Nobody knows when this uniquely difficult time will end, but if you do work in the hospitality sector, how can you let clients know that your business is very much alive and kicking?
Among the many industries struggling against the immensity of the COVID-19 outbreak, hospitality (restaurants, hotels and tourism attractions) is undoubtedly one of the hardest-hit. It can be argued that as non-essential businesses start growing progressively around the world, many restaurant hotels will be struggling to market tourism and leisure as safe yet pleasurable pursuits.
It is important at this point to show your clients that your heart is in the right place. Restaurants who are giving a helping hand to the needy during the COVID-19 crisis are doing a great service that will be remembered long after the virus is eliminated. José Andrés, the Spanish/American Chef who founded the non-profit organization World Central Kitchen, is showing the world how it’s done, feeding the crew and passengers of stranded cruise liners, The Grand Princess (California) and the Diamond Princess (in Japan). Andrés has been doing this a long time – since 2010 in fact, and he has helped in many tragedies experienced in the four corners of the globe. The Chef, recognized by Time magazine in the Time 100 list of the most influential people in the world, is staying active but also garnering the kind of interest saved for businesses that are making a real difference. Think of ways you too can help the neediest – perhaps by donating frozen ingredients to staff or to groups needing food.
If you work in the restaurant trade, make it a little easier on diners forced to stay home by posting dynamic stories and videos featuring easy-to-prepare recipes. Chefs across the globe are making it happen with regular ‘quick meals’ posted on their Instagram channels. Dani García, Jamie Oliver and Shane Smith are just a handful of Chefs whose sites may inspire your own As is the case with José Andrés, their names – and their recipes – are likely to remain on people’s lips for many years to come.
If you are in the hotel industry, know that safety will be a more important value than it ever has been. Hotels catered to families often have a marketing strategy that stresses fun and safety for kids on vacation. Thus, they are quick to point out services such as creches, kids’ clubs or nanny services, as well as safety features of rooms – including baby-proof rooms and furniture items. During the COVID-19 crisis, many hotels (including several Marriott hotels and luxury hotels such as The Standard in New York) have had to close down. However, those that are still open need to emphasize the safety measures established in their hotels. These can include relying on online check-ins, the provision of masks for clients, and intense cleaning practices to ensure rooms are spotless.
One of the toughest things about the COVID-19 crisis is having to lay off a large percentage of staff. Try to think if there is a way your staff can continue to earn money through alternative means. Some restaurants are finding a way to keep staff employed by changing their models of business, as suggested by politicians like New York’s Governor, Andrew Cuomo. Instead of staying open, they are switching to take-away or home delivery services, thus enabling those in confinement to enjoy a taste of the good life from the comfort of their home.
Not all restaurants and hotels will be able to open after COVID-19. If you will be opening again, creating an exit strategy is key in case a similar event happens in the future. Considerations to include are: your deal objective, the target period for holding onto the business, the available buyer pool, and your expected investment returns. Recovery from COVID-19 will be slow but sure. Experts say it could take years to recover, but you don’t want to exit too soon: you want to ensure a fair price when you decide to sell your business.
Like many industries, hospitality is suffering greatly during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is vital for restaurants and hotels to remind clients they are still around – just in a different form than in the past. COVID-19 will pass, and the hospitality industry will triumph again. Clients are likely to remember, however, those who stayed open, helped staff, and found ways to make the world a little better in tough times, so do your best to show that you will still be around when this is over. Do this by helping those in need, showing off your best assets, and ensuring good staff is retained by finding alternative roles for them to fulfil in the interim.