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Innovation showcase

A luxury Vermont resort serves up success with new customer experiences

COVID-19 changed hospitality. But The Lodge at Spruce Peak set revenue records after moving their food and beverage business to Oracle MICROS Simphony POS.


By Margaret Lindquist | May 2021


It’s no surprise that COVID-19 caused many resorts to close their doors. But when The Lodge at Spruce Peak in Stowe, Vermont, shuttered for three months in mid-2020, the property’s food and beverage services had to stay open to support the 100-plus families who own residences at the lodge. Many of those residents relocated to the resort when jobs and school went online. They needed access to restaurants for takeout and shops for supplies. According to Ian Pomerville, director of food and beverage at The Lodge at Spruce Peak, labor shortages and hygiene requirements meant reconfiguring old methods of feeding guests.

Spruce Peak has four restaurants, but during the pandemic visitors also had the option of dining next to the skating rink or in heated igloos.

Spruce Peak has four restaurants, but during the pandemic visitors also had the option of dining next to the skating rink or in heated igloos.

“Online orders would come in from different restaurants on the resort,” says Pomerville. “Switching in-room dining to to-go instead of delivering plates of lukewarm food to rooms is something we've been trying to do for a long time.”

Replacing room service with a takeout model similar to Uber Eats or Grubhub is just one program Pomerville’s team had been keeping on the back burner. But the shifting guest dynamics that COVID-19 brought to Spruce Peak allowed Pomerville to innovate. For example, they put together a market delivery program that offered ready-to-cook meat and seafood and other meal supplies. A family feast program allowed the kitchen to offer a complete dinner for four. The resort also expanded their customer base by making some of these offerings available to communities in the nearby town (while taking care not to compete with local markets and restaurants, which were under stress from the pandemic).

Creating memorable moments

Once the resort was able to welcome back non-resident guests, Vermont capacity requirements meant that food and beverage services needed to be spread throughout the resort. The resort operates food venues in multiple spaces, including igloos on a terrace, a pool deck, and a lawn. In the past, staff members used regular hotel POS terminals plugged into a land-based connection—not very convenient when you’re trying to create social distance. “Moving terminals all over the hotel consumed hours,” says Pomerville.

He began talking to his team about moving to the cloud in 2019, and the pandemic accelerated this move. “We needed the greater flexibility and faster software updates, because we’re always expanding,” says Pomerville. For example, the amount of time it takes to traverse the 10,000-square-foot skating rink in the winter or the village green in the summer would delay orders and food service. A move to the cloud allowed him to equip employees with POS tablets, enabling them to take orders from anywhere on the property. Now, using Oracle MICROS Simphony, deployed by Pomerville’s team in 2020, servers can send orders to the kitchen and process payments wherever guests are sitting, without leaving customers unattended.

Courtney Walton, senior solutions manager for Oracle Hospitality, says that the current dining environment allows guests to go outside and sit at tables that are farther apart. Servers can go from table to table and send orders immediately using a tablet, which is far more efficient than going from table to workstation. “I think before COVID-19 people were already moving toward a more portable and flexible hardware experience, particularly if they had outdoor outlets like a pool, but the pandemic has really accelerated the transition to tablets and to a more mobile solution,” says Walton. “People are realizing how great it is and they’re not going to want to go back.”

 

“Real innovations simplify work, make it enjoyable, and allow servers to earn more—which are all key to keeping your best employees.”

Ian Pomerville, Director of Food and Beverage, The Lodge at Spruce Peak

Pomerville regards technology as a way to clear a path for his servers, so they can spend more time with guests and less time handling manual, repetitive tasks—while earning more money. “Real innovations simplify work and make it enjoyable,” says Pomerville. “Technology will make my people faster and better, so they can use their downtime to connect with guests.”

This winter, guests were able to socially distance at Spruce Peak and still enjoy New England hospitality.

This winter, guests were able to socially distance at Spruce Peak and still enjoy New England hospitality.

The guest-staff equation

Pomerville believes that new technologies will be the lifeblood of restaurants going forward, as restaurateurs struggle with short staffing and skyrocketing customer expectations. He has three pieces of advice for others in his industry.

  1. Improve staff efficiency—without losing the ability to create a ‘moment.’ The move to in-room online ordering allowed Spruce Peak to scale from 40 orders a night to 80 to 100 a night. Pomerville expects that number to go up with the next round of integrations by simplifying the server’s job, allowing more time to focus on creating the moments that shape the guest experience. “Real innovations simplify work, make it enjoyable, and allow servers to earn more—which are all key to keeping your best employees,” says Pomerville.
  2. Don’t shut yourself off from the app marketplace. In the fall of 2020, Spruce Peak leaders began looking for a system that could support the increasing number of guests allowed under Vermont’s capacity limits. They wanted a solution with a large partner ecosystem and great integration capabilities. As it happens, there’s a gold rush going on in the restaurant app space—for example, the number of partner integrations in the Oracle Marketplace for food and beverage has doubled in the past 12 months. “Oracle is clearly going to give us the ability to shop solutions that could get those things accomplished,” says Pomerville. “That’s where that flexibility down the road is really worth it.”
  3. Invest in training tools that will take staff to the next level. New apps and tools aren’t very useful if they frustrate staff members or complicate a familiar task. Tablets have helped tremendously, says Pomerville, because almost all of his employees already use that type of device. “Training tools that allow you to take somebody's training and education to the next level when they're a new hire and do so as quickly as possible—those are the areas in particular that I'll certainly be looking at.”

Photography: The Lodge at Spruce Peak

Margaret Lindquist

Margaret Lindquist

Margaret Lindquist is a senior director and writer at Oracle.