By Gareth Ogden, Partner, haysmacintyre (www.haysmacintyre.com)
Over the past year, the hospitality industry has had to adapt the best it can in the face of unprecedented change as rules constantly change.And whilst innovative delivery and take-out services have proven fruitful for some businesses in the short-term, they aren’t a long-term answer for many.
Still confronted with a huge amount of uncertainty over the timing and nature of re-opening as well as the looming cliff-edge to Government support, businesses urgently need to put plans in place to safeguard their future.
A SENSIBLE APPROACH
Despite the uncertainty hanging over hospitality, there is one thing we can say with a sufficient level of confidence – there will, eventually, be a phased re-opening of the industry (albeit with restrictions).
However, operators must remember that many people will be hesitant and cautious about socialising once again, looking for safe and responsible venues when they begin eating out.Therefore, it is vital for businesses to think and act sensibly as they consider their re-opening strategies.
A PROVEN TRACK RECORD
Operators must reflect upon those innovations and approaches that have worked particularly well, versus those which didn’t prove as fruitful for their business. By carefully comparing and considering the profitability of new revenue streams (such as takeaway services or DIY recipe kits), and fine-tuning those that offer the greatest returns, they may prove a lasting success when they are able to re-open their doors once again.
Making the most of the outdoors
Where available, operators would do well to spend this time as an opportunity to ensure outdoor areas are maximised as much as possible.The re-opening will most likely be in Spring or even Summer, where warmer weather entices customers outdoors.What’s more, the virus is thought to transmit less in an outdoor environment, so for the safety conscious customer, being outside will be key for encouraging their return.
TAKE UP TECHNOLOGY
Now is also a good time to consider strategies around further implementation of technologies that will assist social distancing.This could include ordering and payment apps, which may prove beneficial in the longer term with the more tech-savvy, safety first customer.
CASHFLOW IS KEY
Cashflow will be as important as ever for some time to come, but particularly for surviving the coming months. Now is the time to fine-tune cashflow reporting and profitability analysis.Therefore, operators should consider other areas of the business for efficiencies, such as resource planning technologies and reviewing key suppliers.
STRIKING A BALANCE
Striking the right balance between new social distancing rules and safety protocols is also critical. Many consumers will want to return to how dining experiences used to be as soon as possible but going too fast too soon may prove disastrous in the long run. Businesses need to manage different customer expectations carefully and considerately, prioritising safety and government guidance.
As ever, this time out period is also well spent engaging with staff by training, team building and supporting their general wellbeing. Staff need to remain motivated and engaged so they can hit the ground running and get operations back on track as quickly and smoothly as possible, so those employers who place the biggest emphasis on staff happiness will likely see the most success once doors have re-opened.
Even after the national lockdown (whenever that may be), hospitality businesses are going to have to think carefully about their re-opening strategy. But through astute financial planning, thoughtful consideration around new customer expectations, as well as keeping the requirements for a post-Covid-19 context front of mind, operators will ensure they are putting their best foot forward to survive the next year.