In his latest blog, Austen Bushrod warns of the dangers of thinking things will be 'back to normal' for Hospitality in June.
We all want it to end.
The last year has affected us all in so many ways, but we mostly share the opinion that it’s a year we would rather erase from history.
To think, to dream, to imagine that the Pandemic will be ‘over’ by June seems to be a worrying trend that I have witnessed over the last couple of weeks. It’s good to be optimistic, but longing for that ‘walk up to the bar and order a drink’ feeling is a bit dangerous.
I was on a hospitality industry webinar recently where the consensus tended to be that by June 21st, everything will be open. By that, operators were assuming that they would run their businesses in a pre-pandemic style, albeit they did expect occupancies and revenues to grow back slowly. The government has stated its desire to lift legal restrictions in England by that date - with alternative dates/roadmaps for the rest of the UK. However, I feel we need to be preparing our mindset for longer lasting guidelines as well as reacting to a marked shift in customer expectations.
Here is a short list of 5 aspects of pandemic hospitality operations that I don’t think are going to be leaving us soon…
We managed to get the guidelines to 1M+ (despite the science) which was better than we could have hoped for at one time. Packing venues with people in close proximity will need to be looked at and managed with testing. There is a health and age profile of customers who will never again feel fully comfortable with crowds.
Guiding people safely around hospitality businesses is something that we can continue to do. There is great opportunity here to simplify floorplans and layouts, and customers will be more naturally compliant to directional and safety signage.
Whether they will be managed centrally by government or councils, it is worth you thinking about how you will manage capacity in your venue. I know your licence may say you can hold 120 people, but times have changed.
Hospitality has effectively been closed for 8 out of the last 12 months. Many industries have adopted team testing regimes that have limited outbreaks and kept their businesses running. You don’t want to be a re-opened venue that has to shut after 2 weeks because someone has Covid.
Testing customers will be the next natural step. It is already accepted in the travel trade, but the idea of a customer being tested prior to entry to a venue or event may make customers more comfortable and help to reduce outbreaks.
Masks may slip a bit, but handwashing and sanitiser are here to stay. Keeping hands clean is a habit that many will have gotten into. By the way, customers do comment on the quality of your sanitiser – time to accept that having it available is not enough - it is seen as a reflection of your brand!
So, when will this all ‘end’??? I was on a call with a respected Covid scientist a few weeks ago and asked him how he would answer the question. His answer was very clear and he put it like this…
Covid is a killer – anyone (even the healthy) can succumb to it and we often still don’t know why.
Vaccination programs will limit the number of cases and will slow the spread, but it will always be with us, we will have to learn to live with the risk.
Control practices will need to be in place until treatments for the virus give us a better chance of survival. We have made great headway on treatment, but the death per hospitalisation statistic is significant.
I thought his advice was sound – if a little cold. I like to be a little more optimistic!
We will be able to stand five-deep at a bar again and wait 20 minutes to get served… but it’s going to be a while. In the meantime, let us make the environment comfortable for our customers.
Accepting that customer expectations should drive our businesses, even if the laws are relaxed, will help you to make your business the one that they choose to visit.
While you are here, please take time to have a look around HotelCostClinic.com and see where the team might help you over the coming months and throughout 2021.