Getting operational after lockdown

An Access Hospitality guide for hospitality operators by Katy Hamilton

With uncertainty surrounding when, and how, hospitality will emerge from enforced closure, hospitality operators continue planning for an unknown future. They have found creative solutions to adapt to guidelines, upholding the health and wellbeing of staff, customers and suppliers as a priority. Adversity has produced a new generation of take-away or delivery operations, general provision suppliers, community and NHS kitchens from within hospitality but now is the time for reviewing business practices and processes to prepare for reopening.

Leading sector technology provider, Access Hospitality, has compiled a guide for hospitality businesses to help prepare for getting operational after lockdown and recommends breaking planning into five sections, with key areas including:

1. Activities during lockdown – focus on priorities

  • Staff engagement
  • Keep in touch with customers
  • Basic property maintenance and security
  • Delivery management
  • New revenue channels
  • Rents, rates and loans

The most successful operations will be those offering genuine support and timely updates to staff, giving them time to manage themselves without being too prescriptive. Even if staff are furloughed, they can still complete online training courses, but if this is something you’re encouraging, recommend mixing up more dry topics such as health and safety or allergen management with more fun content like creating cocktails to keep everyone motivated.

Go back to basics and review your business structure, offer and operational procedures. Should you introduce take-away, can you sell vouchers, is your reservation process robust and linked to other technology such as EPoS and does your stock control system automatically link to costing and allergen management? Use this downtime to think about what you need to succeed and make it happen.

2. 3-4 weeks before the end of lockdown – prepare to get operational

  • Site maintenance / cleaning
  • Staff planning and labour optimisation
  • Order supplies
  • Legislation – including cover restrictions
  • Get customers through the door (drive footfall)
  • Ramping staff health and hygiene programs

In a survey conducted for Access Hospitality in January 2020, hospitality operators identified their biggest ROI in 2019 as investment in people – through improved training (21 per cent), personnel changes (19 per cent) and improving employee experience (19 per cent). Technology can help revitalise and motivate your staff, including simplifying rostering to have the right staff at the right time and offering an on-demand salary option, enabling staff to draw down earnings for shifts completed which will be critical helping them cope with managing cashflow.

All equipment needs to be fully functioning, so schedule planned preventative maintenance and follow the comprehensive checklist in the Access Hospitality guide. Work with suppliers 5to get the stock you need and use every channel possible to let everyone know when you will be reopening and what customers can expect when you do.
3. Opening Week – All hands on deck

  • Focus on guest experience
  • Simplify offering / control your costs
  • Check stock levels v bookings
  • Ongoing forecasting to meet customer levels – staff, supplies, etc
  • Marketing push
  • Suppliers support

The Access survey also identified that the most important technology to help operators retain their customer base and build loyalty was ease of booking. Getting this right to welcome customers back will be even more important.

Controlling costs will also be a priority, with full visibility of F&B costs being a must as your business evolves in the new world. Using technology can give immediate invoice savings achievable through supplier credits and data analytics monitors business operations quickly and effectively to control costs and increase revenue.

Social distancing could be another challenge for operators when reopening, but help is at hand from technology that assists with the elements that can be controlled, like pre-ordering to increase spend per head, booking / enquiry management to keep track of guests and maximising revenues through delivery, upselling and marketing.

4. 3-4 weeks post reopening – the new normal

    • Financial management
    • Staff engagement / churn management
    • Recruitment
    • Maximise sales via upselling
    • Planning for a 2nd wave of Covid-19
    • New landscape of high-street
    • Versatile and agile

The number of staff available for work may have changed significantly. With anywhere between 15 per cent – 20 per cent+ of sector workers coming from the EU, some may have returned home to their families for lockdown with no plans or means to return to the UK. Rapid recruitment, with the correct processes and checks, may be necessary to ensure you meet consumer demand with appropriate staffing levels and skills.

And, be prepared to be versatile and agile, keeping every aspect of your business plan under review to respond to shifts in attitude and beha

5. Long term – Improve GP & recoup lost earnings

  • Analysis of budget tracking v spend
  • Tracking bookings
  • Recipe and menu evaluation
  • Data quality and big data
  • Adapting your business model

Food and beverage costs are amongst the biggest expense and under scrutiny for potential savings. Use a strong inventory management process to prevent over-ordering of stock and compare sales of individual products or dishes to remove underperforming items, with portion control reducing wastage.

Getting operational after lockdown requires review and updates of every aspect of business, from staff to customer experience, property maintenance to health and safety measures and operational procedures.

Katy Hamilton is Head of Marketing at Access Hospitality, a division of The Access Group, created to specifically cater for the UK’s hospitality sector. More than 1300 UK customers use its modular, cloud-based business management suite, featuring 20+ integrated Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions. Its hospitality business management suite includes reservations, ticketing, EPoS, finance, business intelligence, property maintenance, purchase to pay and workforce management.

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