Breckenridge restaurant employees win service awards for poise while navigating COVID-19 changes

Chanel Jaramillo, hostess at Blue River Bistro in Breckenridge, was recently named a service champion by One Breckenridge. She posed for a portrait Sunday, Sept. 27.
Photo by Jason Connolly / Jason Connolly Photography

BRECKENRIDGE — It’s been a rough year for the service industry, so One Breckenridge sought to recognize employees and businesses that stood out this summer amid the pandemic.

Restaurant employees Ginger Perez and Chanel Jaramillo were nominated for the ways in which they helped their restaurants and guests navigate the reopening process.

During the virtual awards ceremony for the service champions, Bill Wishowski — director of operations at the Breckenridge Tourism Office, which runs One Breckenridge — explained that nominations were submitted and that staff also looked through review websites. Wishowski explained that Jaramillo, who is a seating hostess at Blue River Bistro, was nominated a bit “tongue-in-cheek” as she was the subject of a negative online review for asking a customer to pull their mask over their nose when entering the restaurant.

“Life is not easy on the front lines of the hospitality (industry),” Wishowski said when discussing Jaramillo’s nomination. “To me, this one spoke volumes. It spoke to sticking to guns.”

Blue River Bistro owner Jay Beckerman spoke to Jaramillo’s dedication to the restaurant throughout the COVID-19 experience thus far.

“She was the head of the beast, being the first person to interact with our guests and having to be the one to be kind enough and inviting enough yet hold our standards and our regulations that we were mandated to adhere to by the state of Colorado,” Beckerman said. “It was such a difficult position to be put into, and she handled it with so much grace and so eloquently that I just felt that she deserved all the recognition in the world.”

Beckerman said Jaramillo sometimes faced guests who were offended by the restaurant regulations and took it out on her but that she remained calm, confident and kind, offering options like takeout.

Jaramillo said she has been working in Summit County’s service industry for nearly five years and that she loves working in a tourism-based town because people are usually in good spirits. She said most people were understanding of the protocols, but she explained how she handled difficult encounters with guests. 

“We have to be very polite with the people when we’re working because everyone has a different mindset about it,” Jaramillo said. “So when they walk in without a mask, or they have it hanging low, I just ask them, ‘Hey, would you mind putting your mask on?’ Not all the people take it in the best way, but you just have to be taking care of co-workers, and we have to be really responsible.”

On the other side of the coin, Jaramillo said she tries to make people feel comfortable inside the restaurant who are especially concerned about the virus by seating them outside or by a window. Jaramillo added that it has been heartwarming to see people return who had frequented the restaurant before the shutdown.

“I think this summer was more challenging, but we tried to make the best of it,” Jaramillo said. “… I’m very happy a lot of people come to be in the town and come to the restaurant.”

Ginger Perez, a server at Downstairs at Eric’s in Breckenridge, was named a Service Champion as part of an effort by One Breckenridge to recognize service-industry workers.
Photo from Ginger Perez

Perez, who is a server at Downstairs at Eric’s, started working at the restaurant only a few months ago. She was nominated by someone who said she went above and beyond to help the customer access the menu via a QR code. 

“Ginger anticipated needs very well, was friendly and courteous,” the nomination read.

Downstairs at Eric’s owner Eric Mamula said Perez shows a lot of attention to detail and is always nice to people. As the restaurant has transitioned to an online menu to limit contact, he said he was glad Perez was recognized for helping guests navigate the technology.  

Service Champion Award winners
  • Chanel Jaramillo, Blue River Bistro
  • Ginger Perez, Downstairs at Eric’s
  • Megan Lancaster-Cavallo, Family & Intercultural Resource Center
  • Building Hope Summit County
  • Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center
  • Majai Bailey, Breckenridge Tourism Office
  • The Lodge at Breckenridge
  • Ski Country Resorts

Perez said she moved to town this summer from Mammoth Lakes, California, after everything shut down. In her daily work, she said the main changes are mask requirements and digital menus, with which she has frequently assisted people. She admitted that it’s been difficult to wear a mask all day this summer but that it is becoming easier as the weather cools. 

“It has been interesting teaching most of the elderly people how to use (QR codes), but like the review said, most people are really grateful when they learn,” Perez said.

She said people generally have been understanding of the restaurant regulations and have been very generous in their gratuities.

“I’m glad business is still going in Colorado,” Perez said. “We’re still really busy, at least at Eric’s. … It seems like people are still going out and traveling. We’re still getting tourists from Texas and the Midwest despite the pandemic, so it’s nice that things are normalizing a bit.”

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