As we approach the December holidays and end-of-year celebrations, we want to look back and appreciate the success of four properties’ Thanksgiving events – The Lodge at Wakulla Springs, Giants Ridge, Bear Mountain Inn, and the National Park Inn at Mount Rainier. We interviewed the general managers of each property to hear what the highlights were, as well as what they think other managers can learn from their experiences.
Bear Mountain Inn
“This year was wonderful. We increased sales over the previous two years and the event ran without any major issues. We had a few extra tables ready for walk-ins, about 20 walk-ins, that were filled each of the meal periods. We successfully served just over 500 guests,” says Levon, General Manager at Bear Mountain Inn.
The only issues Levon reported a slight understaffing and running out of plates. “It seems everyone averaged about 5 plates, so we will adjust appropriately next year,” says Levon Bedrosian. He also mentioned a few other improvements:
- Adjusting all three seatings to start 1 hour later than this year.
- Expanding the number of available reservations to cover the entire ballroom, aiming for 1050 reservations (350 per seating).
- Accommodating up to 100 walk-ins per seating, leading to a total availability of 1350 for the day.
- Increasing the number of front house employees to handle the expanded seating capacity.
- Adding an extra carving station manned by three staff (two for carving, one for running).
- Employing two additional bartenders and one more utility staff member to cater to increased guest numbers.
Lastly, Levon mentioned a warning for those who use OpenTable. “We encountered challenges with Open Table’s reservation system, which issues a “paid” confirmation to guests even when no payment has been made, just for keeping a credit card on file. This has led to some confusion and instances of guests attempting to leave without paying, believing they had already paid based on the Open Table confirmation.”
“We had a fantastic turnout this year with 593 total seats, we were very happy with the results,” says Steve Rahkola, Marketing Director at Giants Ridge. “Next year, our goal is to improve the ticketing process. We are considering having it be a pre-pay event to make the transition between tables more efficient and to get more guests.”
The Lodge at Wakulla Springs
“Last year was had 501 guests, this year we welcomed 886. They absolutely love spending the holiday with us at the Lodge. We have guests come year after year to attend the event. The generational roots and memories this building holds are so special to the community and we are honored to be the destination for holidays in the community,” says Jesse Askew, General Manager at The Lodge at Wakulla Springs.
The Lodge offers the usual Thanksgiving staples, but fried shrimp and oyster stuffing were the fan favorites. “This year we partnered with a local small business in Wakulla County who provides some of the desserts for the buffet. This was another great way to outreach with the locals and show our support,” says Jesse. She also added that they plan to keep their reservations open through the day of the event next year to account for potential cancelations.
National Park Inn at Mount Rainier
“This year was the best turnout we have had in over 10 years with over 250 covers,” says Desiree Sharpe, Marketing Director at Mount Rainier. While the traditional Thanksgiving feast was appreciated, especially the vegan/vegetarian options, she noted higher wait times due to unexpected business volume- a good problem to have. When asked about improvements for next year, Desiree said, “Everything as we always strive to be better and learn from the past. Our biggest challenge was the wait time for guest seating, though.”
Thank you to all team members involved in making these Thanksgiving day events a success and bringing families who attended an exceptional holiday experience. Your outstanding commitment to service is what makes Guest Services exceptional!