Allegrini 2018

Restaurants and hotels ready to start again. But a certain regulatory framework is needed

The ideas and reflections of realities such as Antinori, Castello Banfi, Lungarotti, Planeta, Terra Moretti, Tommasi and Tasca d’Almerita

The desire to restart is there, the “physical” possibilities also, thanks to wide open spaces, although it is necessary a great economic effort, but also “creative”, to rethink services, catering and so on. But it is essential to understand the framework in which this can be done, both from the point of view of the rules that will establish the Government and Regions, and from the concrete point of view of the restart of transport and the possibility of moving, from abroad and within Italy. As well as, obviously, the economic situation of the people. This is the common sentiment of many leading Italian wine producers who, over the years, have invested heavily in high level catering and hospitality, with their own facilities, often within the winery itself. A channel which, in addition to having become an important economic voice for the company’s balance sheets, is also a very important showcase for wines, which today suffer greatly from the blockage of catering, which many of the high level realities have as their primary and prevailing target.
However, to this day, in the stormy ocean of the Coronavirus crisis, people sail on sight and with lights off, because what is missing is, above all, clarity about the rules and protocols that must be observed. And so there are various “plan a” with different alternatives, to try to be ready, with the knowledge that, at best, it will be a 2020 to play defense. In general, spaces are rethought, which, in many resorts and restaurants linked to the world of wine and wine cellars, fortunately, are not lacking, offers more suitable for family groups and tourism that, unlike the norm, will be mainly Italian, and services linked to catering and food more “tailor made” and smart are reinvented or rediscovered, leaving the door open for shooting adjustments in the race, as told by realities such as Antinori, Castello Banfi, Lungarotti, Planeta, Terra Moretti, Tommasi and Tasca d’Almerita, which, of the union between great wine and hospitality, represent cases of absolute excellence.
“Great strategies can not be done, we have no certainty about the reopening of transfers between regions, airports, and not even on the rules to be followed, in addition to the obvious ones of distance and devices such as gloves or masks, so we go day by day - explains Allegra Antinori, recounting the vision of an articulated reality made up of several restaurants in different estates, from Antinori in Chianti Classico to Guado al Tasso, for example, passing through the Antinori Cantinette in Italy and around the world, Procacci delicatessens, and so on - and we want to reopen them, but doing so in a way that is efficient, because now more than ever, no one can afford to stay open in a way that is not economically viable. With Procacci in Florence we are monitoring food delivery and take-away, in the Cantinetta Antinori in Florence we are trying to understand how to use the interior spaces, how to review the menus in a simpler way, but these are measures that must be calibrated day by day. In Bolgheri, instead, where we have Tenuta Guado al Tasso, we already have many requests from Italian tourism. That compared to the others is an area that is naturally predisposed to large spaces and little assemblage. We will focus on young people, with an offer for example more calibrated on aperitifs or take away for those who will stay in the facilities in the area of Bolgheri, since in any case in the restaurant we will have to limit the spaces and therefore fewer people can enter. And also in Milan our Procacci, which among other things will become Tormaresca Vino e Cucina, with an offer more focused on the products of our estate in Puglia and wines like Calafuria, we will focus more on a youthful and smart offer, focusing on spaces outside. While at Le Mortelle, in Maremma, a reality immersed in nature in a decidedly country setting, we will open by reservation. There is a different question of welcome in the winery, especially in Antinori in the Chianti Classico area of Bargino: it is our operational heart, so the attention is maximum, and for visits to the winery and related activities there will be a delayed reopening, and in any case with activities for small groups, tailor-made tastings. Here we already work every day with only one third of the staff in the office, for reasons of security, distancing, and also for the management of essential services. We can’t risk anything”.
“Since the lockdown we have closed everything, restaurants (La Taverna and La Sala dei Grappoli), hotel (Il Borgo) and wine shop, and we are evaluating a plan to reopen part of the activities, according to the decisions of the Government, understanding what real prescriptions there will be, especially for catering”, explains Enrico Viglierchio, at the helm of Castello Banfi, one of the leaders of Brunello di Montalcino. “The tourism sector is obviously in a very strong crisis. We are waiting for the hotel, because being above all a structure that works a lot abroad, the booking situation is at a standstill because air traffic is at a standstill, and to date also the movement between regions in Italy is at a standstill. It is obvious that the season is compromised, realistically I think that we will start to see movement again in September-October, we will evaluate. The restaurant sector is different, with La Taverna and the wine shop that we will reopen as soon as possible, also to offer a service, to accompany visits to the cellar, and on which we have also made some small investments to give a positive signal, although I do not expect the queue of course. But reopening - points out Viglierchio - is also to do a little running-in with the prescriptions that will arrive, with a view to a full recovery. There are so many practical things to understand: will the paper menus go well, or will we have to make them digital? How are the dishes on the table going to look like, with the cloche, without it? Will we be able to leave the single-dose bottle on the table again? And so the bread basket? All practical aspects that seem predictable, but that must be understood and evaluated as we go along”.
