Life in the hospitality and events industry in a COVID-19 world is going to be a little different from how we have always known and loved it to be. It may take until a vaccine has been discovered that people from all over can safely embrace in a hug at a big wedding celebration, or shake hands when meeting a new colleague. We may need to wear masks longer than we’d like, hiding the smiles and facial expressions we see between friends, but ultimately as an industry, we will find the creative solutions to event trends and decor that can provide us with the enjoyment the industry gives us while keeping us safe.
Events may be different, but different can be a good thing! Venues are coming up with creative ways to give guests the experiences they love while abiding by the COVID-19 safety protocols.
Parking lot movies and concerts
Drive-in movies and concerts are two activities that families and friends love to attend together, especially during the summer months that we are in right now. Bel Aire Diner in Queens, N.Y., put together a makeshift drive-in movie theater in order to drum up some business. They set a big movie screen in the parking lot where cars lined up in spaces to watch the movie and enjoy concessions from the snack bar via a mobile ordering app. The showings sold out, and other restaurants have adopted the idea of creating their own makeshift theaters. Parking lot concerts have also sprung up, allowing cars to line up similarly to see a movie but to watch a live performance.
If your customers can’t or don’t feel safe gathering at a venue for a private party, bring the party to them in the form of a microparty. Pizza Barbone, a traveling pizza oven catering business based in Hyannis, Mass., now offers microparties for gatherings of 20 or fewer guests held at a client’s home. Set up shop in your client’s backyard, living room, or neighborhood space and bring the catered food, beautiful decor, and delicious desserts right to their location. Many vendors provide on-site staff wearing PPE to assist with event operations as well.
We have already begun seeing how important warm weather and outdoor spaces are to the restaurant industry this summer. Restaurants have been expanding to take over extra space in the nearby streets, outlining circles 6 feet apart for seating, and setting up big tents to accommodate all weather conditions like Tuscan Kitchen in New Hampshire. The outdoor spaces are perfect for dining and for private events.
From virtual wine tastings with sommeliers to cooking classes with top chefs, musical performances from restaurant banquet rooms, trivia nights, and more, restaurants are finding creative ways to bring the customer experience to everyone at home. Whiskey Cake’s locations have virtual pairing dinners several times a month that include chefs and master distillers as hosts. Yes, doors are opening across the country, but there are still people who will not be ready to return quite yet, so don’t forget about them.
Staff personal protective equipment
While this may not seem like a “decor” item, the masks and gloves worn by restaurant staff can have a beneficial impact on the venue operations beyond just safety. According to what we heard on Social Hour from Holly Carpenter, Senior Sales Manager for A. Marshall Hospitality in Tennessee, her staff wears either black or blue gloves to show the different stages of service. For example, greeting guests and taking drink orders require blue gloves, while serving food means black gloves. This detail may not be noticeable to guests, but it helps managers ensure their employees are changing gloves throughout the dining experience, and also shows what stage of service the guests are in at the moment.
Custom event personal protective equipment
While talking about staff PPE, another option to consider could be offering custom PPE to event guests at a certain cost. While so many things may feel out of the guests’ control due to the extra safety protocols, choosing the color or pattern of PPE the staff wear to go along with the event theme could be an added touch. According to a few of our customers, they have gotten requests from guests to do just this. Other venues have introduced special masks, more specifically during food service, that shows the item being served on the mask. Heading to the staff member dressed in PPE serving your food? He will be wearing a mask with a slice of pizza across the front to show that is what he will be serving.
Personal bento boxes and to-go containers
Small and completely private events have already started to make a comeback in some states. The big question at the moment – how will we safely serve food to event guests? The answer is continuously evolving, but one thing that has been a common trend is to create personal appetizer arrangements. Personal bento boxes, Chinese food style to-go containers, mason jars, and goodie bags with individual appetizer servings have been safe and creative solutions — like Zuma’s beautiful boxes — to the typical passed appetizers. After enjoying appetizers, venues are going for the plated meal approach when possible to avoid any unnecessary contact that a buffet would give.
Decor as social distancing dividers
Strange or not, restaurants have been using mannequins, stuffed animals, pillows, plants, and cardboard cutouts to mark social distancing protocols within the space. Whether it be a table full of mannequins to show a table is to be kept empty, or a wooden cutout next to a seat to divide the table, restaurants are using these funny accessories to mark where people should not sit.
More resources for event professionals
Event trends and decor will continue to evolve as the industry navigates the many updates to come regarding COVID-19 regulations. Check out our blog posts with the latest trends or join our biweekly Social Hour sessions on Zoom to connect with other event professionals sharing the latest industry tips. Click here to register for the next Social Hour, taking place on Thursday, July 23 at 3 pm EST.