Lauren Catterton knows a lot about the hospitality business. As General Manager of the Tidewater Inn, she and her staff took a significant hit when the COVID crisis hit. Suffice it to say, she was up to the challenge.
As soon as this happened, we just started researching as much as possible and rewriting hospitality, because they don’t hand you a book. No one said, ‘this is what you guys are going to do when you reopen.’ We had to make it up on our own. We had been in the midst of some renovations when it all hit. We have now finished them, including the Terrasse Spa, which will be opening this Friday.
We have made the properties “COVID-Friendly” and have followed all the CDC guidelines. Some of the changes will be that Hunter’s Taverns, the ballrooms, and the Terrace are all on a socially distant floor plan now. Weddings will have a different look. The tables will have to be six feet apart and no more than six people per table, unless they’re a family of eight. Cocktail reception and dancing will have to be done outside.
When we first opened up the (hotel) rooms, we assigned every other room, and we are keeping them pretty bare-boned. We have two pillows and a blanket, no decorative pillows and such. We don’t have coffee makers and ice bucket. We also don’t do stayover service. Instead, guests can call the front desk and let us know anything they may need. Then housekeeping will put a little bag together for them and leave it on their door. We ask guests that when they depart, they put their trash outside. And most of the time they do. The rooms are left dormant for 24 hours, then we go in, and we fog it with like a, basically Lysol Ghostbuster. Of course, it’s more complicated than that, and we let that sit for another 24 hours. Then we strip it using CDC certified cleaning products. So, the room has to remain vacant for 72 hours before another guest can use it.
Our guests have been really grateful. We don’t open for breakfast. Instead, we leave a breakfast box outside all of the guest rooms at around 5:00 AM. It’s very simple, and it’s at no additional cost. We used to have a self-serve coffee station in our library. Now we will make it for them with gloves and masks, of course, and hand that over to them.
I think our biggest challenge was how do you exude a warm, hospitable manner with a mask on and in the no-touch-time. And so that was my focus with my staff, to be able to create a friendly environment.
We’re starting a partnership with the Avalon on Wednesday evening–Sunlit Summer Song Series. It will be an al fresco style dinner and concert series featuring a prix fixe three-course ticked event with live music.
We have to have a different focus. Our efforts are now on recreational tourism and how we can be a more walkable/bikeable community that will bring people in. We are giving a lot of emphasis and energy to the outdoor dining experience and other things that we can do. I’m now posting every Wednesday that’s not just Easton focused. It’s what you can do in St. Michaels; what you can do in Oxford. Look at all the wonderful things you can do, but just stay here at the Tidewater.