Yukari Iguchi FIH, Academic Lead for Hospitality at the University of Derby Online Learning tells us more.
At the point of writing this article, we are in an unprecedented time of pandemic. The UK government declared a lockdown and it has not ended yet. Many of our online students – hospitality professionals around the world – shared their experience and thoughts, as many are under rather bleak circumstances. My thoughts are with all those who have been affected – physically, mentally, financially, or socially.
By the time you are reading this, I am hoping we are in the fourth stage of pandemic responses; Re-evaluation, at which we will have a plan for life approaching some form of ‘new normal’. What this will mean for the hospitality industry once we enter this stage is not known yet, and it will depend on the availability of a vaccine and government policies. Various sources suggest that consumers will be more demanding in terms of hygiene and cleanliness standards, and many legislations and regulations would require social distance between tables in restaurants and more stringent hygiene standards.
Based on these predictions, when your business reopens or resumes on-premise operations, you should bear in mind that we will not go back to normal. You may need to review your business strategy (if you have not done so during lockdown) to adjust to the ‘new normal’. You may decide to offer a higher proportion of off-premise provision e.g. takeaway, ‘cook-at-home’ meal kit, fresh ingredients, etc. or change your marketing tactics.
Then, you need to retrain yourself and staff (many of whom may have been furloughed) to brush up on pre-lockdown skills and knowledge and to acquire new ones to operate in the time of ‘new normal’. The introduction to ‘new normal’ also means you may have to review your training and employee relations strategies.
Even when you are familiar with your staff, it is a good idea to treat everyone (including yourself) as if they just came back from maternity leave – not only might they have forgotten certain aspects of their work or may not be fully aware of changes that took place during their leave, but also their personal circumstances may have changed significantly during lockdown. It is also a good time to review your existing SOP, with consultation to key staff members in the process.
As long as your finance lasts, even with some losses, take it as a time for investment for longer term success. Invest in training and rewarding your staff during this quiet period, since staff retention and workplace relations will be even more crucial as you will not be able to recruit ‘cheap labour’ from outside the UK in 2021 (unless the government temporarily changes the regulations to respond to the industry needs).
It is inevitable that cash flow will be very tight in most businesses, as consumers may or may not come back to your business quickly – and even if they do, you will more than likely have to limit the capacity within your premises and operating costs may increase due to new requirements for hygiene standards. It will indeed be a time to test managerial skills, prioritising and streamlining logistics and operations. However, one area you must place a high priority in any hospitality businesses is people. Training, motivating and retaining do not seem the cheapest option, but it has longer term cost effectiveness. We have gone through such drastic changes to our lives, but this can be a good opportunity for us to make more positive changes for future.