The year ahead is already forecasted to be challenging – it’s about how we embrace the chaos, uncertainty and pressure and use it to fuel our creativity, drive new ways of working and challenge our teams to think outside the box. And let’s never forget the role we play in delivering excellence in our own authentic way – that’s what our guests need now more than ever!
Willow Jolly, Client Success Director at Paperchase, the UKs leading hospitality accountants, offers some insights as we prepare for the year ahead.
2022 was a storm we all weathered – we saw a slowdown in economic growth, a surge in inflation, rising interest rates, the invasion of an independent European country, three Prime Ministers, four Chancellors and not to mention the knock-on effect of all of this (and the last couple years) – rising ingredient costs, recruitment nightmares, a fuel crisis and a real life squeeze on people’s spending and let’s not forget all the train strikes that impacted us. I don’t mention all of this to carry a black cloud into the new year but to remind us of all of the weight that people are carrying around with them and how we as a hospitality collective have an opportunity to really turn on the charm and help our guests through this – which in turn helps us get through this.
It is no secret that running a hospitality business is never linear; we are part of an industry which is always in flux, however, recently it’s been relentless. Every time we make it over one hurdle the next one is right there waiting. 2023 will be no exception – it will draw on the deepest parts of who we are and require us to design new playbooks for our businesses to maintain their balance. What the last few years have done is open people up to change, to trying things they might never have tried, to operate with new focus and to be creative in their approach to ways of working.
Of course, you need to have a controlling hand over your business – understanding your numbers, reducing costs and keeping tight reigns on your finances will be paramount to all operators as this year unfolds. With all of that in mind I would still suggest that you have fun with this; how can you creatively manage your business so that your teams and therefore your guests feel inspired and excited when walking through your doors?
When you’re mapping out new business projections, be transparent with your team, let them know what the business is going after this year and how they can help. If you are making significant changes to the operation, get their ‘buy-in’ as they will be the ones executing your vision. Working closely with your suppliers will enable you to be proactive in your purchasing decisions and menu items – make those daily specials work hard for you. Look at the value that a set menu could bring to your business. When designing staff rotas that capture your current needs, involve your teams, and ask them to bring ideas to the table – if you’re struggling to fill your vacancies maybe review your service steps and the roles within your team; evolving your style to work with what you’ve got will have a greater impact than spending your energy trying to fill gaps in your workforce in a depleted market. The intricacies of how we deliver our service is of no importance to the guest – they are here to be taken care of and not think about how that is happening. It is in the magic that we deliver excellence.
Never underestimate the power of training. Providing your team with the skills, knowledge and understanding of your business is what drives success. Make it a daily practice, have your teams take ownership and share their knowledge, give it a purpose; Is it to improve your cocktail sales? Improve your team’s confidence to upsell and recommend? Share local knowledge and advice so that your guests feel the value beyond their meal/stay with you etc. When a team is knowledgeable and confident in what they do the experience that your guests receive is heightened tenfold and it fuels the business financially because the guest inevitable accepts all the recommendations and spends a little more, they go away feeling great and telling all their friends and family about the time they had – these are your future regulars.
When guests decide to dine out or take a mini break that is their decision to treat themselves, to have a little escape from the norm, to have a moment for themselves, their friends, their family; to be taken care of and nourished. Our role in providing this ‘hug’ that people really need is more valued and needs to present value more than ever. People are really making measured choices on where and how they spend their precious disposable income so it’s up to us to provide value, delivered with the same attention, care and deliciousness that leaves the guest wanting more. In fact if you want to survive this tough ride you have to be better than you’ve ever been and make sure your team are along for the journey.
Remember, the definition of hospitality isn’t just selling food or beverage or room nights. Of course, that is the end goal, but how we deliver that service to the guest, that is how we’re measured. Give the guests a reason to visit your business; Not because your menu is inspiring beyond belief, or all dishes include ingredients foraged by hand under a full moon, or beef that comes from cattle fed beer and massaged daily to classical music, but because you are very good at what you do and you provide an outstanding (and affordable) experience. It’s simple really; Remember their names and make a fuss of them and in response they will remember you forever and visit you often. We have to be bloody good at what we do!
Regardless of your offering, be that ‘fast and casual’ or ‘fine dining’ to survive hospitality businesses need to take stock and embrace change. Whilst our guests will have less to spend, they will spend on experiences which leave them feeling special. Creativity can come alive in how menus are written, how we use ingredients, how our teams deliver incredible experiences in an operationally efficient manner. And, to fill our cup, let’s remember to have fun while we’re doing all of this.
The one thing I have learned in this business is that in the tough times everyone need an emotional hug, a place to go for the experience they crave that is welcoming, delivered by a team that loves what they are doing. Get it right and you will weather this storm and be stronger when the sun starts shining again.
About the author: Willow Jolly has spent her entire working life in the hospitality sector as a front of house manager and operator. Willow Jolly is now Client Success Director at Paperchase.