Long known for its top-ranked MBA, Executive Education, and MBA for Executives programs, the University of Virginia Darden School of Business is becoming equally well-known for its world-class accommodations and food. The school recently announced new initiatives that will enhance the quality of its hospitality business and raise general awareness of its on-site hotel and dining options.
As Darden developed plans to grow its hospitality business, the first step was to re-name the former Sponsors Executive Residence Center to reflect the hotel’s unique location as the only on-Grounds hotel at the University of Virginia. In consultation with Darden leadership and the hotel’s original sponsors, the name Inn at Darden was selected to explicitly identify the property’s location and atmosphere.
Over the past year, Darden Hospitality has been working to promote the Inn to an ever-wider audience by welcoming weddings, conventions and special events and groups. The Inn is a full-service facility, complete with a recreation center, 24-hour service desk, and a full support staff. To date, Darden Hospitality has hosted several weddings and more are on the schedule.
“We hope that our clients will share in our excitement as we usher in this new phase for our hospitality operation,” says Gene Meoni, Darden’s general manager for hospitality. “We’re looking at things in a different way and want to ensure that all of our guests have the first-class experiences they have come to expect at Darden.”
Meoni adds that the Inn at Darden is also moving in a sustainable direction, with “green” amenities and a robust recycling program. The hotel also has developed a new website and booking engine through which guests can make online reservations. This resource allows third-party reservation systems to access the 180-room inventory.
The newly refurbished Abbott Center Dining Room on Darden Grounds serves breakfast, lunch and dinner to large numbers of executives on grounds to attend various programs as well as to visitors who choose to stay at the Inn at Darden. The dining room can accommodate 160 guests and has six private dining rooms that each can accommodate up to 40 guests.
Last spring, in partnership with the Appalachia Star Farm in Nelson County, VA, and in keeping with the School’s sustainability efforts, Darden Hospitality built a hoop-style greenhouse to grow its own fresh produce. As a result of this initiative, combined with Darden’s continued support of local farms, over 45 percent of produce served in the Abbott Center Dining Room is now locally sourced in season.
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