Hospitality tips for managing current trade and preparing to bounce back in the future
Access Hospitality's Katy Hamilton offers practical advice on managing current trade and using time and technology to plan for an uncertain future.
First and foremost, though, operators should follow advice from the Government and the NHS to protect the health, safety and welfare of staff and customers and obtain the latest information on financial and other support.
- Where businesses can remain open, for example those that have a strong delivery trade, make sure that staff are aware of shift availability and keep things as flexible as possible. Remember that their cashflow will be impacted when shifts reduce, so use appropriate variable, but compliant, methods to pay staff after shifts have been completed rather than necessarily having to wait until the end of week or month payroll.
- Simplify your menu – either now, or when you reopen – to reduce the number of dishes available, minimise stock holding and cut costs. There is comprehensive F&B technology available, which can be used to quickly implement revised menu planning, costing, ordering of ingredients and allergen information to offer a more practical offer. Same great quality, just a reduced choice, will help your cashflow and will be welcomed by customers if it means you can keep the operation open.
- Be flexible in response to customer’s reluctance to come out and mix in large groups. Can you offer online ordering for takeaway, for example, or offer a delivery service – particularly for those who may be self-isolating or reducing social interaction? If you have a private dining room, make sure that everyone knows about it as there will still be people who want to mix with friends in as controlled an environment as possible, whilst they’re still able to do so, and the privacy of private dining may give them the reassurance they need to go ahead.
- If you run a community venue, think about your neighbourhood – we know that hospitality venues are at the heart of so many communities, so consider if there is anything you can do on a wider scale. Keep in touch with your regulars, particularly the more mature amongst them, and maybe make your site a coordinating point for providing support to those most in need. If you’ve got fresh produce that will go out of date during closure think about the option to donate this to those in need either at your site or deliver to a food bank to help the wider community.
- Healthcare professionals and other essential workers are going to be at the forefront of the battle against Covid-19 and people are already looking for ways to thank them for the hard work they know they’re going to be facing. Could you run a ‘pay it forward’ scheme where members of the public are able to pay for one of these employees to have a meal in your venue when the outbreak passes to alleviate some of the pressure they’re under and to say thank you?
- Whilst it’s quiet – which it undoubtedly is – start planning your comeback. If you already have a loyalty programme, put some simple actions together to appeal to your existing customer base, or maybe incentives for people who haven’t discovered your business yet. And if you don’t have a loyalty programme in place, now’s the time to change that! Some businesses have started to offer vouchers, with customers paying now, helping cashflow, but not taking the service until business resumes a more regular routine.
- If you do have to close for a time, which is now almost a certainty, don’t just put the shutters up and hope for the best. Be proactive and complete some of those tasks you’ve been meaning to do for a while but have been putting off. Property maintenance is an obvious opportunity and if staff are being paid, but you are unable to open, channel the resource into other reasonable tasks where possible. Maybe checking the fire equipment, sprucing up the décor or running other equipment checks. Where a technology solution is available, use it to review what regulatory inspections are due soon and ensure that all online paperwork is in order.
- Updating staff records and training programmes is another positive option. Use your tech to assess what training is already available, which members of staff are due for a review and look for trends and improvement opportunities that could help your employee experience and your business.
- Keep in touch with your customer database or social media followers so they know you’re thinking about them and your business is top of mind when things return to some kind of normal. Focus on positives and keep upbeat, without being flippant, and encourage interaction. Maybe swap creative menu ideas that people have discovered whilst they’re in isolation, their wish list of pizza toppings or any new drinks that they’ve tried and would like to see available next time they visit your business. Everyone is going to need remote human interaction and you have the chance to conduct some informative customer research to help shape your future business plans at the same time.
- It's understandable you are going to focus on cutting expenditure and making savings where possible, but as Peter Martin (founder Atlantic club) suggests: “Coming out the other side fitter and leaner is a good objective...continuing to invest in people and their development, in smarter tech, in clever design and in quality data and insight (not least to monitor progress through these tricky times) will pay off down the line.”
A lot of hospitality technology is designed to reduce food costs, repairs expenditure, optimise labour costs and increase revenue from getting better booking conversions and driving more footfall. These technologies will be critical when we “come out the other side” of the coronavirus, and using the downtime now should put you in a better position to recoup profits when life returns to some sense of normality.