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Soviets Marvel at U.S. Hotel’s Sliced Grapefruit, Turned-Down Beds

February 8, 1991

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Wearing chefs’ toques and white aprons, they invaded the Hyatt Regency Hotel’s busy kitchen to toss luncheon salads.

They marveled as executive chef Richard Faeh expertly sliced a pink grapefruit into sections and crowned it with a fresh strawberry.

They helped check in guests at the computerized front desk. In a third- floor bedroom, they watched housekeeper Janie Perkins make a double bed, turn down the sheets and stock the bathroom with two kinds of soap, shampoo, conditioner, sponge, shower cap, sewing kit and shoeshine cloth.

For visiting hotel managers from Moscow, it was an eye-opening lesson on pampering American business travelers.

On the first stop of a month-long tour of the United States, a dozen hoteliers from the Soviet capital spent Thursday observing how the Hyatt Regency, two blocks from the U.S. Capitol, caters to its guests.

It was a far cry from the dingy rooms, bad food and surly employees that have earned Soviet hotels their notoriety.

Anatoly Zaitsev, restaurant manager of Moscow’s Belgrade Hotel, said he was impressed by the Hyatt’s cheerful, enthusiastic staff. ″You have nice, good, pleasant, smiling people,″ he said. ″They are very skilled and I feel these people are thoroughly chosen and well taken care of.″

According to an American journalist who once worked in Moscow, a typical single in a Soviet hotel - which rents to foreigners for $140 a night - contains a narrow bed and an old, overstuffed chair. There’s no telephone directory, stationery or Gideon Bible.

The bathroom includes a small bar of soap - if you’re lucky - and a small towel. The tub stopper is missing, and hot water is erratic.

Room service is non-existent, porters are rare and there’s no telephone switchboard. Many hotels don’t serve breakfast. Most of the items on the dinner menu aren’t available. The waiters are very slow.

The journalist, who wished not to be named, said the service rendered by Soviet hotel employees is ″grudging″ at best. The usual response to a guest’s request is ″nye vozmozhno″ (″it’s impossible″). ″If you’re looking for a maid to turn down the bed and leave a chocolate on your pillow, forget it,″ he said.

The hoteliers’ tour, which also will take them to Atlanta, Dallas, Orlando, Fla., and Chicago, is sponsored by Hyatt Hotels Corp. and American Express Travel Related Services.

Hyatt’s president, Darryl Hartley-Leonard, said the training sessions were requested by the Soviet government to help its hotel managers handle increasing demands of foreign business travelers and to meet competition from the non-Soviet hotel industry.

Hyatt and two other U.S. hotel chains, Sheraton and Radisson, plan to open their own hotels in Moscow. Hartley-Leonard said Hyatt is negotiating to build a new, upscale hotel for opening in 1993.

Sergei Smirnov, director of the 3,200-room Rossiya Hotel adjacent to Red Square, said the biggest challenge facing Soviet hotels is the need to improve the quality of service, ″which is much better in the United States.″

″Thirty years ago, a person only needed a room to sleep in for the night,″ Smirnov said. ″Today, that’s not enough. You need more than a good night’s sleep. The hotel that provides the better service is a better hotel.″

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