Covid19 – 8 Points To Consider Before Re-Opening Your Hospitality Outlet
The coronavirus outbreak has had a crippling effect on hospitality businesses across the UK. The sector has been forced to diversify in order to trade through the pandemic, with government support measures proving inadequate compensation for the devastating financial damage encountered since March 2020.
There’s now light at the end of the tunnel regarding reopening – Use this time wisely and focus on organisation and ‘reinvention’ ensuring you’re in prime position to handle the challenges ahead.
1. Financial Control
Running a hospitality business can be ‘all-consuming’ leaving little time for financial management – However, financial control is critical. Reviewing sales figures is simply not sufficient and certainly won’t be during uncertain times…
- Don’t cut corners and attempt to do your accounts / payroll yourself – Find the right accountant (ideally an industry specialist) and use them in the right way. This will save time, money and help you grow your business.
- Ensure your accountant has the expertise to support you through the pandemic and is not over charging for extra work, such as furlough claims.
- An accountant should ensure compliance / avoid HMRC penalties as an absolute bare minimum – Take their advice if you’re struggling to deal with HMRC.
- Monthly Management Accounts – Ensure your accountant delivers these promptly – Otherwise you’re working blindfolded, unable to spot problems and take action. Review accounts regularly, plan for the future and ask for help if you need it.
- Metrics – Ensure your Management Accounts highlight key industry metrics, such as wet / dry margins and staff cost ratios.
- Cash Flow Reports – A helpful tool for monitoring your position, as we move out of the pandemic – Don’t be scared to ask your accountant to provide if required.
- Think ‘cash flow’ not ‘profit’ – Obviously it’s great if you can still make a profit during the crisis, but a small loss beats a big loss. Think about where you can take a ‘managed hit’ to profits, to generate ready cash to pay your bills as they fall due.
2. Review Costs
During these challenging times, focus on minimising costs. It’s easy to lose track, allowing them to ‘creep’ up in multiple areas. Use your Monthly Management Accounts to focus on the following:
- Suppliers – Review all supplier costs to ensure you have the most competitive prices – Well worth going through with a fine tooth comb!
- Staffing Costs – Re consider rota’s (particularly with table service in mind) to ensure you’re sufficiently, but not over-staffed.
- Wastage – Vigilance is critical here, to ensure its kept to a minimum and healthy margins achieved.
- Portion control – Review portion sizes to ensure customers are content, but not over fed!
- Stock Control – Enforce your inventory control systems, even if minimal. Aim to keep as little stock on hand as possible – Consider stock as money tied up as product.
Further tips to help keep a lid on costs:
- Budget realistically for cleaning products and PPE equipment – Research suppliers to ensure you get the best deal.
- Consolidate your wet / dry suppliers – To reduce costs, remove unnecessary paperwork and provide essential cash flow, along with controlling reordering.
- Check your current utility bills are in contract and not on out of contract rates.
- Provide a regular meter reading for utilities to your suppliers to avoid them generating estimated usage bills as these are normally significantly higher than actual usage and this can affect your short-term cash flow.
- If you don’t have mains gas but use oil, consider switching to LPG, which is cheaper to run and cleaner.
- Ensure you’re billed correctly for your telephone lines, including your broadband, credit cards and any alarm lines.
- Check your current tariffs to ensure you are not being overcharged for card transactions and machine rentals.
- Make sure you review and check the level of insurance cover.
- Check your water charges to make sure that you’re not being billed for overuse of water, sewerage or rates.
It’s all too easy to become overwhelmed by ‘plate spinning’ and forget the importance of organisation when running a business – Get organised and re start with a clean slate!
Use lockdown to ‘re group’ and review your organisation systems and establish simple processes to ensure you feel on top of daily administration and nothing gets missed (or lost!)
- Keep important information visible with an efficient filing system – Out of sight can quickly become out of mind, which can lead to missed deadlines or wasted time searching for the information you need.
- Schedule time to file – Filing systems only work if you use them – We’ve all experienced that paper backup, where we “pile” rather than file.
- Email – Organise your inbox, so you feel more in control.
- Delegate this work to someone you trust if it’s not your natural skill set or if you are too busy once your business re-opens for trade.
4. Menu Redesign
We all hope customers will come flocking back as restrictions are lifted, but we’d be naive to assume everything will return to ‘normal’ overnight. Anticipate the (further) changes ahead, as customers will potentially be on a tighter budget and may be anxious about eating out.
