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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.
“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).
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.”
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.”
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.
Photography: The Lodge at Spruce Peak