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 monthlong tour of the United States, a dozen hoteliers from the Soviet capital spent the day 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.