It’s been exciting to see hospitality businesses reopening over the last few days after what’s been such a challenging few months for an industry we love. To help the industry prepare for reopening, we have worked with a number of clients across different sectors including high street independent restaurants, garden centres and B&I. Our team has helped them to overcome some of the new social distancing challenges they face but also advised them on how to create a welcoming environment and maximise sales.

What are clients doing to adapt?

We’ve seen some examples where a hospitality business has really thought about Covid19 and clever ways to prevent the spread of the virus but has lost the consumer experience along the way. With the need to social distance often meaning reduced covers, there is a need for many owners to diversify their business and our expertise has helped them to do this.

It’s been inspiring to see enquiries coming in from potential new clients who haven’t let the challenges which 2020 has brought stop them from developing their business ideas. This includes brand new concepts as well as a refresh of businesses ahead of reopening. As an organisation who puts consumer experience at the heart of all its designs, we love hearing from those who want to improve their offering.

What changes do you need to consider?

At ABDA we have had to quickly adapt as a business. Covid19 has caused us to completely rewrite our standard way of thinking. We’ve had to become even more flexible with clients and turn things around quicker than ever. The rulebook on how a bar or restaurant looks, feels and operates has had to be completely rewritten. Our main advice when chatting to new clients is to look at your main demographic and consider how they are feeling and explore what will make them feel comfortable and welcome. A trendy high street bar aimed at Generation Z will need to offer a different experience to a garden centre looking to reassure Baby Boomers that their safety is top priority. You don’t want that first experience of eating out again to put consumers off. Making it too clinical can have a negative impact just as much as not considering the impact of coronavirus in your operation.

There are some great examples of hospitality businesses thinking outside the box. Technology is going to play a big part in driving sales, making service easier and allowing customers to have minimal contact to make them feel safe.

What’s it like to eat out in the ‘new normal’?

One of our directors, Claire Smith had her first taste of hospitality in months earlier this week. She went to Bill’s at Rushden Lakes in Northamptonshire. Even deciding where to eat out was a much harder decision than normal. Claire opted for a chain as many of the local restaurants she normally likes to support weren’t open.

A table had been booked in advance via OpenTable but there wasn’t any literature or communication available to set the scene on what to expect. However, Claire was greeted by friendly staff in the same way she normally would. The main differences were her temperature was taken on arrival, she was given the opportunity to sit outside or inside and the table was cleaned in front of her before she sat down. This immediately put Claire at ease as it felt natural and friendly, but it was also clear that cleanliness was a top priority. There was Bill’s branded hand sanitiser on every table and this attention to detail took away any clinical feel. All the tables were well spaced out, even though it was quite busy for a Monday lunchtime. The key thing Claire took away from the experience was that it didn’t feel like Covid19 was everywhere which meant customers could just relax and enjoy the experience.

What can you learn from this experience?

Our main pieces of advice for those who haven’t reopened yet would be to be 100% mindful of the consumer experience and make sure your staff are well-trained. Your staff do need to be focusing on cleanliness, but this shouldn’t feel sterile. Washing hands should be visible to the customer as this will be reassuring and talk your customers through the experience so they know what to expect.

Over the coming weeks and months, we will be helping our B&I clients as more offices reopen and employees return to workplaces. The ABDA team will be taking their learnings from the high street and putting them into the corporate world.

Life in hospitality is different but change is often a good thing and we know the industry has the creativity and resilience to return stronger than ever.

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