Advice from Malcolm Muir, Consultancy Director – Venners Ltd
As the roadmap to recovery has been laid out, hospitality operators are carefully considering their next steps to ensure they reopen successfully. Businesses that are keen to start afresh, with renewed resilience in the new normal, as well as long-term vision for the future, should explore these steps to building back better:
Reinvigorate your offer
A year of restrictions has seen new trends and customer expectations emerge that your old offer may no longer fulfil. Competition too, both on a local and national level, may have completely turned a leaf. If you had a great offer pre-COVID, it may still be great now. But there’s no harm in certifying whether your offer is still relevant and grabbing new opportunities that have arisen due to changes in behaviour, demographics and competition.
Grill the takeaway topic
Since the pandemic, many pubs and restaurants have introduced a takeaway offering. You should, however, make sure that this second income stream remains sustainable and doesn’t start competing with your onsite service once this reopens. Also question if your takeaway offering really mirrors the qualities of the main business. If it does, make sure your forecasts account for the additional costs associated to presentation and brand experience.
Pricing is based around both the cost of the product and the demand for it. If costs have changed and demand has changed, then your selling prices should change too. Be prepared to tweak prices up and down where necessary. With many menus having moved online and table apps readily available, these tweaks have become easier to manage than ever before.
You’re only as good as your team
A great deal has been said about what businesses have learnt from 2020. It is also true that staff have learnt a great deal about their employers. Whether furloughed or not, staff have made a series of judgements about how they were treated. More than ever this will impact staff turnover in the future. Continue to find ways to cultivate your company culture so that the busyness of a fully functioning operation doesn’t damage your relationships.
Your customer service is everything
Whilst many operators have done phenomenal jobs keeping customers engaged, the ‘love of hospitality’ has in some ways also grown cold. The truth is, customers are unlikely to be able to experience your brand in the same way they used to. Think social distancing, masks and a certain rigidity in experiences resulting from regulations. Finding ways to improve customer service is vital before things get really busy again.
Have reservations about reservations
Whether an app that does it for you, or your team takes telephone reservations, you should analyse if there is any room to improve the efficiency of your reservations strategy. Unoccupied tables cost money. Time invested in planning available reservation periods is well spent. If you are in the height of the season, do you need to take reservations at all?
Monitor your Virus Security
Hospitality operators will continue to face risks surrounding both current, but also future virus threats. Recent reports show hospitality settings to be safer than many other areas of society thanks to their efforts to make venues COVID secure. It’s now a case of continuing to monitor virus security compliance, particularly as adaptations to regulations unfold.
Be alert about operational safeguarding
Revisit policies that safeguard your revenue. The detail of cash and revenue control can be lost in the fog of day-to-day operations. Introducing the right levels of operational controls and compliance monitoring across an estate tends to uncover a host of issues that may have previously remained hidden from head office and were therefore left unchallenged.
Don’t underestimate dates
This unique moment of having to restock should give us cause to pause and plan for better stockholding. Most operators will have minimal cash flow and need to make sure that the stock they buy converts to cash soon. Take an opening stock and review it each time you order more stock, paying extra attention to sell-by dates. More frequent, but smaller deliveries may be the best way forward while you increase cash within the business.
A popular, non-too polite acronym that tells people to ‘Read The Manual’ before complaining to IT that the printer is broken can also apply to hospitality. In this instance it refers to an instruction to regularly and religiously ‘Read The Meter’. Water, electricity and gas costs can result in businesses being hit by big bills because nobody was reading the meter. Setting simple operating procedures like this in place returns control and monitors costs of the business.
Support ‘long live the local’
We’re not just talking about the fantastic cause; this phrase also translates perfectly to corporate social responsibility. Sustainability and supporting community is back on the menu for good and many have used lockdown to branch out and deepen their local ties. Brexit and COVID have affected the scale of operations, delivery timelines and import processes for many suppliers. Just make sure that the local ties you’ve made still enable you to operate at peak efficiency.
The stark reality of our current trading landscape is that we all have to make some brutal decisions about fixed salary costs. This should not, though, impact on your service or on the controls in place protecting your stock and revenue. Outsourcing your stocktaking and compliance or financial auditing functions at this time can offer a number of benefits.
Operators looking to implement critical operational and financial controls as their business reopens should visit www.venners.com for further information.