“I’m a people pleaser,” says Angela Comstock, General Manager of the Grafton Inn in Grafton, VT, one of the Distinctive Inns of New England (DINE). In a recent zoom meeting, DINE innkeepers talked about operations while Covid continues to be a risk with its Delta variant. I was struck by how so many of the DINE innkeepers have found ways to continue the fine hospitality that makes these ten inns distinctive, within a safe environment. While so many other hotels have eliminated services and amenities, DINE inns continue to find ways to adapt while preserving the comfort, luxury and welcoming settings for which they are so well known. Covid or not, customer service still reigns at DINE inns, and along with that comes “yes”.
Keep in mind that throughout the spring, summer and fall, travelers have flocked to these New England inns, seeking the smaller, independently owned and intimate environments that DINE properties offer. Putting aside overseas or Canadian vacations where travel restrictions interrupted plans, DINE inns have offered the perfect alternative for romantic getaways and outdoor fun. Yet, at the same time, the travel industry has seen the lowest employment pool in decades.
A lack of international student visas coupled with Covid concerns among workers plagued innkeepers who generally depend upon these groups for help at the inns.
DINE innkeepers wear many hats as it is, but added housekeeper, dishwasher, gardener, soon to be snowshoveler, and many additional roles traditionally filled by employees who simply weren’t available this year. Yet, despite their 14-hour days/7 days a week, DINE innkeepers continued to say “yes”.
How? The beloved breakfast buffets have returned to Rabbit Hill Inn, Inn at Harbor Hill Marina and Manor on Golden Pond, offering bountiful choices of fruits, baked goods, cereals and/or granola and yogurt. These are followed up with a choice of savory or sweet breakfast entrees. At Grafton Inn, early risers will find coffee and individually wrapped sweet treats available in the library before breakfast starts then a full breakfast served in the breakfast room. All other DINE inns serve a multi-course breakfast offering coffee, choice of juices, homemade fruit or baked starters and a sweet or savory entrée. At Chesterfield Inn, Grafton Inn and Deerfield Inn (on weekends; in-room service midweek) you’ll choose options from the menu. At Camden Maine Stay Inn, Captain’s House Inn and Inn at English Meadows, breakfast is creatively prepared and served with a menu of the day. At Harbor Light Inn, it’s breakfast in bed! The Harbor Light Inn offers a breakfast menu where guests select items the night before. Breakfast is served on a breakfast tray. Guests can easily take their breakfast trays back to their room if they prefer to dine privately or enjoy them in the dining room (The Deerfield Inn offers breakfast trays midweek, Monday – Thursday too). All DINE inns offer alternatives if guests would prefer something other than what’s on the menu (with advance notice please), and gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, non-dairy, and other specialty dietary restrictions can always be accommodated with advance notice.
Afternoon tea may be individually plated or self-serve but is still a highlight of your stay at Captain’s House Inn, Rabbit Hill Inn, Deerfield Inn or Manor on Golden Pond (upon request). Tea, coffee and homemade treats are available afternoons at Chesterfield Inn, Camden Maine Stay Inn and Inn at English Meadows.
At the Inn at Harbor Hill Marina, every evening guests can gather in the dining room to enjoy complimentary wine, cheese and each other’s company. At Captain’s House Inn, guests help themselves to port in the library too.
Many of these amenities have been eliminated at chain hotels. The complimentary breakfasts are either no longer available or have been replaced with “to go” bags with packaged, defrosted pastries and snack bars. On a recent road trip where chain hotels were the only option, I was struck by how often the answer was “no” or “not available” instead of finding creative ways to maintain amenities and still keep guests safe. It was a distinct departure from the kind of hospitality offered at DINE inns.
Your guest experience is so much nicer when the answer to your request is yes. Of course, it can’t always be, but you’ll find the “yes we can” response creatively delivered at your favorite DINE inns most of the time. Don’t forget to book directly with the inn when you make a reservation for your next getaway.
In Connecticut: Inn at Harbor Hill Marina in Niantic
Top photo shows afternoon tea served in the Beehive Parlor at the Deerfield Inn. Photo by innkeeper, Laurie McDonald.