Despite the pandemic, the Ritz-Carlton St. Louis has stuck to completing previously planned projects such as the opening of a new restaurant and property renovations, according to GM Amanda Joiner.
ST. LOUIS—Challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic have not stopped the Ritz-Carlton St. Louis from going about business and pushing on with projects that are underway, GM Amanda Joiner said.
The Ritz-Carlton St. Louis has remained open throughout the pandemic, Joiner said, noting the property’s COVID-19 protocols, which includes a 34-page manual, have helped lead the way.
The hotel is also undergoing multiple renovations and is in the process of opening a new restaurant, she said.
Q: What procedures are in place that have helped keep your hotel open throughout the pandemic?
A: “As you might imagine, the world was traveling just a little (when the pandemic started). … When needs arose for travelers, we focused on the most important thing, which is cleanliness. The Ritz-Carlton and the Ritz-Carlton (company) has always had cleaning protocols in place that really exceeded public health guidelines. But during the pandemic, we really amped up those cleaning procedures even more.
“A lot of our customers were asking what it was like being in the hotel. You are greeted by ladies and gentlemen that are wearing masks in the building, we also require our guests to wear masks. We’ve implemented what we call a public stylist, (which) is a person who basically for 16 hours a day—eight hours in the morning and eight hours in the evening—goes through all public areas of the hotel, hard surfaces and cleans and recleans all of those areas all throughout the day.
“When guests come to our hotel, they are welcomed by lots of signage. Although it may not be particularly sexy in nature, it’s highly functional and it really sets guests’ minds at ease. …
“Once (guests) go to their guestrooms, a lot has changed. You will see a lot of packaging that shows the guest that things have been sanitized. Once we’ve used peroxide-based antibacterial cleaner that we’ve always used that combats the impacts of COVID-19 … we then, for example, bag the remote control; we have a clear cellophane bag to let the guest know that it’s been disinfected.
“We’ve gone to a single-use mentality. For example, if there is a bar of soap and a bottle of shampoo, when you check in, those are new products and if you don’t use them, they are thrown away at check-out. Because they are made of paper; we can’t sanitize them.”
Q: You are opening a new in-house restaurant, Casa Don Alfonso. What has that process been like?
A: “It is as exciting and thrilling as it would ever be, pandemic or not. We are working with a third-party restauranteur, Mario Iaccarino. I have been working with him, before we announced it to the public, for more than two years. That legwork started a long time ago. We’ve partnered with him to create the design of the restaurant, the menu of the restaurant and the service standards.
“He and his family are true hospitality experts, they run a little inn and Michelin two-star restaurant off the Amalfi coast and that is why we partnered with them. Their philosophy about memory-making is absolutely in alignment with the Ritz-Carlton.
“What’s been interesting, and not something we would have done if there wasn’t a pandemic, is we’ve been doing a lot more virtually. Because the restaurant and its headquarters, if you will, are in Italy, it is not allowed for travel to happen within his organization.
“To teach our culinary team the nuances of this menu, a chef was brought over from Italy, quarantined for two weeks, then worked in our kitchens with our chef designing the menu, doing taste-testing. Obviously we wouldn't have had that, had been quarantining a culinarian, if it wasn't for the pandemic. It's been interesting for sure. But the depth that we’ve gone to launch really a whole new concept is just as robust as it ever would have been without a pandemic.”
Q: On top of all that, The Ritz-Carlton St. Louis is undergoing $27 million in property renovations. What’s being renovated and why is now a good time for renovations?
A: “We were always going to undergo this renovation project, meaning it was planned a while back. We’ve renovated different aspects of the hotel. Our guestrooms themselves were renovated in 2017, but this year, we went back to the bathrooms and in our king rooms, we removed the former tub-shower combination and we added all marble stand showers.
“We updated all the lighting; we installed LED vanity television mirrors, and just gave them a little refresh … We went back to the bathrooms and spent a good amount of money there.
“We also updated all of the furniture. All of the case goods … the beds, the nightstands, the desks, are of this new beautiful design. That work happened January through August. The good news about it happening during the pandemic is we have less guests impacted by (the noise caused by renovations.)”