Like many (all?) others in the hospitality sector, my businesses have been hit hard by the lockdown. There’s no denying it – these are stressful, anxiety-ridden times indeed. Wondering where the next penny is coming from while ensuring staff are paid and reassured. We are mostly day-to-day cash businesses without the huge monetary reserves of, for example, the IT giants (FYI – Microsoft currently has $136.6 billion in the bank…), and we need to be clever and innovative at the best of times. And now we find ourselves having to be particularly dynamic and creative as we take the next tentative steps towards returning to normal service and, fingers crossed, recovery.
My catering and hospitality consultancy has being doing surprisingly well (hurray!) with both existing and new clients approaching me as restrictions ease. But among exciting new menus and ambitious renovation projects are many businesses who are losing themselves in the murky swamps of Covid protocol. I got myself thinking” What the hell has happened to this place?” whenever I walk into a previously much loved café or bar. So, here are my top five tips of how to ensure you don’t lose your identity under the weight of one-way systems, hand sanitiser, masks and gloves:
1. Be positive
It’s vital to communicate the right messages to the right people, but rather than using terms such as ‘Prevention Plan’, use “Protection Plan” instead. So much more positive and reassuring while conveying the same thing.
2. Stay on brand
I’ve witnessed some slightly terrifying posters; the kind of overly zealous ones with bold, red typography more commonly seen in disaster zones. Any information signs should be on-brand and a positive reflection of your business as well as an effective way to communicate. Use eye-catching picture frames or stands which blend in with your décor, and therefore more likely to be read by your customers.
3. Train staff, then train them even more
Ensure your entire team is well-versed on every aspect of Covid protocol and trained in how to deal effectively with non-compliant customers. This knowledge and confidence will allow them to carry out their jobs to the best of their ability and offer their normal level of customer service with a smile and good cheer. And we could all use some of that right now…
4. Presentation, presentation, presentation
If you’re currently using single-use packaging and/or if takeaway is or has become a part of your offering, use attractive, on-brand packaging and pop in a colourful “thank you” postcard. Make even more effort with presentation than you did pre-Covid.
5. Don’t be afraid to use humour
I firmly believe that humour can, and indeed must, be used in any situation. Even during scary global pandemics. Independent coffee shops may be able to push boundaries and use tongue-in-cheek colloquialisms more than international chains, but if you know your customer you’ll know where to draw the line.
Never feel so overwhelmed by legislation and guidelines that you lose sight of what you’re all about. Make sure your business personality keeps shining through and that you remain instantly recognisable to your customers. You definitely don’t want to lose them! So, remember: Stay safe. Stay shiny.
Andrew D Scott MIH
Heaven Scent Coffee Shop
Trustee of Hospitality Health