To open or not to open, that’s the question on many hospitality leaders’ minds right now.
And the next question might be, should we have opened?
Being a Londoner, it’s clear from the empty station car parks and trains into the Capital, as well as catching the tube across town, that hospitality businesses in the City are taking a massive hit and won’t start to recover until workers are encouraged to return to their offices. Sadly, this doesn’t look likely until the end of 2020, beginning of 2021 at the earliest. I appreciate this isn’t new news, so please bear with me.
It’s really clear that many hospitality businesses have put a lot of effort into reopening, trying hard to entice the few consumers that are in London (and this is growing, just very slowly) into their business once again.
As I go on my travels around London, I can’t help but wonder what made the businesses that are open, decide to go for it? And is their decision to open the right one, or like many other venues across town should they have waited for footfall to increase?
It’s hard to say who is right. Every business is very different and only the people on the inside know the details and understand what their cash burn is. So, this isn’t about saying those that have stayed closed are wrong or right, for me this is about having a plan for the business, whether they open or close and constantly reviewing that plan.
Personally, I think I would rather do everything I could to open and have a good go at getting close to a break even figure as quickly as possible in 2020, with a view to allowing the business to start recovery at the beginning of 2021. For this reason, I wish the businesses that have opened the best of luck in their planning and that they pick up and retain new customers from those venues that remain closed.
A key advantage for those businesses that have invested in opening now is data. The power of this data is gold dust, especially in such challenging times, and will give insight into revenue levels and consumer behaviour – from frequency of visit, to what they are buying and how much they are spending. Delving into this data should help businesses to adapt and shape their offer accordingly.
For as much of the excellent work I’ve seen by those who have opened, I have been equally frustrated by the poor communication from those that remain closed.
I am tired of seeing A4 pieces of paper in windows saying ‘closed due to COVID-19’. This doesn’t tell consumers anything about their plans. Even if they’re not sure yet what the future holds, they could say ‘we are working on plans to re-open safely for our employees and customers’.
I appreciate they will have 100s of things to worry about and their teams will be furloughed, but they could find a way to update these signs for people who are loyal to their brand and are genuinely interested in their plans.
And I know this is not as easy as open or close, it’s about survival in the short term, which I feel is for the rest of 2020. It’s about having a plan and earning the right to start business recovery in 2021 and back to growth, which right now feels like it’s going to be late 2021, early 2022.
So, what do you think about this, open or stay closed and how long for recovery?
If you’ve got loads of questions spinning in your head and want to chat about them, I’d be happy to be your sounding board and help you formulate a plan, one that you can adapt when you have enough data to do so.
Thanks for taking the time to read this – and good luck!