The Hospitality Industry Assesses How To Safely Bounce Back
It’s no secret that the hospitality industry has taken a huge hit during the Covid-19 pandemic. With many restaurants, hotels and bars forced to close their doors in the UK in March, countless people have been put on furlough and some have even lost their jobs.
With staff being furloughed and others made redundant, the hospitality industry has had to take a good look at current measures and make a lot of big changes to ensure the staff, as well as the customers, are as safe as possible upon reopening.
A recent report pools UKHospitality and CGA's latest data from the industry, highlighting that
- The hospitality sector accounted for a third of the UK’s entire drop in GDP in March and April,
- That only one in six (16%) leaders are optimistic about the prospects of the market in the next 12 months.
It also outlines the size of the challenge to bring people back to hospitality,
- A quarter (23%) of consumers only returning to venues with caution.
- A third (33%) only doing so if they are sure that added precautions were in place.
So it is certainly a challenging time for the sector, one which they must ensure all measures are taken for a safe return.
What Now For The Hospitality Industry And How Will They Keep Their Teams Safe?
We caught up with Natasha from Kew Green Hotels, Dub and Oli from Honest Burger and The HIRE Group to see what measures will be put in place as they welcome their teams home.
Kew Green Hotels
Natasha from Kew Green Hotels tells us that the hotels have been able to remain partially open throughout the crisis for key and critical workers. Kew Green are one of the UK’s leading hotel management companies with over 55 hotels in the portfolio across the UK and South East Asia.
“We've been really fortunate that many of our hotels remained open for key and critical workers during the pandemic and we've provided close to 100K rooms during this time!” she said.
“From the beginning we launched an employee volunteer scheme and were overwhelmed with the response. We were clear with our teams that we’d only stay open if people wanted to and felt comfortable being at work. We found that the teams wanted to feel part of the national effort which is incredible, and they have been rewarded with an extra week’s holiday, a 10% bonus each month and retail vouchers.”
Natasha has found that communication is key when navigating the new normal and keeping staff up to date with the ever-changing rules, especially those who had been furloughed and were coming back.
“In order to get real-time feedback from everyone, we launched a continuously open feedback portal to share information and implementing initiatives,” she said. “The world has been moving so fast that what’s important to employees today might be very different next week. It sounds simple but right now our teams need frequent comms that are focused on safety and security. We’ve shared updates with e-learning material, live walkthroughs in office spaces and information and drop-in sessions for our office teams to come and visualise their workspace before they return. The feedback has been great, and our teams feel confident that we’ve taken every possible measure to ensure their safety.”
The HIRE Group
The HIRE Group are a recruitment company dedicated to getting people working in the hospitality industry.
“Those workplaces that place employee safety, wellbeing, flexibility and engagement at the heart of their re-opening strategy, are those who will undoubtedly see the most success in these coming months,” says The HIRE Group.
“People's needs have shifted to that of wanting to feel safe and secure at work and it's so simple to get right. We've seen some wonderful initiatives across our industry and a real sense of camaraderie and support for one another, with re-opening people initiatives all centred around the need to overcommunicate and show compassion and kindness.”
Starting from a stall in Brixton, Honest Burger now has restaurants in London, Reading, Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Brighton, Manchester and Liverpool. With a dedicated learning architect and pub quiz host, the company has implemented the innovative burger heat map to tell when employees were ready to return to work.
Learning architect Dub said, “95% of our team were furloughed and we needed to bring people back as the restaurants started to re-open. We sent a chatbot out asking what the feeling was about returning to work, health questions and their postcode and the results created our burger heat map. The map of our restaurants showed where people live who were ready to return and this made it easy for us to deploy people in the most effective way. Everything was voluntary at first and we made sure we were doing all we could to make coming back as safe as possible including full cleaning procedures, PPE and health checks. The first people who were deployed were those who lived 30 minutes from their restaurant or a 15-minute cycle ride. Operations changed to delivery only at first and so we created our Back to Brixton programme to reskill the teams.”
Long before reopening, employees were treated to a virtual lunch to keep spirts up and to test how their new delivery system would work in the early days of lockdown.
“Our restaurants had to close for seven weeks which is unthinkable for our team – they needed a burger fix! Before we re-opened for delivery, we hosted a virtual pub lunch for every staff member and delivered burgers to their door. It was a great way to test mass delivering but it wasn’t seamless. A couple of deliveries didn’t arrive, or the collection times were wrong but roughly 140 burgers and chips were delivered and we had a lot of happy people all enjoying one big pub lunch together. It was a great learning opportunity.”
Head of Talent Management at Honest Burger, Oli, added, “We’ve done our best to deploy people back in to teams where they can walk or cycle to work, they have the right skills for a delivery heavy operation which has meant launching a new training initiative and to make it voluntary for people to return as we are aware that not everybody is ready to come back just yet.”
Moving Hospitality Forward
With new training, up-to-date communication, increased sanitation and room for social distancing, these businesses have been able to get staff back to work safely and when they feel comfortable to do so. With any luck, similar businesses across the UK can adapt their own models to offer safety, comfort and flexibility for all staff.
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