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.
It never rains, but it pours. It seems that the pandemic was just the start of the mother of all storms.
The pandemic is still with us, and whilst we should applaud the success of the vaccine roll-out in the UK, we are not home and dry. Let’s not forget that the vital Christmas party market didn’t happen last year, and the many businesses that rely on a good December to carry them through to spring are counting the cost of a market that fizzled when it should have sparkled.
There is more mileage in anticipating what this year will bring than lamenting what might have been. It seems we can assume a steady recovery in the domestic economy. Whilst COVID and its variants will be with us for years we must now ‘learn to live with it’ and that means getting on with life at last.
Unfortunately, some of our important international markets are not yet ready to return, and the business travel sector – vital to many hospitality businesses from hoteliers to contract caterers and restaurateurs – is lagging behind. And so we face another year of challenges. Nobody will be surprised at that, will they?
We try to believe that over time all markets will recover, and when they do our businesses will happily return to ‘normal’. However, this is simply not the case.
While we were focussing on the pandemic, there were seismic changes in other areas that will potentially impact us when the virus is just a distant memory.
First out of the trap is the supply chain. Our suppliers suffered every bit as much as we did. Their markets dried up overnight, they were left with perishable stock they could not shift, and they had to restructure or else. Many of them don’t have the appetite or the resources to ramp up again – they’ve developed a new business model and might well stick with it. Others, still fully committed to their hospitality clients, are suffering in other ways. Some have found that key suppliers have moved on or folded. Others have found that satisfying newly discovered markets has meant that there are shortages. The net result is price inflation that is hitting hospitality at a time when hiking selling prices is a step too far.
Businesses are looking to change menus both to save cost and also to work with what supplies can be relied on. There is renewed interest in locally sourced foods in many businesses. At the same time, our suppliers are working hard to mitigate both the problems and the price rises. A solution is in the interest of both client and supplier.
If only the problems with our supply chain were our biggest problem.
When we were all focussed on COVID, it was understandable that navigating the new world we were living in meant a different focus of attention. We were getting our heads around Furlough, mothballing our businesses and watching the cash flow out. Meanwhile on the left field, The Brexit deal was agreed just when many of our staff and colleagues from different countries chose to go home. Who can blame them? The problem is they don’t seem to be able to return, or even don’t want to. Either way, a vital source of workers that we’ve relied on for decades suddenly just isn’t there anymore.
Who also knew that our other go-to labour resource, the under 25’s – whether students, young people who went abroad for a year, or people awaiting career inspiration – would dry up at the same time. We cannot blame Brexit; this is a generational thing – businesses across northern Europe are seeing the same phenomena. For Gen Z, hospitality is uncool.
Staff shortages mean payroll rises present challenges for hard pressed businesses. This alongside the issue of inflation makes stock and produce price rises a major issue for hospitality businesses.
Retention is the new maxim. Mitigate staff shortages by retaining who you have. That means, in real terms, making yours a business that people want to belong in. Training and upskilling are key tactics. The good news is that they result in increased productivity, which eases the burden of pay rate rises, reduces the impact of staff shortages and hopefully improves job satisfaction.
In this new post-pandemic age, cleanliness and hygiene are extremely important in our daily lives. Ensuring your work environment is as germ-free as possible can certainly be a useful tool to help retain your workforce. It is undoubtedly in the interest of hotels and restaurants to provide a safe and clean environment for the security of both clients and staff.
P&G Professional has recognised this and stepped up to the plate for our Industry. Its brands such as Flash Professional and Fairy Professional are well known, trusted and highly effective. What’s more, using them correctly requires only simple training – after all, our staff use them in their own homes every day.
P&G Professional has also launched the CleanPLUS Experience as a stamp of approval to reassure clients that your premises are safe. You can use the same scheme to reassure not just guests and customers but your staff and job applicants that you understand their concerns and have addressed them.
The link between job satisfaction and customer satisfaction is not hard to make. Hospitality will, of course, survive. Processes will change, but then they always have done. We will rely on trusted suppliers whose products will continue to support the industry and we’ll find new ways of delivering our service with the staff we have.