As Freedom Day brings “almost” normality to our restaurant and bar sector there are challenges to overcome. The good news is our clients have missed us almost as much as we have missed them.
Former Institute of Hospitality CEO, Peter Ducker has spent a lifetime in the hospitality industry and is a member of P&G Professional’s Expert Advisory Council.
There is no doubt that “Freedom Day” has been a pivotal milestone for the UK hospitality industry. Many businesses that found it either impossible or unviable to operate under the previous restrictions heaved a sigh of relief as the great day finally approached and they were able to prepare for being fully open and ready to welcome guests.
Even the sun came out to celebrate – and of course it’s a well-known fact that fine weather’s good for business, so surely, at last, restaurateurs, cafe owners and bar operators are rejoicing with unalloyed relief. Or are they?
Let’s not focus on the “pingdemic” which is affecting so many sectors of the economy and businesses in every industry. The poor old hospitality operator has troubles of his own.
With the impacts of Lockdown coinciding with Brexit, many hospitality workers – chefs, waiters, bar staff – flew home and have not returned. Some were furloughed, others laid off. The key point is that a significant sector of the workforce is just not coming back. Pretty much every business in every sector of the vast hospitality industry is impacted.
To make matters worse, this same migration has added pressure to the supply chain. Home deliveries experienced boom time during lockdown, and staff laid off from supplying the hospitality sector have been welcomed with open arms by the online retailers. Supply chain issues are a challenge in every sector, yet hospitality suffers more because of the dependence on fresh produce in so many places.
So restaurants, cafes and bars have staff shortages and supply issues, but the sun’s shining and – let’s all agree – that there is a massive pent up demand to get out, meet friends, celebrate last year’s birthdays before moving on to celebrate more recent ones, and just have a night off from home cooking or Deliveroo.
There is light at the end of the tunnel: you are open, able to operate every table at last and people are keen to come to you. The UK is now an “experience economy” – we all want entertaining, and that means hospitality. Although we’re slowly returning to the familiar, in the wake of the past year and a half, some things are different now.
Truth be told we’ve all changed a little. We always pretty well assumed that the places we visited were safe havens. If there’s a food safety certificate showing 5 stars, and we’ve never suffered after eating there, surely that’s enough? No. The pandemic had brought with it a whole new area to worry about. A concern so real that if a business doesn’t meet it head on then they will surely suffer.
I’m talking, of course, about being “COVID safe”. It’s not just being clean, it’s being demonstrably clean. Overcoming this challenge comes in two stages. The first, obviously, being truly safe, using the latest and best products to supplement your cleaning routines both front and back of house. The second part is to get on your front foot and communicate this to your potential clients.
So there’s the nub of the problem – you’re short staffed, but need to ramp up your cleaning programme so that you can be ‘best of breed’ in the eyes of your client.
There are a number of ways to tackle staff shortages. Firstly, smart management – which may include reduced opening hours to concentrate staff levels over the times you make most money, as well as menu consolidating. Secondly of course, a bug-bear of mine – upskilling through better training. Finally, don’t underestimate the value of investment in professional products like those from P&G Professional, which can help improve staff efficiency – vital when operating with a skeleton workforce. Its trusted and recognisable brands such as Flash Professional, Fairy Professional and Ariel Professional are easy to use and help staff to deliver great first-time results with no rework. When tools are easy to use and require simple training, even members of staff who are not familiar with hospitality cleaning practices will be more confident in their work. Not only this, but several of these are proven to kill bacteria and enveloped viruses, such as coronaviruses.
To be able to say you are COVID safe you are going to have to bring in the cavalry. The cavalry in this case are some very smart scientists who, whilst we were locked down, were foreseeing the challenge of safety in high traffic commercial areas and developing a product to solve the problem. Those scientists work for P&G Professional, and their product is Microban 24 Professional, which keeps killing 99.9% of bacteria for up to 24 hours(1), even after multiple touches, and also initially kills enveloped viruses(2) such as SARS-CoV-2(3) and flu virus(4).
P&G is a longstanding trusted company supporting our industry. What’s great is that, knowing the industry as well as they do, they’ve also thought about the challenge of communicating your clean status to your clients in a way that can bring them comfort.
So there’s a product that will give you and your staff (don’t forget their worries about being safe) confidence that you have a regimen that is as good as it can be. The smart thing is that once the regimen is in place you can apply to P&G Professional for their stamp of approval. The CleanPLUS Experience is a window sticker and digital badge for your website, and as all of your clients will have P&G products in their homes, they’re a trusted source: their endorsement is relevant and recognisable.
A top tip is once you’ve got the CleanPLUS Experience, be sure to mention it on your social media channels and when you reply to customer reviews on user generated platforms like TripAdvisor. Another is to make sure all your staff know about your cleaning regimen so that they can answer customer questions.
So we are not out of the woods yet. Staffing, supply issues and customer confidence are challenges we have to overcome. Good management, good supplier relationships, innovation and good communication will be the watchwords of your business recovery.
To learn more about P&G Professional and its professional cleaning systems please visit www.pgpro.co.uk or call 0800 716 854.
1 When used as directed, Microban 24 Professional is effective for up to 24h against bacteria. Use biocides safely. Always read the label and product information before use.
2 Tested on enveloped viruses according to EN16777. 5 minutes contact time. Microban 24 does not provide 24-hour residual virus protection.
3 Kills 99.9% of SARS-CoV-2 according to EN14476. 5 minutes contact time. Microban 24 does not provide 24-hour residual virus protection.
4 Tested on Influenza A H1N1 according to EN16777. 5 minutes contact time. Microban 24 does not provide 24-hour residual virus protection.