Because it is certain that many things will change, at a concrete level, as pointed out in recent days even by a big of the Italian tourism as Rocco Forte, CEO of Rocco Forte Hotels: “we will return to normal only next spring, in many years never seen such a difficult situation. Many things will change. The hygienic part will be revolutionized: if cleaning a room normally takes half an hour, now we’ll have to plan at least twice as much time. The buffet will no longer be possible and we will have to get used to less crowded hotels, without forgetting that a hotel is only sustainable if it has at least 50% occupancy”. Aspects with which even “the hospitality of wine” will have to deal.
“We are waiting to know the regulations - explains Chiara Lungarotti, at the helm of the Umbrian brand that also has the hotel Le Tre Vaselle, and the most important Wine and Oil Museum of Italy and the world - to understand all the specifications, beyond the distance. That is, the procedures to be adopted in the kitchens, for table service. Where it is possible to use the open spaces is much simpler, where it is not possible you have to understand what to do and equip yourself. In the wine shop, where there is fast food, and in the Osteria del Museo, we are organizing ourselves. Le Tre Vaselle is different: for Le Melograne restaurant it is not a problem of space, but of understanding the procedures. Unfortunately the rules are late, we hope they will arrive in time enough to be able to adapt. But today we are forcibly on the living, and we don’t know anything. But there is a basic concept: the experience of tourism, catering, tasting, is made of conviviality: you must be able to do in an appropriate way from the health point of view, but not distorted, because no one would go on holiday or eat in contexts reminiscent of “hospitals”, it is obvious”.
“It is clear that we are gearing up, but it is impossible to really act until there is a clear regulatory framework, both for the specifics of the sector and for travel and travel. Without clear rules no one can take risks. In the meantime, however, we must think about how to welcome customers in any case, given that the rules that must be followed to the letter will be very important”, stresses Francesca Planeta, at the helm of the Sicilian brand, which, in addition to the reception in the various cellars on the island, also offers hospitality in Palermo with Palazzo Planeta, with the Foresteria Planeta in Menfi, where the restaurant La Foresteria is also located.
“With the open spaces we have and the coming summer season from the point of view of distance we are quite serene. On the food aspect, in the cellar we can organize with light solutions, visits, even when they will resume, will be made in small groups, perhaps on staggered schedules, also because those who will come will have to feel safe first of all.
For the guesthouse, where there is also a hotellerie, the rooms are already well spaced from each other, maybe we will study solutions more suitable for family groups. And consequently we will also adapt the catering, both in the spaces of the restaurant, perhaps reviewing everything from the point of view of single portions, a simpler offer, a reduction of external customers, but also by postponing the possibility of eating in the rooms and apartments for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Also at Palazzo Planeta in Palermo we are thinking about take-away and delivery solutions for the apartments, maybe a ready-made shopping to be found on arrival. But the big question is how to make the customers come. The question seems to be there, we already have many requests for renting houses in Noto, on Etna, there is a desire for Sicily because it is also associated with the idea of large spaces, serenity. But then there is the whole problem of transport, and here we are also on an island. It depends on how the institutions will manage things”.
On the same line of thought, again from Sicily, is Alberto Tasca, at the helm of Tasca d’Almerita, especially from the point of view of the resort of Capofaro, in Salina, but not only. “In the meantime, it is essential to understand what happens in this “Phase 2”, I gave myself 10-15 days to get a better idea. Certainly we are facing a “slow” reopening, with an offer designed more for the domestic market, so thinking about different structure costs, but you have to move very cautiously: it is unthinkable to reactivate hospitality machines that, at full capacity, have very high management costs. Creativity is needed, it is impossible to think of a hospitality and catering service as articulated as before. But at least until May 20, we’ll see what happens, also from the point of view of reopening the infrastructure and solving practical problems, which seem to be trivial but which are fundamental. Here, for example, we are still struggling to find the masks”.
