COVID-19 has required the industry to take time to pause, think, innovate, change and most of all, plan. Plan for a time when they can reopen, plan for the safety of their people and customers, and most importantly, plan to ensure that venues are safe, welcoming and provide the hospitality experience that people yearn for.
Caterer.com invited Hayley Connor, Head of People and Learning at Brewhouse & Kitchen, Sarah Hammond, Head of People at The Hush Collection, and James Grist, Head of Talent for D&D London to take part in our webinar “Reopening Hospitality’ to discuss workforce planning, reopening and their top tips for understanding and implementing the new rules.
Recent research by Caterer.com highlighted that 63% of consumers plan to visit a pub, bar, cafe or restaurant within one week of reopening. Consumer confidence is there but not without conditions, and those conditions are all about new ways of working and feeling safe. These include visible hygiene practices as the norm and social distancing clearly implemented and adhered to.
Roll on reopening
We began by asking the panel to share their plans for reopening and how they will be rolling them out.
“D&D are planning to open 17 sites initially, spreading out the remainder throughout 2020.” James Grist commented, “Our larger venues will open immediately but social distancing means that our smaller, more intimate sites will remain closed. If venue size means you can only serve 10 covers, the customer experience just won’t be the same.”
Brewhouse & Kitchen have plans for one opening on the 6th of July. Hayley Connor commented, “We’re planning to roll out sites, one per day, throughout July and August to make sure we get it right. We’re a lean team and we don’t want to put undue pressure on the process.”
Hache, part of The Hush Collection, has remained open for deliveries throughout lockdown. The brand put clear measures in place to ensure their team’s safety. “We’ve taken a step back to ensure we’re complying with COVID-19 security regulations.” Sarah Hammond commented. “The key thing is team safety and how we communicate with our people. We want them to come to us, or their managers, with any concerns they have about reopening.”
The importance of resilient leadership
All three feel strongly about the importance of resilient leadership. Sarah continued, “Our leadership teams have a very tough job on their hands, navigating the guidance, implementing training and supporting their teams. They need to be strong enough to lead, empathetic and able to manage customer expectations.”
James agreed “A lot of our training has been about ensuring our managers and leaders are equipped to navigate the guidelines, and to bring their teams along with them. There will naturally be some unease about reopening and that’s why it so important to have great leadership.”
Find out what the customer wants and deliver
Brewhouse & Kitchen recently surveyed its customers to better understand the workplace changes they need to make. Hayley commented. “Social distancing is a big concern and customers will hold hospitality to account on this. A lot of workplace planning has been around the health and safety of our team and our guests simultaneously. Customers will want a high-quality experience. One of the responses to our survey was that ‘If I’m going to risk my life going to the pub, it better be good!’”
Hayley continued “We have had to change our guest journey quite extensively in our pubs including the implementation of new technology. Obviously, all our planning could change based on updated government information.”
News rules mean new roles
The ability to adapt quickly has always been hospitality’s strength. As the public gain confidence and return to the sector, roles such as hosts within pubs and bars will become more common. The challenge of maintaining social distancing and hygiene rules whilst guests are having a good time will fall to them. Soft skills will be paramount so that guests understand the need and happily comply.
Sarah commented’ “Operational workflow will need strong leadership to ensure that behind the scenes everyone is compliant with new rules and new ways of working. Role-playing scenarios are part of our training to help leaders manage the customer who doesn’t necessarily want to comply with social distancing regulations. It’s about anticipating the customer need and being ready and able to manage it.”
Streamlining the process
With so much to plan before reopening, hospitality businesses are streamlining their processes. Many venues will reopen with reduced menus, reduced opening hours and online bookings in advance will become the new normal. Some venues have installed ‘at table’ ordering using apps and standing at the bar may well be a thing of the past.
“We have to think about revenue and the size of the teams we need to be viable.” James said. “Flexibility will be key, and we won’t really have a clear idea of customer confidence until after we reopen. Managing supplies is another area to consider – how much do we order and what can we do to reduce potential waste?”
It’s not a race to reopen
The industry has been far from idle during lockdown, it has innovated and developed, working towards the much-anticipated reopening date.
James continued, “The upside of reduced opening hours is extra time for skills training, levelling up the confidence of our people, the majority of whom have been at home, on furlough for three months. It’s not a race. Reopening is about making sure we get it right for our people and our guests.”
Listen back in full to our most popular webinar yet, exploring workforce planning, training and employee engagement with unique insight into how hospitality businesses are planning for a steady and positive reopening.