The Hotel Boulderado is what I would call a large boutique historic hotel. We have 160 rooms and 10,000 square feet of meeting space, and we host a good mix of group and transient business. With our unique atmosphere, convenient Downtown Boulder location, and renowned food and beverage program, we stay busy throughout the year. Like many other hotels, we started 2020 off with the best pace for group business we had ever seen. Our January andFebruary were record-setting, and then March came with talk of the new coronavirus and planner inquiries about cancellation and rebooking. Then, as we all know, everything exploded.
After a few days of group and individual hotel guest cancellations came lay-offs. At first, we let go of 50% of our staff, then days later everyone else, except a few essential employees, were laid off. The state shut down restaurants, and we made the difficult decision to temporarily shutdown the hotel. During that time, we fielded cancellations and called any guests that had existing bookings to let them know about the closure. I would say the first few weeks were primarily reactive, and quite honestly were both scary and depressing.
Our food and beverage team stayed forward thinking during these darker days. They tried to sell barbeque on our patio for a bit with very little success. There were not enough people downtown, and we didn’t have a method for delivery. Re-evaluating their misstep, they, like many, saw an opportunity in selling to-go meals for families, and they began experimenting with different options.
They did a pick-up meal with prime rib for Easter, the next week a locally-caught trout feast, and then we hit the jackpot. A lobster boil to-go. These meals sold like hot cakes, and when the government finally gave us the go-ahead to re-open seated dining, we opened up a pop-up restaurant in our outdoor event space that we named the Lobster Pot Patio. It was busy all summer. We created guest room packages that included lobster dinner for two, a bottle of wine, and a night at the hotel- our “Steamy Lobster Date Night.” It was the most popular room package we have ever had at the hotel.
It’s funny to think that lobster may have saved the Hotel Boulderado, but I think what it has shown me is that it is ok to try and try and try again because even though one idea may fail, the next might be a stroke of genius. While many other hotel sales departments have remained mostly silent during the Covid-19 era, my F&B team’s innovation helped give me the courage to start thinking outside the box and throw some ideas out there to see what sticks. Since, my workload has, I guess “changed” is the best way to put it, I created a team building package for small meetings where my team and I set up and coordinate outside activities for groups. I openly touted zero attrition and no cancellation, and I listen to planners needs and concerns to make my hotel work for them.
It has paid off. I was busy with small groups from August until early November. While my revenue was nowhere near the ballpark of what we did in 2019, I brought in money and made myself valuable. I was sales manager, event planner, banquet manager, AV tech, setup crew, server, billing agent, and more, and so was the rest of my team. We have all worn lots of hats and learned to fill in where needed, and ultimately it has made us stronger than ever.
As we start to wind down during this new uptick of Covid-19and our already slower winter months, I am glad I have the experience of our initial shut down and our various successes and failures. We continue to try new things and do what we can to stay viable until we get to the other side.This weekend, on November 13th, we open our newest pop-up concept,Trattoria di Boulderado, a home-style Italian concept that we are hosting on our open and spacious Mezzanine with views of our 28-foot Christmas Tree. We will also be releasing our “Bold New Year” package and meeting promo to celebrate the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021, which will hopefully be a year of rebuilding and moving forward.