Founder of Eat17, James Brundle, looks at the changes the hospitality sector can make to become more agile and adaptable over the coming months
Globally the COVID-19 pandemic has ripped through the hospitality sector with hotels, bars and restaurants shut up for months. In the UK, outlets closed their doors on 20 March, three days before the nationwide lockdown was announced and began to reopen 15 weeks later on 4 July. Now business leaders are urging the sector to adapt and become more agile to future-proof and look at new ways to grow revenue.
The priority for many businesses at the moment is very simple – survival. With the furlough scheme beginning to draw to a close and life slowly returning to a kind of normal, all sectors are having to adapt to a new way of operating.
And none more so than the hospitality sector. The last four months have been devastating for the UK’s hotels, bars and restaurants. Just as the Easter and summer season were about to get started in earnest, businesses were locked up for the foreseeable future.
According to estimates from UK Hospitality, the sector experienced a 97 per cent drop in revenue from the beginning of April. Survival for these businesses now depends on them becoming agile, adaptable and ready to change to suit the market conditions.
For instance, Eat17’s business offers a convenience store with a restaurant and takeaway dining. So, like others in the hospitality sector, it had to make changes to adapt. However, by having several strands to the business, it was able to adapt to the market conditions to remain viable.
Planning is now important to ensure profitability as businesses move forward and adapt to the changing times. There are some steps they can begin to take to ensure a more profitable future.
Think about why your business model needs to be agile. What do you want to achieve and what benefits will it bring? What changes will need to be made to adopt this new way of working and how will it help and provide value to staff and customers? Where do you need to start and how will you communicate the change?
For the business to be agile, priorities need to be set but take your time to do them. Do not rush and have time to reflect on the changes you are making. Think about the changes you want to make to secure future growth and recoup loses made in the last four months. By turning over redundant space to retail or offering an eating out / takeaway option as Eat17’s franchise model suggests, you’ll be creating new streams of revenue which will work now and in the future.
Plan for the unexpected
If the last four months has taught businesses anything, it’s to plan for the unexpected. Think about the negative and positive things that could happen to your business. Being agile means you can adapt to those changes. What we’ve seen in recent months is that adaptable businesses flourish. They’ve taken their offering online, found new ways to meet customer needs and come up with a much more robust business model.
For some that has been impossible because of the nature of their business but now is the time to look to solutions for the future. What can you do with unusable space both internally and externally and kitchens that have been shut for months? As lockdown was eased, Eat17 increased the outdoor eating area at its restaurant in Walthamstow. It made good use of that space, was safe for customers and meant Eat17 could increase covers.
In an agile business, overall performance is more important than when and where people work. So, a flexible approach needs to be built in – think about the training you need to offer to make this happen, encourage teamwork and collaboration and make the most of the services and support available to you and your team.