Eye on Hospitality: Hotels and Restaurants Plan for Disasters, Serve Their Communities

Eye on Hospitality: Hotels and Restaurants Plan for Disasters, Serve Their Communities

By Paul Schlienz

 

Service is what the hospitality industry is all about. Whether it’s providing incredible service to a hotel guest or making a visit to a restaurant a memorable one by giving service above and beyond all expectations, the hospitality industry really is hospitable.

During times of crisis, the hospitality industry’s penchant for service comes out even more strongly than usual.

Knowing they would have stranded hotel guests and residents fleeing the path of Hurricane Irma days before the storm was on course to hit Florida, hotels put their emergency preparation plans into action. At the Hilton West Palm Beach, general manager John Parkinson made sure he had enough food for 1,400 people. He checked to see if the hotel had topped up on fuel and made sure generators were working. Additionally, the hotel put flashlights and glow sticks in every guestroom, and public areas such as ballrooms were prepped to entertain guests with movies and toys for young guests.

“The lead-up can provide a lot of stress, not only for the team but the people coming into town,” said Parkinson. “Disasters happen. There’s this uneasiness during hurricanes that lasts for multiple days.”

In areas with mandatory evacuations, hotels had to help rush guests out. In areas less hard hit, hotels became shelters.

Mark Kukulski, who oversees managed hotels for Wyndham Hotel Group, says Wyndham employees get year-round training to deal with hurricanes and other disasters. And Wyndham’s properties are physically adapted to deal with such situations.

“We’re a safe haven or a place to house people,” said Kukulski.

Restaurants are frequently viewed as a sign of community stability. One thing to keep in mind, however – and this is especially important for restaurants – the Federal Emergence Management Administration estimates that approximately 40 percent of small businesses never reopen after a disaster.

“For a restaurant to get back up and open and support the community by having a place to go and eat is important,” said Bill Strout, president of Intrepid Direct Insurance, a restaurant franchise business insurance agency. “And some delivery might be needed as well because some people might not be able to get out of their homes or their cars might be unusable.”

Preparation is the key to surviving a disaster.

It usually takes businesses approximately 14 days to recover from natural disasters, according to Scott Teel, senior director of communications for Agility Recovery Solutions. But for businesses with extensive property damage, it could take months or even years to recover from a disaster.

For information on how to prepare your business for disasters of all types, a good place to start is the Washington Military Department Emergency Services’ Business Preparedness page.

“Your recovery is dependent on what happened prior to the incident,” said Teel.

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