The “new normal” for DINE inns and why they should be your first getaway this summer

people with masksThe COVID-19 pandemic has seeped its way into the corners of every business in America, including the Distinctive Inns of New England (DINE).  Closed right now but poised to re-open in the coming weeks, the 11 DINE inns are busy deep cleaning, developing brand new protocols and getting ready to welcome you with waves across the room instead of hugs for now.  From Maine and Massachusetts to Connecticut and Cape Cod, DINE innkeepers are working hard to create a “new normal” that maintains all the hospitality and warmth that you know and love from DINE inns, while incorporating new social distancing, cleanliness and safety protocols.

One thing we know…DINE inns will offer the personalized, welcoming, bespoke, innkeeper-owned lodging experience that we think travelers will seek as they dip their toes back into travel. With the innkeeper/owner on premises, you can rest assured that close attention will be paid to providing the safest and most welcoming experience you can find.  There’s no need to wait for corporate policies to go through when changes are needed.  Innkeepers can easily shift gears with guests’ suggestions and needs. No need to get on a plane either – DINE inns are within an easy drive for millions of travelers from New England and the Mid-Atlantic area.

What can you expect from your DINE inn experience when they reopen?

Of course the experience will vary from inn to inn but DINE innkeepers are working hard from top to bottom to create new cleaning, safety and food service plans.  Let’s take a look at some of the ways things might change or stay the same at your favorite DINE inns. The changes will differ greatly from inn to inn, but here are a few of the modifications you might see.

Rabbit Hill Inn holding HUGS signWhen you arrive at DINE inns

For those used to receiving a hug from an innkeeper when they arrive, get your elbows ready.  Elbow bumps or even more socially distanced “hugs” from innkeepers may come in the form of the welcome committee holding a HUGS sign! At some inns, the front desk may be walled off to promote social distancing, at other inns you may find new partitions.  Either way, DINE innkeepers will respect their guests’ needs to keep the obligatory six-feet apart, and embrace ways to make this possible.

Some DINE innkeepers have explained that rather than accompanying guests to their rooms the guests will be given letters to introduce them to the room. This ensures that no one will enter the room after it’s been fully sanitized except the guest.

In addition, at some inns, keys will be left in the room for the guest, also to ensure that no one touches that key except the cleaning person who sanitized the key then left the room.

Once inside the room, high touch items such as in-room info books may become a thing of the past.  Instead, you’ll find a link to a full guide to guest information, menus from local restaurants and more.

Breakfast and refreshments at DINE inns

Plan on seating in breakfast and common rooms to be farther apart to promote social distancing.  It’s possible this means that breakfast times may be staggered or assigned because there’ll simply be less seating.  This will vary from inn to inn.  You may also be asked for your breakfast choices the night before and have breakfast delivered to your room rather than in a common dining room.  Breakfast in bed? What a nice change!

breakfast plate at Rabbit Hill InnSay goodbye to self-serve buffets at breakfast and at teatime.  You can expect meals to be individually served to cut down on the number of hands touching the food, plates and serving utensils.  It’s possible that your server will wear a mask and gloves too. Alternatively, some innkeepers will require servers to wash hands between each plate being delivered.

During teatime, expect afternoon refreshments to be upon request and/or individually wrapped and served – another nice change in terms of personalized service!

You’ll find disposable/one-time-use menus describing options and choices.  In addition, expect salt-and-pepper shakers to be cleaned between guests, and tables to be fully sanitized between guest seatings and/or used only once during breakfast or dinner service.

You may also find fewer items on each table.  For example, napkin rings may be foregone, and silverware will arrive wrapped in napkins that are delivered after you are seated.

Many inns may individually wrap muffins, cookies, fruit and other items to ensure that they are not touched after they’re baked or washed.  You’ll also find plenty of hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes near any buffet, coffee service or high traffic area.

Cleaning DINE inns

DINE innkeepers have spent the weeks during shut-downs deep cleaning their inns.  New protocols from the CDC are being adopted and cleaning supplies following CDC and ALHA orders (i.e. with increased bleach and/or alcohol) are being purchased.  Innkeepers are seeking new suppliers of hand sanitizer so they can be fully stocked and make plenty available to guests throughout the inn.

Some innkeepers are planning to use ultraviolet light to assist in cleaning rooms.  Others are planning to clean every hanger in rooms in-between guests.  Plan on increased attention to cleanliness from housekeepers wearing masks and gloves.  The last thing that will be wiped down will be the doorknobs to the room as the housekeeper leaves, and rooms will remain closed until the guest enters.

After departure, when possible, guest rooms will remain “still” for a 24 hour cool down period before housekeeping service to protect the housekeeping staffs.

Each DINE inn is developing its own plan, but you can count on increased attention to cleanliness in each room from innkeeper/owners who are fully invested in the safety of their guests and the maintenance of spotless guest rooms.

DINE innkeepers at Grafton Inn, Nov 2019Of course we’re just scratching the surface on new protocols to ensure safety here.  Yet, this kind of immoderate focus is a signature point for owner-occupied DINE inns.  The same person(s) who owns the inn is also invested in their guests’ safety and comfort.  DINE innkeepers are the Directors of Food & Beverage, Housekeeping, Finance, Marketing, Guest Relations and more – all rolled into one invested person.  It’s this kind of focus on the guests’ experience that will set DINE inns apart as Americans start to travel again.  A smaller, personalized and customized lodging experience will be the ideal way to jump start travel that has been forgone for the past few months and once again enjoy a romantic getaway that is well overdue. And don’t worry, those fabulous amenities that make DINE inn getaways so special will all still be awaiting.

We all look forward to opening the doors to DINE inns in the upcoming weeks. Start making plans to visit DINE inns once again, and don’t forget when you’re ready, book direct.

In Connecticut: Inn at Harbor Hill Marina in Niantic

In Maine:  Camden Maine Stay Inn in Camden and Inn at English Meadows in Kennebunkport.

In New Hampshire:  Manor on Golden Pond in Holderness & Chesterfield Inn in West Chesterfield

In Massachusetts:  Harbor Light Inn in Marblehead, Gateways Inn & Restaurant in Lenox, Deerfield Inn in Historic Deerfield and Captain’s House Inn in Chatham on Cape Cod.

In Vermont:  Rabbit Hill Inn in Lower Waterford & Grafton Inn in Grafton

In New Hampshire:  Manor on Golden Pond in Holderness & Chesterfield Inn in West Chesterfield