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Operator profile: Moersch Hospitality Group

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Sue Veldman of Moersch Hospitality Group talks to Liz Cooley about how her company pivoted and adjusted to mitigate against Covid-19's impact

As businesses across the United States reopen for on-property dining, we speak with Sue Veldman about the measures the Moersch Hospitality Group has put in place to welcome back guests.

The Group produces its own wine, beer and spirits and includes the Round Barn Winery, Tabor Hill Restaurant & Winery and Free Run Cellars.

How did Covid-19 impact the business in the early stages? 

We needed to pivot quickly on how we operate all of our properties; closing for a short time in order to rework our procedures and plan how to best serve our customers.

How did you adjust to deal with the restrictions of lockdown? 

We quickly adjusted for on-property service, with carry out/curbside pickup only – a little later adding delivery at The Round Barn Brewery & Public House. We added curbside hours on the Saturday at the Round Barn Estate and Tabor Hill Winery & Restaurant. We closed our tasting rooms until the quarantine guidelines were lifted by the state and, of course, implemented CDC and State guidelines for creating a safe workplace for our employees. During this time, we also focused on promoting our products through our online store. All measures were successful and we were able to continue to serve our guests in a safe manner and still provide great products and service.

What have been the most important considerations as you reopen? 

We are committed to creating a safe environment for our employees and guests to return to our properties. This has been the driving consideration as we prepared to open – keeping our staff and guests safe while still continuing to provide an exceptional experience. We have followed the guidelines for reopening, at 50% capacity, and masks will be worn by our employees as well as gloves, constant cleaning, and disinfection of common spaces and tables. We are shifting our on-property service to table service in order to help adhere to the 6ft social distancing guidelines: tables will be spaced appropriately as well as limited to up to eight people per table. Guests will also need to wear masks until they are seated. Innovation has become a priority for us as well – we knew we were going to need to figure out new ways for our guests to enjoy our properties and maintain social distancing guidelines. One of the new experiences we will be sharing with our guests is the addition of 3.5 miles of hiking trails in between the Round Barn Estate and Tabor Hill Winery & Restaurant.

What did your team find easy/difficult?

We are a very customer service focused business so the easy and important part was staying engaged with our customers; continuing the dialog via email, web and social, while providing great products and customer service through the channels we were able to keep open. What has been difficult is to plan. There is only so much you can do ahead of time without knowing what the guidelines will be from the state.

What lasting impact do you expect Covid to have on both your business and the wine industry as a whole? 

The capacity restrictions will continue to affect many properties – we are used to hosting much larger groups so we need to think differently and look for new ways to expand to accommodate people. There is so much unknown about Covid and the expected resurgence of the virus. Until we know more we will need to continue to be nimble and move swiftly in response.

How are you feeling about the re-opening? 

We are so excited to open. It’s been busy getting everything ready, but we’re ready to welcome guests back to enjoy all of our properties.

Liz Cooley