As flights are grounded, venues are shut and people are told to stay indoors, the hospitality and leisure sector is one of the hardest hit by the ongoing crisis. The key for many businesses in related industries: hotels, restaurants, venues and other tourism activities, will be to weather this difficult period while maintaining ties with their customers and communities. These people are the lifeblood of many hospitality businesses, and as we face a longer period without international tourism, strengthening relationships with local clientele will be more important than ever. Many businesses will have to consider increasingly creative and innovative ways to do this.
Expert views on your critical business areas
Failte Ireland is helping businesses navigate the crisis. They have created an online support hub with guidance to hospitality businesses on various areas of concern, including business liquidity, HR practices, government supports and brand reputation. Together with the government, Failte Ireland have also set up a COVID-19 Tourism Industry Advisory Group and within this a business supports taskforce. Failte Ireland should be a first port of call for any hospitality business looking for advice on how to manage the current situation.
Official government directives have obliged hotels around the country to close. This leaves an immense challenge for these hotels, not only in terms of operations, but also in terms of managing their brand. How do you maintain your profile when closed?
Dromoland Castle is working with its existing partners and team to deliver virtual experiences from home work-outs with the Leisure team to arts and crafts for kids with local artists. Similarly Adare Manor is running a colouring competition on Twitter, encouraging children to draw the manor and submit their entries online. Many others such as Muckross Park Hotel are sharing ways to recreate some of their recipes at home, as well as a number of scenic pictures of the hotel and surrounding areas.
Other hotels are highlighting their support for frontline workers including Ashford Castle, which lit up its exterior in coloured lights in praise of medical staff and the Ice House Hotel in Mayo, which is encouraging people to nominate their #HealthCareHeroes in order to win a stay at the hotel (after lockdown, naturally).
Around the world, others are doing everything they can to allay guest concerns and keep their doors open. Mandarin Oriental are waiving fees for customers to cancel or postpone their stays, while others such as the Marriott are even taking the temperature of prospective guests as they arrive!
Food and beverage explores delivery
Food and beverage is another sector facing serious disruption. As restaurants can no longer accommodate patrons, many of them have shut altogether, while others are relying on services such as Deliveroo and UberEats (as well as carry out and drive-by pickups) to keep their doors open. Even The Merrion Hotel is getting in on the action, now offering a gourmet menu for pick-up. While some of us have occasionally dreamt of having a freshly mixed G&T delivered to our door, unfortunately there is no comparable option available for pubs or bars. So what are restaurants to do in these trying times?
Holding onto staff is a big issue, and restaurants have had to come up with some innovative solutions. For example, waitstaff from Nightmarket in Ranelagh – now with nobody to wait on – have begun doing deliveries themselves. Restaurants could consider whether there are any other ways they can utilise staff during this time, whether that’s deliveries, selling products, or finding new ways to connect with customers.
In general, society is showing a lot of goodwill to the local businesses they value in good times. If restaurants can adapt quickly enough to life under lockdown they will be the ones to weather the storm – after all, we all have to eat!
Using your values to help customers and the community
In general, the hospitality industry is facing a difficult few weeks and months ahead. What will be important now is to maintain – and even strengthen – ties with community and customer bases. Hotels are finding interesting ways to engage with the difficulties facing people due to the pandemic. In a post that went viral, Hotel Doolin stated that they would be delivering meals to the elderly, sick and vulnerable free of charge during this difficult time. Further afield, some Chicago hotels are offering reduced rates for students displaced from their accommodation.
Other restaurants, such as Coke Lane Pizza, based in Dublin 8 are focusing on reaching out to the community for a good cause. Their ‘Feed the Frontline’ initiative allows people to donate online and they will deliver pizzas to frontline medical staff. Similarly, SimplyFit Food, a health-food company based in Drogheda are using donations to bring meals to healthcare workers and the elderly.
How can you adapt to ‘the new normal’ and keep giving your customers the service experience they admire you for? Staying true to what your establishment stands for and refusing to compromise on quality is really key for businesses and brands at this time, something which your customers will value over the long term.
Unsure how your business and brand might best communicate over the coming months? We’d love to chat at 01 539 7939.