by Calanit Atia
When Caesars Entertainment opened three of its Las Vegas properties on June 4, Don Ross (pictured right), VP of meeting operations, Las Vegas Region, oversaw new food and beverage procedures. Ross, with 40 years of expertise, supervises the catering, conference services, banquets and meeting services teams for nine Caesars Entertainment properties in Las Vegas and has also been instrumental in aligning the convention services of Caesars Entertainment properties outside of Las Vegas. Exhibit City News spoke with Ross about the changes:
ECN: What are the new procedures for cleaning?
DR: Our industry has been very focused on cleaning and sanitation protocols but have always hidden the work from our guests. We would do all our heavy cleaning late at night so as not to be in front of our guests. This work would be done starting at 2 a.m. with the entire place getting washed and cleaned and keeping everything behind the scenes. Now everything will be done so the guests can see it. Wherever people go, there will be people wiping down any touchpoints, attendants scrutinizing the bathroom, and people cleaning handrails.
ECN: What changes will there be for food service?
DR: Specifically, for food service, the new approach will be that nothing will be self-served. In other words, there will be no food service where the customer will touch utensils, serve himself or herself, and put utensils down, so the next guest grabs the same utensils and use it again.
We can offer buffets but we are encouraging customers to have plated meal functions rather than buffets. If a customer prefers buffets we are prepared to provide but we can only provide from a single side, and all food items have to be served by an attendant. Now, we will work with our customers to explain that if they have a large group, it might not be the best to do buffets because of the length of time it will take to serve their guests. Also, because of the social distancing aspect—keeping them six feet apart—we are recommending to our clients to do plated functions.
For the immediate future, having a buffet attendant is manageable for smaller groups but not for larger groups, it is just not feasible unless they are not concerned with timing. The amount of room it will take, because of the social distancing, will slow things down. A plated meal can be served and cleared in 45-60 minutes. We are trying to think of everything we can do to expedite service and not create long lines and interfere with the customers meeting schedule.
We are changing the procedure in the dining room by rolling silver rather than setting the tables with forks, spoons and knives separated on the tables. Waiters will be wearing masks and gloves.
In the past, when we served the entrée or salad, we would have the plate cover removed before serving, now we will serve the plate with the cover and remove it in front of the guest, so the customer will see that no one contaminated his food. There will be no more presetting bread, rolls, iced tea, water, salt and pepper. Everything will be served individually.
Furthermore, for meeting refreshes in order not to have cross-contamination during seating, we recommend our clients assign seats, so our cleaning time between breaks and meals will be faster, and we do not have to do a complete room sanitizing that can take hours.
Coffee breaks will be different, as well. An attendant will now pour the coffee, and all break items will be individually wrapped. Evening receptions and parties are easier to provide food stations with our chefs preparing and serving to the guests’ individual plates and bartenders serving beverages because these events are longer and not as rushed as a breakfast or lunch.
ECN: What about vendors who are needed to service the meeting rooms?
DR: Our vendors, such as our in-house audio/visual company, are going through the same testing that we do and get their temperatures checked daily too. What has changed is if you use the same room for multiple sessions, we will have to leave a tech in the room to clean the area around the podium, computers, projectors and install a new microphone between speakers.
Things are changing daily, and, as we learn more, we can modify our protocols. We are genuinely looking forward to welcoming our customers back to our properties.
Calanit Atia is an award-winning event planner and entrepreneur, founder and president of A to Z Events, Las Vegas DMC and Entertainment Agency, 2020 MPI Women’s Advisory Board Member, Air Force Veteran and speaker. Contact her at Info@AtoZevents.com
This story originally appeared in the July/August issue of Exhibit City News, p. 18. For original layout, visit https://issuu.com/exhibitcitynews/docs/ecn_july-august_2020