Mar 24, 2020

How Hospitality Brands Can Persevere in Uncertainty

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In times when we are plagued – quite literally – with adversity, it is more important than ever to assess what really matters.  This has been especially felt by hospitality brands who have absorbed the brunt of the coronavirus hit – faced with plummeting margins, mandated shutdowns, and a suspended, terrified workforce.

Restaurant analysts and operators have been quoting an estimate that 75 percent of the independent restaurants that have been closed to protect Americans from the coronavirus won’t make it. The National Restaurant Association estimated this week that the entire industry would lose $225 billion in the coming three months and shed five to seven million employees. 

Source: New York Times

 

Amidst the chaos and the harrowing numbers, these pivotal moments present a choice: to give into hysteria, or seek a moment to pause, take a deep breath, and realign with our core values, clearing the collective conscience of anxiety and uncertainty.

Here are some ways that hospitality brands can overcome unprecedented circumstances, meaningfully pivot their business strategies, and lay the foundation for an even more promising future. 

1. Spread the love, not germs.

Focus energy into caring for your people and for the community as a whole.  At the core, hospitality is about empathy and addressing human needs.

From the millions of hospitality workers now faced with financial insecurity and uncertain futures, hospitality brands have a responsibility to leverage their own industry values toward their employees, leaning in during times of mass panic and ambiguity.  Many restaurants have begun to implement altered modes of service and alternative forms of income from delivery, gift card sales and rainchecks, and other creative solutions to keep their employees on the payroll and taken care of during trying times.

But these businesses don’t have time to wait; larger-scale action is needed, and needed now, to withstand the growing tides of change, with independent restaurant owners and top industry figures alike calling for a government bailout.  Independent restaurants make up nearly two-thirds of the industry, a proof point of the coveted American Dream and how fickle it can be, and government intervention would buy small business owners time and space to take care of their employees and give hope for the next chapter.    

2. Return the favor.

Maintain customer loyalty and confidence. Now is the time to give back and show your customers what you’re made of, independent of the bottom line.

Displays of customer loyalty are the driving force in hospitality, in an industry where success is measured by table turns, points and status tiers, and occupancy rates.  Brands that reach their customer base with genuine empathy and humility can stoke the flame of loyalty, a force that runs deep and can outlast any catastrophe.

Communication is crucial. Reach out, encourage social media engagement, and stimulate conversation. Explain your plans for now and for the future.  Remind customers what makes your brand so special and top of mind for when things go back to “normal.”

Communities are banding together to support their own, in addition to asking for outside help.  From restaurants offering free meals to industry workers in their local area to crowdsourcing delivery, materials, and community efforts, hospitality businesses are finding a way to connect with their communities and be drivers of good. Bunkhouse Group, a boutique hotel group based in Austin, Texas has created a GoFundMe to raise money for its workers, reaching out to the Austin community to band together for one and all during unprecedented hardship. 

As an imminent solution to a sharp decline in occupancy,  many hotel chains are offering up rooms as hospital beds become scarce, an act of cooperation that will be long remembered.

 

image credit: Bunkhouse Group

 

3. Get creative and act resourcefully.

Albeit a fairly drastic form of spring cleaning, adverse times can force brands into whittling down and focusing efforts in the most impactful places, homing in on creative solutions and action plans to withstand troubled times.

Many restaurants and distributors have pivoted into a consumer-facing grocery format, offering discounted and wholesale pricing as shutdowns have put pressure on margins and food waste issues alike.

Walking through the grocery store or analyzing which menu items are moving on delivery platforms quickest can be key learnings for menu and service line optimizations for now and later – from altering pricing models and loyalty programs, to rethinking SKU utilizations, and thoughtfully streamlining processes.

4. Play the long game.

Get smart for now but innovate for later.

There is an imminent need for action, taking care of present issues and solving for day-to-day operational challenges. However, the impact of something as vast as coronavirus is no small blip in the global radar; it is forcing a shift in worldwide consciousness whose effects will be permanently felt.

Now is the time to not only think about, but implement, long term impact items such as service models, labor, sustainability practices, packaging, and food waste that will only continue to increase in importance.  Now is the time to study the metrics on technological innovations and their impact on how business is done — from adopting third party delivery services, ghost kitchens and commissary models, to even integrating VR into dining and travel experiences.

5. Keep it positive.

Transform uncertainty into something brilliant.  As humans we are generally wired to renounce change, but no good idea arose without a little friction.

Be a catalyst of joy, inspiration, and light, even in the darkest, most challenging moments.  From owning positive, real, and earnest messaging, to sparking moments of connection and laughter during times of social distancing, brands that consumers turn to as experts can combat the gloom and doom that has inundated our collective consciousness.

Restaurant rebels, hospitality warriors, and hardworking hoteliers: we support you.  Your establishments spark joy and inspiration in each of us, bringing neighborhoods and communities together even through times of distance, tumult and quandary.  Your resilience, compassion, and altruism inspires us as we all navigate this disconcerting time together, arm in arm.

 

HELPFUL RESOURCES

If you or someone you know is a hospitality worker in need, here are some amazing resources that have been initiated across the U.S. and around the globe to pitch in, help out, and give back:

 

  1. Independent Restaurant Coalition – Top chefs and restaurateurs collaborating to raise relief efforts for the independent restaurant
  2. Restaurant Opportunity Centers (ROC) – Offering grants to restaurant owners
  3. The Drinks Trust – UK-based nonprofit collecting donations to aid support and counseling services for hospitality industry professionals
  4. Dining at a Distance – Eat for change! Continue to (safely) order food from local businesses
  5. GrubHub’s Donate the Change Initiative – suspending delivery fees and donating their cut to relief efforts

 

A FINAL NOTE

Like so many others, we’re dedicated to finding any way we can to help each other. To show our support, we’re offering free strategic consultation to define action plans for brands that must shift strategies, redirect activity or reinvent quickly to navigate this tumultuous time. Please reach out if you need us: directors@brandjuice.com

With well wishes from Team BrandJuice.

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