Hotel chain apologies after bikini-clad, chocolate-covered woman used as centrepiece for family buffet

The photo of the employee on the buffet table with inset photo of the Voi Hotel
Photo credit: Federico Mazzieri / LinkedIn, Voi Hotels

A four-star hotel and resort in Italy has issued a fervent apology after a semi-naked, chocolate-covered female employee was 'served' as the centrepiece of an evening buffet. 

The woman was put on display at the Colonna Village branch of Voi Hotels, a resort located in the picturesque coastal town of Golfo Aranci on the island of Sardinia.

The hotel, which boasts of its breathtaking, panoramic views and "true Italian hospitality", has since been inundated with one-star reviews after pictures emerged online of the chocolate-covered woman presented alongside pastries.

Speaking to the Daily Mail, Milan-based HR manager Federico Mazzieri - who was staying at the hotel with his 14-year-old daughter - said he was "speechless" when he saw the bikini-clad woman posing alongside the spread of desserts. 

"We were both left shocked by what we saw," Mazzieri told the outlet. "We were both speechless… What on earth were the hotel management thinking? It was simply objectifying the female figure."

Mazzieri, who reiterated the employee was "covered in chocolate" and spent about half an hour on the table, also noted that the day prior, the hotel had been promoting a "chocolate statue" at its next dessert buffet. 

"When we got there we just couldn't believe it. One of the entertainment staff was on a table, in a bikini and she was stretched out and covered in chocolate, amid all the food… it was thoughtless and disgusting," he told the Daily Mail.

"Some of the other guests started taking photos as well but after a few minutes we decided to leave."

As per the Daily Mail, sources at the hotel said the woman was a 20-year-old entertainment staffer.

Photo of the chocolate-covered employee at a buffet at Voi Hotel in Sardinia
"We deeply regret this incident and wish to reiterate we never had any intention of misrepresenting anything other than the values we stand for." Photo credit: Federico Mazzieri / LinkedIn

Upon his return to Milan last week, Mazzieri wrote about the incident - with photo evidence - on his LinkedIn, which quickly "exploded" as others shared their disgust at the hotel. 

"Yesterday evening, after a beautiful day, I was speechless looking at this scene: a dessert buffet by the pool, on a table a girl 'in costume' covered in chocolate, lying in the middle. After the first moment of dismay I ask myself: 'VOI Hotels stands for True Italian Hospitality, but what does it mean'?" Mazzieri wrote, as per a rough translation of his post on LinkedIn. 

"The body of a woman, of a worker, is equated to that of a dish to satisfy someone's mischievous eye.

"I'm on vacation with my 14-year-old daughter and her comment was, 'Dad, this sucks'... talking about sustainability and ethics is very simple, [but] making these corporate values ​​alive in everyday life is certainly much more difficult."

The outcry on social media prompted Voi Hotels to issue an apology, in which its management reiterated that "respect for staff and guests" was their utmost priority. 

"We deeply regret this incident and wish to reiterate we never had any intention of misrepresenting anything other than the values we stand for," the apology read.

"We will continue to work tirelessly so that situations like this do not happen again, and we are taking immediate action to address this incident and ensure no customers are offended in the future."

Recent reviews on Google have slammed the hotel, with one writing, "Shame on you for using a woman's body as a prop in a buffet," while another added: "Sleazy and shameful to use a woman as a prop... in a family facility."

"A woman on the dessert buffet, like an object, moreover smeared with chocolate. How disgusting," wrote a third, while a fourth said: "You should be ashamed to use a woman covered in chocolate as an attraction, as an object."

Cristian Solinas, the regional governor for Sardinia, has reportedly condemned the hotel and said he was "embarrassed" by the incident.