Prask Sutton, Founder & CEO of Wi5
We’re entering uncharted waters. Furlough coming to an end means consumers are preparing to tighten their belts and businesses are concerned about their wage bills. There’s mixed opinion on whether Eat Out to Help Out will see customers continue to frequent pubs, bars and restaurants for their meals or if it means a return to a culture of heavy discounting not commercially viable for many. What’s more, as we enter the colder months of winter, how much harder will it be to abide by social distancing without being able to make the most of outdoor seating areas?
But before you stop reading, I promise this isn’t a ‘doom and gloom’ piece. You see, I feel that September brings with it a big dose of optimism (which we all need right now). Most people would say that New Year is the time for change and developing new habits, others might say Spring with its metaphor of growth and new beginnings. For me, it’s September. If you think about it, ever since we first started school, it’s been drilled into us that September is a time for newness – new term, new uniform, new pencil case… so perhaps we as the hospitality industry should embrace this and use this time before the end of the year to reset.
We’ve all learnt lessons recently so let’s use these learnings to make just two mid-year resolutions, one personally and one professionally, which collectively could play a part in reviving the industry we all love so much.
Personal Resolution: I will support both independent and big brand hospitality venues
While Twitter may be awash with ‘good riddance’ comments when big brands are forced to close their doors, we in the industry are not so glib. We know the faces behind the “corporate giants”, we know that these places are providing much-needed jobs and security to a good majority of those 1.8m people employed in hospitality. While some may celebrate their demise, the fact is missed that these businesses are people’s lifelines. The closure of a chain isn’t an ‘up yours to capitalism’, but instead means at least five or six households per store who are losing an income. Equally, smaller independent operators act as hubs of their local communities, providing jobs and careers. They welcomed back customers through EOTHO, but don’t all have the luxury of extending with their own hard-earned money and will need us all to continue to visit them, share reviews and keep coming back for their great atmosphere and service.
Professional Resolution: I will plan ahead to proactively take on challenges
To remain open, the industry has had to adapt, finding ways to enable social distancing and removing physical menus. With colder months ahead there’ll be a need to plan for staff shortages as come the usual winter coughs and colds, we’ll need to err on the side of caution. Having a mobile Order & Pay solution has gone from a ‘nice to have’ to an absolute necessity. Operators need to offer ‘Pickup’ and ‘Order to Table’ brilliantly, whilst maintaining social distancing, and crucially, keep costs down more than ever. With Bolton and Trafford becoming the latest towns to fall victim to further lockdown measures, new restrictions pose a very real threat. A mobile Order & Pay solution can help you quickly, cheaply and efficiently adapt to Pickup if needed, help maintain social distancing between staff and customers and free up your teams to focus on the hospitality element of their jobs – ensuring a great service and experience by removing the, let’s face it, boring transactional element of paying a bill. With the hospitality industry now taking a leap into the m-commerce revolution, customers will embrace the speed and efficiency that tech brings them, and operators will rely on suppliers they can trust, on a financial model that suits their businesses.
So if I can urge you to do just two things this September, it’s to put plans in place to embrace the winter months ready for the Christmas rush ahead. And, as people who love this industry, we must make an effort to change out of our ‘work from home sweat pants’ and make that trip to the office to support what used to be our regular haunt. We should go to our local high street for lunch instead of creating something from questionable leftovers from the back of the fridge. We now more than ever must give back to the industry we love, and play our part in continuing its recovery.
This piece first appeared in Propel’s Friday Opinion