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Here you come again…

Business talk with Steve Elsom, November 2020

As I sat enjoying a pre-second lockdown last supper, I was reminded of the Dolly Parton classic from the 70’s, and how prophetic the lyrics were, especially as I was sat in a full to (reduced) capacity eatery: “just when I’ve begun to get myself together, you waltz right in the door, just like you’ve done before”.

You’ve got to feel for the hospitality trade. They suffered long and hard through the unusually warm and sunny late spring that enveloped the first lockdown, and just when they had begun to get things back to some degree of ‘normality’, with well thought through social distancing, staff ‘on message’ in terms of the new protocols, and the welcoming ambience of being able to ‘enjoy a meal out’ for a change, the second lockdown ‘waltz’s right in the door’. Tragedy for some, opportunity for others… really?

Tragedy, in so much that for the majority of the team….it’s back to furlough or worse. The fact that the furlough scheme will give them some financial protection, isn’t the issue. It’s the mental health impact. The loss of ‘belonging’, the lack of social interaction, the erosion of ‘purpose’. Re-building that momentum will be a challenge, which some business owners will understandably not see because of other competing priorities… maybe their own? So, how does the restaurant owner re-build momentum? Are they maintaining a dialogue throughout the next four weeks, are they able to create a ‘teamship’ even though the restaurant is closed, and are they able to have a proper 1:1 conversation with each individual member of the team, to show them empathy, gauge their resilience, build a stronger working relationship and set some goals for during the new lockdown, and then for the four weeks after they re-open?

That’s why I say it’s an ‘opportunity’. Take the ‘unwelcome and unplanned’ break in business to think about the team and their motivations. You might be thinking about raining, or shift patterns or maybe role playing customer service scenarios.”

Step into the customers’ shoes…what first impression does your establishment offer? Does the paintwork and the décor need any attention? And don’t forget about the toilets….are they as you would wish them to be or would you avoid a visit if you could? Here’s the ‘unexpected’ opportunity to make a difference for when we re-open the economy.

And what else is around the corner? Christmas might not be the same, but nevertheless it’s the opportunity for this restaurant to re-coup some of its losses, re-build its brand and re-emerge as a ‘go to’ destination. Think about those three weeks leading up to Christmas and what promotions, marketing and offers you might be able to launch… judging from the popularity of the ‘eat out to help out’ scheme… the diners will want to come. Without them, we have no business.

So, it might feel like the ‘cards are stacked against you’ right at this moment and it would be easy to be consumed by the tragedy of the situation. The business owners that demonstrate ‘resilience’ during these unprecedented times, will be the ones that will bounce back, and to the tune of Dolly’s 70’s classic, will tweak just one word in the song title and feel so much better… “here I come again” .

If you and your business would like any support and guidance on any of the topics covered in this article… please do get in touch.

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Steve is a regular contributor to B2B publications, see some of his recent articles for insights into current business news, leadership and much more...