In the past year, the focus on cleanliness has increased even further. We spoke to Brian Wilkinson, Head of HoReCa at phs Group on how they help hospitality businesses to provide high standards as well as evidence to reassure customers and regain consumer confidence.
Tell us a little more about phs Group
phs Group are the leading hygiene services provider in the UK, Ireland, and Spain with over 120,000 customers over 300,000 locations, supporting everything from large single sites, to multi-national restaurant chains, healthcare establishments, and small owner-occupied shops. But we’re more than just a hygiene service provider. We also provide English schools with free period products, support NHS COVID-19 Testing Stations, help turn hygiene waste into sustainable energy, and look after bespoke planting displays for hundreds of businesses across the UK.
Our expert technicians undertake 3.6 million individual customer visits each year. These visits include disposing of sanitary waste and nappies, installing hand dryers and air purifiers, or supplying floor mats to prevent slips, trips, and falls.
We also have a range of specialist divisions that focus on the provision of indoor and outdoor plants, electrical and gas compliance testing services, industrial workwear, waste compactor rental, and crate rental. All our specialist businesses are industry market leaders and complement our main hygiene offerings.
How do you work with hospitality businesses in particular?
We’re market leaders in the hospitality sector, working with thousands of hospitality businesses throughout the UK. We’ve been doing it for years. Making washrooms look great, disposing of waste, preventing slips, and reducing water use is what we do – our high-quality services will meet the high expectations of your members. Our trained staff provide a discreet and efficient service, and they’ll get on with the job of making sure your facilities are smart, clean and hygienic for your customers and staff to use.
At phs, we work with all to make the basics even better by ensuring you, as our customers, are happy and your businesses are legally compliant in the process.
How have you had to adapt due to the pandemic?
As key workers, we’ve seen first-hand that it’s been a hard year for the hospitality and leisure sector. Since March 2020, thousands of our customers have been in touch with us to either pause or cancel their services all together. However, we’re pleased to say that the majority of these have since reopened, despite having to deal with continuing stop-start opening rules.
We like to act quickly, so as soon as the UK went into its first lockdown, we instantly began looking at ways to support the sectors that would be hit hardest.
To further understand what our customers need to support their businesses during the pandemic, we commissioned independent consumer research. This research focussed on speaking to the general public to find out what hygiene measures they were looking to see implemented in local businesses.
During the first lockdown, we found that a lack of confidence surrounding hygiene measures was a barrier to people returning to their workplaces (30% of females and 22% of males). Confidence was lowest in Northern Ireland with 49% of people stating they were not confident about hygiene and social distancing measures.
Cleanliness has never been so important as it has over the last year, how has this helped your business?
We developed and launched several new products and services that have helped many businesses reopen safely, including 5L Hand Sanitiser Stations and COVID-19 Decontamination Cleaning.
What is the best piece of advice you can offer a hospitality business to help reassure customers about cleanliness?
Being market leaders in the hospitality sector and experts in our fields we want to help to provide appropriate solutions for our customers to ensure the highest standards of cleanliness. At phs, we work with you to make the basics even better. We’ll make sure your customers are happy, and your business is legally compliant in the process.
During the second lockdown, our research told us that 29% of people were not confident about hygiene measures in local businesses. At phs, we believe that organisations can take measures to regain consumer confidence. There are enough reasons for people not to spend time in the places they normally would. However, a lack of confidence in a premises’ hygiene and social distancing measures should not be a reason to keep people away. What this doesn’t tell us is whether this lack of confidence stems from poor experiences – or just a perception that this is the case. Either way, it is an issue which needs addressing. Organisations must get their hygiene measures spot on an ensure adequate social distancing throughout their premises. And once this is in place, ensure staff, visitors and customers know what you’ve done so you can gain the confidence that you’ve rightly earned.
We also learnt that around a quarter of UK consumers feel they don’t know enough about what businesses have done to make their premises COVID-19 safe. This resulted in us launching a phs COVID-Secure Product Bundle that contains key hygiene products and a wall mounted plaque that explains what you are doing to keep your customers safe.
What makes your brand so different to others in your sector?
- We do the right thing:
- We help our customers achieve their sustainability targets by diverting their hygiene waste away from landfill.
- We are leading the way when it comes to tackling period poverty, by lifting the lid on the scale of the issue and providing a practical solution via our free-coin vend machines.
- We invest in the latest technologies to protect our environment and make our carbon footprint as light as possible.
- We help organisations save millions of litres of water with our range of innovative and patented water-saving products.
We know these issues matter to our customers, and that is why we do what we do – the right thing.
What is your hope for the hospitality industry in 2021?
We hope that hospitality businesses can fully reopen safely as soon as possible; retain business and move forward. Building back better.
What is your business focus for 2021?
Given the increasing need for the products and services we provide, it’s our responsibility to find more suitable and innovative solutions to meet our customers’ needs. These are examples of initiatives that we have taken:
- Premises undertaking regular rapid testing should have a safe waste disposal process in place. The COVID lateral flow testing bin is a fully serviced and fuss-free solution that will help keep premises safe, providing a secure way to dispose of hygiene waste generated by COVID rapid testing
- Developed Sanitisers Sentinel, a standalone unit designed to be wall-mounted near hand sanitiser or soap dispensers. When the unit detects a person nearby, an LED light will flash, and a recorded voice message will be played to remind them to clean their hands. Ideal for use in areas with high footfall.
- There is increasing evidence to suggest Covid-19 can spread via particles in the air, and not just via surface droplets. This makes cleaning indoor air just as important as cleaning surfaces. We offer a diverse range of wall-mounted and portable air purifiers, suitable for any environment. This includes industry leading AERAMAX air purifiers and BIOZONE air purification systems.
- We’ve partnered with edie, to promote sustainable business practices. Edie is a resource which provides energy, sustainability and resource efficiency professionals with the practical information, insight and intelligence they need to make their businesses more sustainable. Partnering with edie gives us the platform to talk about the things our customers care about, as well as sharing best practise. The opportunities available include;
- Plastics webinar
- Social clubs
What do you think makes the hospitality industry so special to work in?
phs works across all sectors of the UK, and the Hospitality sector is one of the main sectors we support. We’re passionate about creating behind-the-scenes facilities that create the right image. We provide clean, hygienic environments that can help improve customer satisfaction and boost the morale of employees.
We understand that every facility is different. That’s why we work with customers to identify exactly what they need. Then we build our services around these needs. Our contracts are flexible, ensuring businesses get value for money and no unnecessary costly extras.
You are an Institute of Hospitality Business Partner, why did you decide to get involved?
We are always looking to better understand our customers businesses, to ensure we are always providing modern hygiene solutions that exceed expectations. Joining the Institute of Hospitality provides the perfect platform for us to engage, learn from, and support a key sector that has been hit hard by COVID-19 lockdowns and businesses closures.