It's safety first as GCU Hotel, Canyon 49 Grill reopen

Canyon 49 Grill reopened Monday and is takeout only for the time being. GCU Hotel also is open again.

By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau

Brett Cortright likes to hold doors open for people. It’s part of who he is and what he practices in his role as General Manager of Grand Canyon University Hotel.

Brett Cortright

But as he was walking out of a convenience store the other day, he was reminded of the major changes the COVID-19 pandemic has inflicted on the hospitality industry he loves so dearly – and how his hotel and the adjoining Canyon 49 Grill had to adjust as they reopened Monday.

Cortright held the door open for an older gentleman, then kept holding it open because he didn’t want the man to touch it. He was respecting the fact that the elderly are more susceptible to the virus, which can linger on things like door handles.

It’s just one example of what customers will be seeing in the coming weeks as the hotel and Canyon 49 ramp up again. The hotel and restaurant will feature the latest in virus-prevention initiatives, Cortright and Dr. Jennifer Elfenbein, Instructor of Hospitality Management for the Colangelo College of Business, intend to educate students about the new social-distancing norms – both on the job and in class.

When the Grill allows seating again, the patio will have a misting system.

For now, Canyon 49 is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays. It will be a lunch menu for takeout only.

“We will definitely err on the side of caution when it comes to opening up seating,” Cortright said.

When diners eventually are allowed to eat on the premises, they probably will be limited to the patio for a while. To make it more comfortable in the summer heat, a misting system has been installed.

That will be just one of several big changes guests will notice. With time to brainstorm, Cortright and his staff have been busy.

The pool at GCU Hotel will be covered by a giant shade structure.

The hotel pool will be covered by a giant shade structure, and Cortright is looking to incorporate activities such as a drive-in movie on Friday and Saturday nights. The film will be projected on the wall of Building 66 next door.

He even is arranging to have cilantro grown next to the restaurant – it will make Canyon 49’s salsa that much fresher.

But even in the face of the COVID-caused changes, the Grill’s commitment to service, a well-established trait of its student managers, won’t waver.

“Things will look a little different,” Cortright said, “but we’ll do what service professionals do – look for eyes that need something.”

Dr. Jennifer Elfenbein

Elfenbein will look to Cortright to make the appropriate changes in the hospitality courses she teaches.

“It’s fantastic that we have the hotel and restaurant as a resource because he’s getting the most up-to-date information that he has to deal with from an operations perspective,” she said.

In the Food and Beverage Service Management and Operations class (HOS 460), an assignment on sanitation and safety protocols will include contagious viruses, and students will be asked to design the kitchen and dining room layouts of a restaurant to incorporate the new safety and social-distancing requirements.

The Hotel Operations class (HOS 440) will feature the latest information on room cleaning, temperature checks and social distancing.

Elfenbein is confident the entire industry will show its ability to innovate now that restaurants are slowly reopening.

“It is a business, but there’s also a duty of care,” she said. “Guests and employees have always come first. Any decision that’s made is always about the guest. Will this benefit the guest?

“Yes, we have to stay in business and look at our bottom-line profits, and I’m a former Director of Finance (for Four Seasons) – I understand the importance of that. But, really, it’s thinking long term. If you do the right thing for the guest, it’s all about customer loyalty.”

And getting them to come through the door.

Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].

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Related content:

GCU Today: Hospitality students served well by new manager role

GCU Today: Hospitality program grows in reach, reputation

GCU Today: GCU checks in with hotel, hospitality program

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