Unlock 1.0: Hospitality gets ready with new codes, more focus on hygiene

Layouts across common areas lobbies such as elevators, restaurants, banquets and service areas will be re-tuned for physical distancing
As operators in the hospitality sector scramble to get their back-end operations ready to service customers and guests, most see the government directives to open for business by 8th June as a welcome move for a sector that has seen sharp contraction in the last two months.

Puneet Chhatwal, Managing Director and CEO of IHCL and President of the Hotel Association of India says that the government signal to open doors is a positive. The industry overall, has been working on several safety and hygiene measures and those are key to gaining customer confidence," he said.

Next week IHCL hotels will open in Goa, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka. "Wherever possible technology will replace touch, with seamless, yet personalised check-ins, check-outs, and dining experiences," Chhatwal said. "We see fewer tables in restaurants and digital or single use menus. Buffets will be a thing of the past."  

Layouts across common areas lobbies such as elevators, restaurants, banquets and service areas will be re-tuned for physical distancing. High-touch areas of hotels will witness more frequent and industrial strength disinfectants used as part of a cleanliness routine.

Marriott International’s spokesperson said all its hotels will in addition to enforcing a new set of standard operating procedures  also appoint a designated  'cleanliness champion'  as well as a 'hygiene-in-charge" to oversee sanitisation related processes. "All Marriott hotel cleaning SOPs will be basis advice of hygiene specialist companies Diversey and Ecolab and rooms will be held for at least 24 hours before letting out. “the spokesperson said.

A spokesperson with the Oberoi Hotel & Resorts said new policies include standard hygiene practices and an emphasis on repeated sanitisation. For example, Oberoi mandates that their desk telephone be cleaned and sanitised using R1 Super after every use. Gloves must be replaced after every two hours and breaks for doorman and porter.

Hospitality is expected to see domestic travellers drive early recovery, and hotel owners are going to focus on optimising cash flows from existing properties.

Vivek Narain Founder and CEO of  The Quorum, a private city club in Gurgaon which has 700 members said that it will open next week. Going ahead, Narain says there will be changes. "RSVP before member visits will be compulsory, as will usage of government apps, temperature checks and hygiene protocols.” The Quorum has 23,000 square feet of carpet area so distancing will not be an issue. Narain agrees with the restrictions on alcohol given that after imbibing people tend to lose focus of their personal space. "Most of all we are telling our employees that getting personal hygiene right is 95 percent of the game," he said.

According to a KPMG report on the impact seen by Covid-19, hospitality is expected to see domestic travellers drive early recovery, and hotel owners are going to focus on optimising cash flows from existing properties rather than on growth opportunities. In the short term, the hospitality industry is actively incorporating best practises from health care sector to counter the spread; notably increased sanitisation, frequent temperature checks and implementation of hygiene barriers, the report said.

Restaurants are more likely to reopen in July versus June, says National Restaurant Association of India President Anurag Katriar. That's because the dining hubs which are New Delhi and Mumbai are more severely impacted  but also the biggest economic zones. "With reverse migration and an immediate labour shortage what is missing is second line cooks and wait staff and the house-keeping and the cleaners. It is a very important part of the industry."

While new SOPs framed around government mandates are in work, eateries may be harder pressed to make them work. The minimum distance according to some zones is 75 feet around a table with a customer. That may be impossible to do in a crowded center like Khan Market. "Also expect pricing to go up with reduction in seating, and a menu with fewer items," he said.  Every product and package coming in to a restaurant will need to be sanitised and sorted, and will require an entire department when you consider that there are thousands of SKUs that are ordered by eateries. "The 9 pm cut-off for alcohol is not great but it’s better than not allowing it at all," Katriar says.

Implementing new procedures wont be easy, says Zubin Saxena, Managing Director and Vice President Operations, South Asia, Radisson Hotel Group. “We remain conscious of the complex environment that we will be operating under and while we do have news SOPs for safety and hygiene, there is no denying that hospitality as we knew it, has changed for the foreseeable future."


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