Between Franciacorta and the Maremma, between Albereta (among the vineyards of the Bellavista brand) and L’Andana (which laps La Badiola), the Terra Moretti group is thinking of a revisitation of the offer in the style of a “trip to Italy”, a return to real holidays, as Carmen Moretti explains to WineNews: “we were closed for the first time in 26 years, and it makes a certain effect, but we want to start again. In all our realities we have very large spaces, which is what is now needed, from a practical point of view, but also psychological. We have a natural “social distancing”, the Andana has 500 hectares, in Albereta we have 20 hectares with a park of sculptures, a whole hill of vineyards, the spaces of the internal lodgings are very wide. We propose a return to the sixties, a holiday, which is something that we have always done and offered, but on which we will focus in the world more remarked. The real problem is that the legislation is not clear, for each sector there is a different proposal: clothing, plexiglass panels, protocols, it’s all smoky, there is no regulation, the Government gives neither certainty nor clarity, neither for hospitality nor for catering. And each of us equips ourselves as best we can. We have thought of a more “home” format, with “check-in” in their rooms or in the garden or in one of our lounges, with guests who will have a person almost totally dedicated to their stay, almost a butler: we are training people in this sense, our staff, and therefore there will be a figure who will also take care of the catering aspect, both in the restaurants (Il Leonfelice with a view of Lake Iseo, the Ristorante Benessere of Espace Chenot and La Filiale of Franco Pepe at Albereta, La Trattoria Enrico Bartolini and La Villa at Andana, ed) and in the rooms. Clearly we will focus more on a national target and for “families”, offering packages that bring together nearby apartments, for example. And for catering we will also be open to external guests, but everything is being evaluated. There is no shortage of demand, there are already many bookings, especially for July and August 2020, but much will depend on the regulations, of course. And also on people's reaction, because if I think that there will be a half who will have no problem getting familiar with masks and safety devices, and the desire to go out again will prevail, many will continue to be afraid. We’ll see. All our part of wellness, for example, we are rethinking it in a more medical vision, even if it is a very important organizational and economic effort. On the reception in the cellar, on the other hand, it is all to be evaluated, but in general the orientation is to think of an offer for very small groups”.
“We have already been working on catering for some time with delivery and take away, both with Borgo Antico of the Hotel Villa Quaranta, with Caffè Dante in Verona and also with the Bottega del Vino which is under the management of the Famiglie Storiche of which we are part - explains Piergiorgio Tommasi from Valpolicella, the fourth generation of the family at the helm of one of the most important wine groups in Italy, with estates also in Tuscany, Lombardy, Basilicata and Apulia - not only for the Covid emergency, but also for the future, as a structural possibility, because we are convinced that even when we return to a situation of greater normality, not today, but in 2021, perhaps, those who have become accustomed to being able to order a certain type of offer from home, even from structures of a certain level, will continue to want to do so, and the same goes for wine e-commerce. So we thought of a take-away made with an ad hoc offer, well thought out, with suitable menus both to consult and to order and to prepare, even with wine pairing. Then I hope that we can really reopen from May 18, the premises will be organized with space and offer, but the main problem will be that many will have little economic availability. We need to go back to communicating not fear and medical bulletins, but messages of positivity, starting with the institutions and trust, making Italians responsible. And so those who can return to the restaurant will be able to make a major economy run again. On the other hand, on the other hand - adds Tommasi - hospitality is more difficult to plan. We have to understand who will move again, how, and it’s very difficult. Foreigners will not be in Italy this year, you will have to rely on Italian tourism. There is no lack of space, the offer can be adapted but it will be complicated. At Villa Quaranta we have a conference and business part, here too we will have to understand how companies will move. And then there is the wellness aspect, and here maybe things will start again sooner because I think that, always net of the economic situation, many people will want to come back and take care of body and soul. Moreover, on the hospitality in the cellar, we’re starting again as far as permitted: the wine shop, for example, guarantees delivery and take away. The real visits, instead, we will study them for small groups, maybe between relatives, looking for different solutions also for the tasting, as, for example, we will give the wines to taste at home, with the possibility to connect via webinar with the cellar staff who will tell them. Thinking also about an offer of experiences and activities that could be interesting also for a more local audience, which will be even more important in the coming months”.
A framework of initiatives, therefore, heterogeneous and colorful, where the common denominator is the desire to restart, aware that the conditions, on the side of businesses, albeit with difficulty, there would be. But without legislation, with the institutions that are stalling, everything risks remaining in vain.

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