Perhaps predictably, the UK hospitality sector’s return following national lockdown has not been as triumphant as the industry might have hoped: more of a soft launch than a grand reopening. Following the 2nd December, venues up and down the country have done their best to open their doors once again in the face of unpredictable tiered restrictions, and operators could be forgiven for thinking the country is really in the never ending lockdown story. Is this really the end of lockdown 2.0, or just the beginning of lockdown 2.5? Yet, as pubs, restaurants, and hotels do their utmost to welcome back customers and we all approach the end of a year characterised by extreme irregularity, Team Ordamo has put together some top tips for reopening, readapting, and rebounding.
Mix it up-diversify revenue streams
Adaptability is the simple secret of survival. Restrictions continue to starve the sector of business, with UK Hospitality boss Kate Nicholls asserting that 98% of members are in Tiers 2 or 3. Meanwhile, analysis from the Altus Group reveals that more than 20,000 English pubs are now in Tier 3. As a result, there is a renewed emphasis on cashflow and turning stock over. However, there are a number of ways to adapt and build a bedrock of revenue in the absence of regular trading. Most obviously, adding a takeaway offering gives operators an ability to carry on doing business. During November, for instance, Ordamo’s takeaway module helped the East London Pub Company’s sites across London keep the show on the road.
As well as takeaway, adapting ordinary service can pay dividends. Of course, adding a sensible substantial meal to the menu makes immediate sense for those in Tier 2—the scotch egg scenario. Beyond this, if working from home became the new normal in 2020, then the autumn perhaps saw the year’s greatest innovation: WFP, or working from pub. A host of pubs offered great deals: free WiFi, charging points, quiet spaces, unlimited tea and coffee, and, most importantly, an after-work pint ready and waiting at the end of the day. Similarly, Soho’s hyper-chic St Martin’s Lane offered its hotel rooms out for the day as working spaces. Ingeniously, working guests were able to make the most of the gym facilities in the morning and then, thanks to use of the hotel laundry services, get their gym kit back fresh and clean before 6pm. This kind of reconceptualisation typifies the agility that lies at the heart of viable recovery strategies.
Reconnect with customers
In the fragmented hospitality landscape of reduced trading hours, tightened pursestrings, and Kafkaesque restrictions, customer experience is king. This means making sure customers have a seamless, stress-free dining experience. Most pressingly, this involves operators signposting precisely how they are complying with the regulations, and letting customers know how they can do so too. Though the enforcement of rules such as mandatory substantial meals and the ban on household mixing is challenging—waiting staff are not the police, and forceful crackdowns do not exactly scream ‘good times’—the simpler you make things, and the more strongly you adopt safety protocols, the easier it will be for clientele.
In contrast to the volatility of the rules, operators can offer a truly seamless customer experience, enabling guests to interact with staff as much or as little as they want, from booking a table or checking in, to ordering and paying. Here, tech is invaluable for a smooth, safe, and dynamic customer journey: table booking and reservation management can help customers get into venues with maximum ease. Once they’re there, Order & Pay can improve the dine-in experience, expanding choice and convenience while removing the pinch points of service. Improved customer experience also means operators can build genuine rapport with guests, driving loyalty and retention. According to Bain, repeat customers spend 67% more money than first-time customers, and if businesses can improve customer retention by 5%, they can increase their profitability by up to 95%.
Don’t be afraid of tech
With revenues hit by the prolonged impact of coronavirus and systems strained by an ever-changing mosaic of restrictions, it might seem a nightmarish prospect to introduce new technology into your business; just another thing to worry about. But if the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
Psychologically speaking, we prefer to make do with what we have, relying on familiar tools, instead of looking for better alternatives. But, in terms of disruption and change management, Covid has moved the needle: new problems need new solutions, and now is the time for stakeholders to realise what technology can do operations. In fact, rather than representing another obstacle, the right tech can be a road to recovery. Digital transformation doesn’t have to be complicated or costly: affordable tech can simplify and streamline processes.
With the right tech, operators can increase resilience, agility, and profitability. For instance, for those in Tier 3, digital takeaway or click and collect offerings enable a valuable additional income stream. In Tiers 1 and 2, Order & Pay technology means fewer staff can do more with less: thanks to automation, the time spent on banal tasks such as taking payment is reduced, and things can get done in as few steps as possible. Consequently, table turn goes up while staff costs go down. This means hospitality businesses are better equipped for complex shift and rota management, often subject to late changes at the moment thanks to any combination of furlough, socially distanced kitchens, and general Covid complications. Most simply, operators can boost their top line growth through Order & Pay: to illustrate the revenue-boosting ability of digital ordering tech, average spend increases by 11% when customers order via the Ordamo app.
Beyond digital ordering, there is a deep toolkit of software offerings on the market, including, but not limited to: Point of Sale systems, guest review platforms, loyalty schemes, digital marketing, revenue management, e-commerce, stock and inventory management, property management systems, and table booking. Operators relying on outdated systems risk failing to future-proof their business, while digital systems ensure greater operational efficiency. Ultimately, innovation allows operators to face what seem like insurmountable challenges as they try to rebuild their businesses—a lifeline in choppy waters.
In the current climate, you have to get smarter—you can’t be flying blind. When margins are thin, lost information in decisions and transactions represents costly missed opportunities. More guest data, gathered through the use of a variety of hospitality tech platforms such as Order & Pay apps and guest review platforms, means more informed decisions and more profit. Such decisions are arrived at via big data analytics, which can be leveraged to optimise customer satisfaction across location, shift, server, and dish levels. Essentially, performance can be monitored and optimised on a regular basis, ensuring operators can maximise their ROI. Equally as important at the moment is stock control. To reduce wastage, accurate data is key—dead stock is dead revenue, so careful menu management and supplier adjustments should be factored in accordingly.
Max out digital marketing
To stay top of mind, operators should ramp up their online presence—if customers currently cannot visit their site physically, then they can keep them excited for the day that they will be able to. Using an omni-channel approach, across platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, TripAdvisor, and Google, businesses can drive more online traffic, and, in turn, more foot traffic. There is no shortage of digital strategies for businesses to boost engagement: from loyalty marketing to sharing events, news, giveaways, deals, and discounts, the versatility of these consumer channels give operators a chance to stay connected with customers when restrictions may prevent physical contact.
Nobody has found this year easy—least of all the millions of workers employed in the hospitality sector. From bar staff to busboys, sous-chefs to sommeliers, it has been a testing time. Now things are reopening, employers need to back their staff. Changeable restrictions mean new rules and confused customers; workers are the ones who have to deal with this during service, often with shorter staffing than before the pandemic. Equally, the virus has not gone away. This means that workplace safety and employee wellbeing should be at the top of business’ priority lists. To bolster workers’ mental health, regular communication, flexibility, and a level of understanding are all crucial. With the right support structures in place, service will come with a genuine smile.