Committed to Community
Eating at a Meeting Podcast Episode 42
Running a 110-year-old luxury hotel —Tennessee’s Only Forbes Five Star and AAA Five Diamond Hotel — is no small task, let alone during a global pandemic. In this episode of the Eating at a Meeting, Tracy chats with Dee Patel, managing director of The Hermitage Hotel to get her insights as a trailblazer in the industry and how she’s successfully navigated the tumultuousness of 2020, including maintaining the hotel’s commitment to taking care of the local community.
What do safe, inclusive & sustainable food and beverage experiences look like to you?
First and foremost you need to focus on your local community. As an integral part of the Nashville community for over one hundred years, The Hermitage Hotel is committed to supporting our city’s economic development, while also preserving its natural and historic landscapes. We’re lucky to have a decades long partnership with the Land Trust for Tennessee, which is dedicated to land conservation and preservation. As a direct result of this partnership, not only have we raised more than $750,000 for the fund, but we also have the pleasure of serving food almost exclusively cultivated on The Land Trust for Tennessee’s Glen Leven Farm at our restaurant, Capitol Grille.
Do you have an example of a situation that negatively effected you and/or other individuals or groups’ food and beverage experience?
Certainly the coronavirus pandemic has been one of the most trying times in my career and has hit the hospitality industry particularly hard. What keeps me motivated is the understanding that there will be resolution. The hotel serves as a reminder of this. Throughout its storied history, The Hermitage Hotel has faced its set of challenges, the coronavirus pandemic being one, with a spirit of resilience. I use this motto as motivation for me and my team to develop creative responses to recent challenges. For example, we now offer opportunities for guests of our local community to enjoy a piece of The Hermitage at home with new services like our to-go Afternoon Tea at Home. Recently, we also served Thanksgiving dinners to-go, which was a hit and will be offering Christmas meals to go as well.
What do you wish people knew about what you do?
I hope people see how proud I am to live in Nashville and to be an ambassador for the city and The Hermitage Hotel. As a managing director, you wear a lot of hats. When you represent such an iconic property as The Hermitage Hotel, one of those roles is facilitating strong relationships with the local community.
I’m proud of the community I’ve forged for myself here in Nashville both professionally and personally. I’m so honored to have the pleasure to participate in organizations where I’ve built friendships and found peer mentors. Through my involvement in organizations, such as The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee and Historic Capitol Corridor Foundation, I’ve been lucky to play a hands-on role in positively impacting my community.
What is a best practice you use/or have seen to create safe and inclusive F&B experiences?
In addition to the sustainable food options we provide through Glen Leven Farm, we have also placed an emphasis on sanitization to ensure the health and safety of our guests and staff. To ensure the highest standard of safety, we partnered with leading experts at the Nashville-based Meharry Medical College who reviewed and implemented enhancements to our health and safety practices. Behind the scenes, new cleaning technologies, such as electrostatic sprayers and ultraviolet light technology were incorporated to increase sanitization.
In addition to the Meharry partnership, our culinary team has a longstanding relationship with Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee to support and feed our local community. Over the past few months, our culinary team has provided over 20,000 meals to first responders, as well as churches, schools, and community centers.