be in masks and gloves … we can still do a buffet but … behind the shaper and serving those individual guests.”
He added that his hotel will focus on the meal experience and serving guests so that this transition is not a scary experience for guests.
Going forward, event spaces will also have to be set up with seating more spread out. The hotel also has plans to use more of its outdoor and patio space to accommodate for more space, he said.