Like other Pennsylvania restaurants, the new Oliver’s Rooftop restaurant, located on the eighth floor of the New Hampton Inn & Suites on Erie’s bayfront, can’t for the moment offer customers a seat in the dining room.
But even under recent restrictions imposed by Gov. Tom Wolf to tamp down the spread of coronavirus, the hotel is free to provide room service.
At a time when hotel occupancy is at a low ebb, Scott Enterprises, which owns the hotel, sees an opportunity in some of those empty rooms.
Starting Thursday, the hotel will begin offering 2½-hour rentals on 30 of its larger suites, which have been set up with dining-room tables to provide in-room dining for between four and eight guests. The charge for the room will be $40 with a minimum food bill of $49.
“We are trying to do something unique,” said Nick Scott Sr., president of family-owned Scott Enterprises. “We are in a hotel and most hotels don’t have any occupancy right now.”
Renting rooms, where waiters can take orders and deliver food and drinks, is a way to address two challenges at the same time.
The approach is not entirely unique.
Chris N. Scott, a vice president of Scott Enterprises, said, “We thought we had invented this concept, but we are reading there are other people in Pennsylvania doing it.”
While restaurants aren’t allowed to provide dine-in service until Jan. 4, serving small groups of people in hotel rooms “is completely legal,” Chris Scott said.
The state-ordered shutdown came at a difficult time for many restaurants, particularly Oliver’s, which had been opened less than two weeks when the governor imposed restrictions.
“The reviews have been great,” Nick Scott Sr. said. “The last day we were there we had people coming for lunch and dinner. People love the whole idea of the place. And all of a sudden, after two weeks, ‘Bang,’ we get shut down. We put our heads together. We thought we should try to do something.”
Dine-in service is being combined for now with a new model for takeout service that allows customers to place their orders and have them delivered to their cars outside the hotel.
The room service option is expected to provide two different seatings in each room daily, with time to clean and sanitize the room in between groups.
Nick Scott Jr., who is also a vice president of the company, said the room service plan should help keep employees on the job.
“We have a fantastic team of people in all of our facilities,” he said. “Under the governor’s latest order, they put a lot of people out of jobs at a time when it’s typically very busy.”
Scott Enterprises isn’t promising the experience will be exactly the same as sitting in the top-floor restaurant with a wall of glass that overlooks the water. But they are hoping it’s an alternative that some will embrace.
“The customers can get a great experience and the employees can continue to do their jobs and make money,” Nick Scott Jr. said.