UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The COVID-19 pandemic has put intense pressure on the economy, but it has hit businesses in the hospitality sector especially hard.

Though these times are unprecedented, hospitality operators have faced a series of crises this century including terrorist attacks, power-grid failures, financial crises, and other epidemics. What can be learned from industry responses to these crises that can inform how to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and unforeseen, future problems?

To answer that question, Penn State School of Hospitality Management doctoral student Anqi Luo and Donna Quadri-Felitti, Marvin Asher Director and associate professor of hospitality management, reviewed academic literature related to several of these recent crises and their impacts on the hospitality industry.

They compiled the lessons they learned in Crisis Response Insights from Academic Research: An Abbreviated, Annotated Bibliography of Hospitality Industry Responses to Modern Crises, a crisis planning and response guide for hospitality-industry operators.

This 20-page document briefly summarizes individual articles and lists pertinent advice for managers as bullet points.

By studying restaurants in New York City following the September 11th terrorist attacks, researchers learned that successful restaurants—among other things—lowered prices on beverages, especially wines, and provided more local food and comfort food in an effort to attract “neighbors rather than tourists.”

A review of hotels’ responses to the East Coast blackout of 2003 indicates that customer service expectations were still high despite the crisis, and that competitive advantage could be gained by hotels who were prepared to provide quality service even when something unexpected occurred.

“One of the most important steps to ensure rigorous of scientific inquiry is understanding the previous literature, theories, and outcomes of prior scholars in the field in the topic,” reflects Luo. “I was delighted to contribute in some way to helping the hospitality industry learn ways to recover from the pandemic,” she added.

Regardless of the business-type or the nature of the crisis, it is important for every business to focus on safety, security, and health, and to provide accurate and authentic communication to all stakeholders on an ongoing basis. Other key insights

include the necessity of sensitivity and responsiveness to consumers’ states of mind, attention to employee well-being, and government action and support.

Learning from others’ successes and failures during difficult times can provide greater safety and security for employees and guests. It can also help individual businesses and the industry recover more quickly from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Quadri-Felitti explained why Penn State’s School of Hospitality Management created the guide. “As scholars at Penn State, we seek to be of service to our communities, whether local, regional, national, or global. As experts in the industry, we not only prepare our students for the profession, but we provide insights to support the industry at all times, but especially in times of crisis.”

For additional insights, Quadri-Felitti is hosting a free School of Hospitality Management Research2Practice webinar, Past Lessons & Future Pivots – the Food & Beverage Perspective, on July 14 at 11:30 a.m. EDT. In this 50-minute webinar, she will moderate a discussion with a panel of experts: Hugh Roth of PepsiCo Food Service, John Metz of Sterling Hospitality, John Longstreet of the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association, and Amit Sharma of Penn State. Register for the webinar.