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Panel Sees Hospitality, Retail Sectors Poised to Seize New Opportunities

Westchester County’s hospitality and retail sectors are poised to seize new opportunities for transformation and customer acquisition in the post-pandemic summer of 2021, according to speakers at the Business Council of Westchester’s virtual panel discussion held on Wednesday.

The BCW concluded its four-part State of Westchester’s Economy series with a discussion about the health of the hospitality and retail sectors, along with their prospects. The panelists included Taryn Duffy, VP of Public Affairs at Empire City Casino; Sean Meade, GM of the Cambria Suites in White Plains; Eddie Monroy, President of the Westchester Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; Liz Pollack, Senior Marketing Manager at Cross County Center; and Glenn Vogt, Owner of RiverMarket Bar & Kitchen and a Partner at Crabtree’s Kittle House.

Duffy said that Empire City Casino’s biggest challenge was managing their customers’ expectations because of strict health regulations that curtailed pre-pandemic activities. Moving forward, she said the casino will focus on obtaining a license from New York to allow for full-scale gambling which she said would have a $1 billion economic impact for the region.

Meade said that the hotel sector has seen improvement this year, but that a real recovery for the industry will not happen until business travel and meetings resume. “We really need to look at the hiring practices that we had in the past and adjust them to the times that we’re in,” said Meade, who is also the President of the Westchester Hotel Association.

Monroy said the pandemic has forced small business owners to adopt new technologies, such as vending and delivery phone apps. “The future is going to be about hybrid events and doing hybrid marketing partnerships…business X will be working with business Y and essentially doing cross-promotion.”

Pollack said her mall’s next significant challenge is outreach to the new customers who moved to the suburbs from more dense areas during the pandemic. “Now we have an influx of new residents. We have to pivot again and think about how we brand and message so that people know what Cross County is.”

Vogt said the pandemic revealed a take-out and delivery market that had previously been untapped by his restaurants; outdoor dining was another lifesaver. Vogt’s restaurants had large outdoor seating areas before the pandemic, which he described as a “godsend” that allowed his businesses to continue operations at close-to-normal levels.

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