Location and Clientele
Nestled within a U-shaped entertainment mecca, Silver Cloud Hotel’s stadium location has never wanted for business. If the Seattle Mariners weren’t playing at T-Mobile Park, then there was a good chance the adjacent CenturyLink Field & Event Center was hosting a Seahawks game, concert, or trade show. The waterfront, plus shops, restaurants, and galleries, are also all nearby. Even with all this activity and other foodservice options, Silver Cloud drew guests to its on-site restaurant, Jimmy’s On First.
With professional sports, live shows, conferences, and other mass gatherings cancelled, Silver Cloud has felt the sting, particularly with regard to its dining business.
“We took the brunt of the hit F&B–wise for sure. The majority of our business is driven by the stadium and events center,” says Jim Goodman, executive chef at the Silver Cloud - Stadium and Jimmy’s On First. “We’re usually the ones who don’t have to focus on driving volume. Now we are the ones suffering the most from the loss of these events.”
The family-owned, regional hotel group has 10 locations—all in the greater Seattle area, save for one in Portland, Oregon—but only half have a full-service restaurant. As the largest property within the group, the stadium location’s one-two punch of entertainment and dining meant that the 211-room hotel and on-site restaurant were always busy. In a somewhat cruel reversal of fortunes, the second largest Silver Cloud has had a steady flow of business since the coronavirus began; it sits right across the street from the massive Swedish Medical Center.
For hotels located in or near residential neighborhoods, on-site restaurants might be a boon. If room bookings are down, locals may still order carryout or dine al fresco. Silver Cloud isn’t in such an area, but Goodman says Jimmy’s On First is fortunate in that, unlike many restaurants, it has a hotel network to fall back on when times get tough.
“I try not to look, but I see the list of area restaurants that have closed. Some of these have been here 10, 20, 30 years, and they’ve always been busy. But they’re small and don’t have that kind of parachute,” Goodman says.
On the other side of the country, the Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa feels a world apart. The Florida property—including its trio of on-site restaurants plus a bar—closed March 25 and used the subsequent months to re-imagine the guest experience, establish best practices, and train staff before welcoming guests back July 1. Its somewhat isolated location on a peninsula due east of Palm Beach, Florida, is especially appealing in the age of social distancing.
With so many Americans cancelling their travels to far-flung locales, resorts (especially those within driving distance) can be an attractive substitute. Middle-income families may choose to splurge on a hotel getaway. At the same time, patrons who frequent Five Diamond resorts like Eau Palm Beach are less likely to feel the budgetary pinch brought on by the pandemic.
“I think if you’re a luxury hotel property, you’re catering to the 1 percent level a lot. Right now, they can’t travel internationally,” Rudolf says. “Disposable income is not an issue, so they’re benefiting from that drivable [destination]. All that money they were going to spend on a plane ticket or a cruise somewhere, now they can put it into a really upscale experience at a place nearby.”
Although Eau Palm Beach had this positioning in its favor, leadership knew it would be for naught without the proper systems in place. So food and beverage director Tito Rodriguez began a reconnaissance mission that went beyond the resort’s home base of Florida and even outside of the hospitality sector itself. In addition to reaching out to Michelin-starred properties and restaurant contacts around the world, Rodriguez also looked at the auto industry and hospitals to see if certain practices might be parlayed to Eau Palm Beach.
Although it had a plan in place by late spring, the resort delayed its re-opening until the following month to allow for ServSafe training and certifications, on-site modifications, and the delivery of specialty equipment, some of which, he notes, was on backorder due to COVID-created demand. In the end, the wait was well worth it.
“By the time our guests have breakfast, they are so relaxed and have so much confidence in how we are handling stuff that they’re not looking to take a chance and go off-property,” Rodriguez says, adding that he’s heard of guests cancelling reservations in town to instead dine on-site. “Some of this, I believe, has to do with the fact that we’re creating consumer confidence within our property.”