With just days to reopening outside in England, and little over a month to indoor trading, pub and restaurant operators should be fully focused on finalizing the operational details for those big dates, and with no distractions.
Unfortunately, they have the Government and its newly created Ministry for Business Prevention (aka The Cabinet Office) to contend with.
Even after all these months, the political kite flying and endless confusion over policy and guidelines is still exasperating for business, with the current chaos surrounding vaccine passports especially disconcerting.
It is not just a boardroom issue either, but permeates right down to front-line teams, creating uncertainty and in many cases real anxiety – something our political leaders seem not to grasp.
The pressure is on pub and restaurant GMs and their staff to make reopening work. They are the front-line, welcoming the public back, making sure they are safe and understand the new ways of working – and importantly have a great experience into the bargain. That’s not to mention looking over their shoulders for a potential unannounced visit from overzealous EHOs or even the police looking for chinks in the operational machine.
Teams need clarity from senior management, and most importantly know that their bosses have their backs.
In a message aimed at customers, David McDowall, Brewdog’s COO, wrote in a LinkedIn post this week: “Over the last year or so, people have realised how important and meaningful their connection with their local pub, restaurant, cafe, or bar is to them and to their communities. When they start to re-open, please remember that teams have spent months on furlough, owners have been fighting for the survival of their businesses, and that things may not always go 100% to plan. Be kind. One thing is for sure. They are so happy to welcome you back.”
Wise words, and the sentiments about teams can equally be aimed back at company directors and their operations teams. These are tense times, it’s been a long lay-off, so be extra kind and understanding to your pub and restaurant teams. They may well be enthusiastic, but that will be laced with apprehension for many. Don’t expect them to all be gung-ho. They’ll need reassurance too.
They may have been on furlough, but with no tips or bonus many will have been surviving on far less income than they may be used to. With many bar and restaurant workers in our big cities having left the country too, keeping the staff you have is going to be a priority as well.
How operators recruit, reward and retain their restaurant and pub teams will be a crucial differentiator in the weeks and months to come. Management may not have control over Government rules and regulations, but this is an area they can and must influence.
You might say that has always been the case. But the world and trading environment has changed, so perhaps people policies need to develop fast too?
I was hosting a webinar with senior executives from some of the leading QSR chains recently, and despite the fact that quick service has become even more dependent on convenience and digital, all agreed that their teams and their interaction with customers would give them the edge.
Being fleet-of-foot and nimble of mind are going to be vital in navigating a way through the new trading landscape and adapting to developing customer expectations. We know the public is keen to go out to eat and drink, but how they will react to what they find is not so obvious.
That flexibility to react and adapt needs to be part of the front-line culture too. Giving more responsibility, and autonomy, to GMs and front-line teams, as they are the ones best placed to react to local circumstances, looks like the right thing to do, even if it does jar with the centralized command-and-control instincts of many companies.
Reopening will not be easy, as David McDowall notes, not everything will go 100% to plan, but maintaining a sense of unity, shared purpose and trust from the top to bottom of organisations will be vital. Hospitality always prides itself on being a people business: now’s the time to prove it.
Peter Martin: Life on the frontline just got harder
With just days to reopening outside in England, and little over a month to indoor trading, pub and restaurant operators should be fully focused on finalizing the operational details for those big dates, and with no distractions. Unfortunately, they have the Government and its newly created Ministry for Business Prevention (aka The Cabinet Office) to contend with. Even after all these months, the political kite flying and endless confusion over policy and guidelines is still exasperating for business, with the current chaos surrounding vaccine passports especially disconcerting.