You’ll also be tasked with managing (unpredictable) customer demand, whilst (potentially) operating table service only, which is a balancing act!
With this in mind it’s worth considering food menus:
- Cater for tighter budgets – Consider menus options that offer great value, but allow you to achieve your target margin.
- ‘Faster Food’ – Offer snack options for those just wanting a quick, but fun experience.
- ‘Small and Simple’ – Reduce the menu size to ensure it’s operationally viable.
- Consider continuing take away services once lockdown restrictions have been lifted.
- Consider ‘order ahead’ options to meet customer demand / speed up turn around times.
- All of the above will also potentially help you reduce food wastage.
Your staff play a crucial role in the profitability of your business. They heavily influence the customer experience and determine repeat visits / recommendations to others.
Recruiting / retaining great people is a key challenge facing hospitality, particularly during the current challenging climate, when they will be ‘tested’ to the max!
- Devise a plan to boost morale amongst staff. If your staff are happier, they’ll probably work harder and faster.
- Offer continual training / development to maintain staff engagement – Crucial for health and safety during the pandemic.
- Hold regular staff meetings to keep staff abreast of the bigger picture and offer support
- Consider staff incentives – Group incentives bring the team together and will drive them towards a unified goal.
- Encourage every one of your employees to think of ways that they could continue to work under the new constraints. You could even offer bonuses for the most successful ideas.
6. Maximise Outside Space
Given outdoor trading is due to commence in April 2021, providing comfortable outdoor seating will encourage much needed trade, when other income streams won’t yet be feasible.
It’s well worth spending some time considering cost effective outdoor options:
- Patio awnings are a great solution for those seeking an easy and affordable transformation to outdoor space.
- Where structures such as verandas and pergolas already exist, consider external blinds to provide effective shielding, creating a warm environment all year round.
- Canopies and pergolas are a great addition to a large outdoor space, especially when installed with lighting and heaters.
- Outdoor Pods – Another outdoor option to allow outside dining, they come in all shapes and sizes and are a cool addition to outside space
7. Use Technology To Increase Efficiency
Managing operational costs is now more crucial than ever, coupled with the pressure to deliver within social distancing constraints. Customer behaviour is changing and it seems likely that the shift to mobile channels (apps and contactless ordering platforms) will remain when the pandemic subsides.
Investment in technology is a key part of this equation. The future may be uncertain, but with the right technology, you’ll stay one step ahead.
- Mobile order and pay systems – Mobile order and pay solutions minimise physical contact between customers and employees and are crucial for reducing labour costs and improving the customer experience. These systems can also be used to offer takeaway / delivery service whilst we await reopening.
- POS Systems – A POS (point-of-sale) system will support your business in numerous ways – Such as handling sales transactions, offering flexible payment methods, tracking inventory, and improving communication between staff – Review your options to ensure you’ve invested in the best system.
- Table Management Platforms – Use your (reduced) capacity wisely – These platforms will help you rearrange table layouts, limit capacity in time slots and manage wait lists.
- Staff Management – One of the most time-consuming tasks in hospitality is creating the staff rota – Ensuring peak times are covered and staff are working contracted hours – Research software to help tackle these issues. (some Epos systems offer this as a standard option or the function can be added to your package)
In today’s tough market, it’s essential to stand out from the crowd, cater to customers (ever changing demands) and welcome them back with open arms when the time comes.
Draw up a ‘Re start’’ marketing plan for 2021 – Considering the following:
- Competitor research – Ensure your offering is competitive and unique drawing customers in when the ‘nod ‘is given on reopening.
- Take advantage of social media – Post a variety of (ideally interactive) content on different channels – Videos, pictures, discounts on relevant topics – It’s free, immediate and easy to execute! Create a sense of ‘community’ through posts, which is what everyone is yearning for throughout the crisis.
- Publicise offers or special promotions as part of your reopening.
- Consider a customer loyalty program to encourage repeat visits.
- Communicate safety precautions in line with government regulations (mandatory reservations, gathering information for contact tracing, etc.)
- Update your website / Social media pages with any changes to your operation (service hours, layouts, outdoor options etc.)
- Beyond table service, provide information about other ways customers can order from you, including online ordering or any third-party delivery apps.
- If you’re using reservations software, get feedback from diners about their experience.