When you cast your mind back to spring and summer 2020, you’ll remember the strict lockdown and the frightening Covid figures. If you run a hospitality business, you will also remember the terrifying prospect of trying to stay afloat without being able to open up your doors and welcome customers.
Some businesses realised they didn’t have the stomach for the fight, or that the government financial help was never going to be enough. Others dug deep and took a proactive approach. For these businesses, it was all about adapting to the circumstances and making the very best of every opportunity to serve customers, often in new and innovative ways.
Businesses of all sizes discovered the value of being flexible and agile. Larger hospitality businesses that were previously weighed down by hierarchical structures, budgets, politics and bureaucracy, were suddenly set free. They quickly realised that important decisions didn’t always have to go through months of review and many levels of sign-off to be put into practice.
Now – with a new variant looming and increasing limitations returning to our lives, we need to put into practice what we’ve already learned to protect our businesses and serve consumers effectively and safely.
Christmas parties off the menu?
As I type, the Omicron variant is sweeping through the UK with increasing vigour. The response so far is more working from home and increased mask wearing. We’ll also have to show Covid passes to attend certain venues or events.
This is a major blow to hospitality for a number of reasons. Firstly, businesses have been cancelling their Christmas dinners and parties at an alarming rate. And, although the government has not called for the cancellation of Christmas parties, with working from home now encouraged, it’s not surprising that many businesses are erring on the safe side and putting their social plans on hold.
BWH Hotel Group has revealed that 72% of its hotels that are independently owned have seen an increase in Christmas cancellations since 1 December and 89% are concerned about the Christmas period from a trading point of view. UK Hospitality reported that its members were seeing over a 10% rise in cancellations since the emergence of Omicron, but we now know this has increased further following the work from home order,
As well as the rise in cancellations, hospitality businesses that rely on trade from office workers, especially those in city centres, will suffer as a result of the latest restrictions. Meanwhile, the general sense of anxiety about socialising in groups and, for those who are more vulnerable, going out at all, will most likely have a knock on effect throughout the industry for months to come.
If you can adapt, you’ll come out on top
Businesses that have embraced their new-found freedom to innovate and adapt are doing well. From introducing new subscription-based services, creating incredible finish-at-home takeaway boxes or adapting dead spaces into purpose-built outdoor dining areas and event spaces, many pandemic-related products and services have become huge hits.
As consumers, we’ve already started to take upmarket at-home dining for granted. Many of us will continue to order a box from our favourite restaurant for a special occasion, or use a service like Cote at Home when we have friends or family over.
We’ll book a table in that quirky outdoor Alpine-themed bar that opened in Autumn 2020, but is still a firm favourite among customers who love the atmosphere. Or we’ll go out of our way to make sure we get our coffee from the coffee shop that started a loyalty scheme during lockdown for takeaway hot drinks. We could buy our coffee from anywhere now, but the scheme keeps us coming back again and again.
These are the kinds of innovations that were made at the height of the pandemic and they are proving to be the best decisions some businesses ever made. They are consumer-focused innovations that created something new and different that may have passed us all by without this urgent and unique set of circumstances. They are testament to maintaining a start-up mentality, even after years of operation.
As a business owner working in the hospitality industry, you will have learned the value of an adaptable mindset. We work with businesses of all sizes, from independent restaurant owners, right up to national hotel chains. However, they all have this mindset in common. They realise that having the ability to change is everything, and having a digital menu gives them this ability.
How does a digital menu help you to stay agile?
If you’ve ever wanted to change your menu for the weekend ahead, but have decided against it because it would mean reprinting, a digital menu can give you more freedom.
Leslie’s digital menus allow contact free ordering in up to four languages no less! You are able to adapt your menu items, format, images and prices quickly and easily with no printing costs and no waiting for new copies to arrive.
If your chef wants to introduce a new special, or you want to run a promotion of certain items, you can change your menu accordingly – fast and it will be live instantly for your diners to view and order from.
You can start serving food and drinks outdoors and indoors or even offer a short term takeaway solution at the touch of a button. And if your costs are increasing due to supply issues, you can adapt prices for your next service.
In short, at a time when agility is everything, migrating to a digital menu can give you the freedom you need to make the decisions that count, as soon as they need to be made.