There is so much news flying around about Covid-19, and the horrible effect it’s having on our health and our economy, with our beloved hospitality industry acutely feeling the immediate impact.
It can be hard to cut through the many news stories and advice, to know what is true and important. To help out, we’ve summarised key developments in the UK as of 19th March 2020 that we believe are useful to know.
As a reminder, Me:Mo has its doors open. If you are an operator and you’re struggling to make sense of this challenging time, we’re always only a phone call away whether you’re looking for no-commitment advice or just someone to have a general chat about life with.
Latest government advice
Following increasing pressure from the leisure sector, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced yesterday a number of measures the government is putting in place to support the hospitality industry. We’ve listed key take-outs for your ease of reference:
- Increased lending capabilities and reduced interest. Businesses will be able to borrow at an increased rate of up to £5m via the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, with six months of that finance being offered interest free
- All hospitality, retail, and leisure businesses will receive 100% business rates holiday for the next 12 months
- Increased grants for small businesses, eligible for Small Business Rate Relief, from £3,000 to £10,000
- Further grants of £25,000 will be offered to retail, hospitality, and leisure businesses operating from smaller premises, with a rateable value of over £15,000 and below £51,000. You can learn more about Business rates and rateable value here to find out if you are eligible
- Mortgage lenders have agreed to support customers through payment holidays of up to three months. This should be discussed directly with your landlord/mortgage supplier
- The government will be relaxing regulations around takeaway offerings, allowing operators to offer this without planning permission
While we appreciate the above steps are intermediary measures, with much concrete detail not yet having been announced, this hopefully alleviates some immediate pressure for operators. Further announcements around the implementation and timings of the above detailed measures is expected in the near future with some of the initiatives expected to be made available from as early as next week.
Latest industry advice and updates
As we know, and much to the frustration of businesses, the government has advised against visiting restaurants, pubs, bars, and theatres, but has stopped short of closing down operations. As such, and while you are still trading, we recommend taking a number of measures to generate as much revenue as possible. The good news is that we’re hearing from our European neighbours that delivery and takeaway is performing well across the sector.
- Deliveroo has added contact-free delivery to its service for customer reassurance. We know Deliveroo is facing extreme increased traffic currently so please do be patient here. If you are not listed on the platform and delivery is feasible for you, we recommend you get set up
- Furthermore, we’re seeing click and collect and takeaway as a continued valuable source of income. In particular, if you are able to add value to this (such as giving 10% discount) it can be a good source of income and incentive for customers to choose ordering from you
- We have seen a number of restaurants/venues create an e-gift card offering. Adding value to this (ie a percentage added for free) further incentivises customers to buy and is a good initiative for marketing
- Limit opening hours, removing quieter service periods or converting to delivery/takeaway only during this time
- You may also want to consider taking bookings far in advance. Whether it’s Christmas or just general group bookings, we recommend pushing this out through marketing channels and ensuring deposits are paid upfront. Likewise, if you have bookings where a deposit has been made and which are not possible to fulfil, consider offering a deposit refund via voucher instead of with cash. We can help set up vouchers to issue as refunds
- Consider creating a ‘buy a meal for someone who needs it’ mechanic. This can be set up with online purchase, with customers being urged to buy a meal for someone in need (this could be NHS workers, the elderly, those less mobile, and the homeless). If this is too complex, consider a bespoke discount mechanic for key workers and those in need
Tips for reassuring customers
There has been a lot of advice for operators as to best practice for their businesses while they remain open. We have collated top tips we recommend you implement and that can be communicated through marketing channels:
- Remove cash payments and become contactless payment only. If you are a cash only business, we can recommend apps that can support with taking payments on your behalf
- Table spacing and click and collect queue spacing. Remove physical tables from your restaurants or block certain tables. Adding tape or markers to the floor at your entrance will help reassure and inform customers of best practice should queues form for click and collect/takeaway
- Stop polishing cutlery and glassware. We know it’s nice to have shiny and spotless tableware however limiting physical contact is important and customers will appreciate the step you are taking to ensure their health and wellbeing
- Provide service stations and entrances with antiviral sanitiser. Where possible, prop doors open to minimise staff and customers having to touch handles, and offer hand sanitiser to customers upon arrival/as is relevant
- Remove disposable cutlery from customer reach and remove use of reusable cups. Should you offer takeaway coffee, and give a discount on reusable cups, consider honouring the discount you previously offered if a customer can show you their reusable cup
- Replace menus regularly
- Where possible, reduce sharing dishes and finger foods from menus
- Change how your chefs plate food, using spoons/tweezers etc as much as possible to minimise physical contact
- Change bathroom towels and linens etc more frequently
- Regularly communicate the measures you are taking around staff welfare and responsibility – that anyone sick, anyone who has been in contact with someone showing symptoms, or anyone returning from heavily affected areas, has been asked to self-isolate. This should be regularly communicated via marketing channels
- Remind staff to minimise physical contact with one another and with guests
- Ensure that all food safety, hygiene, and COSHH documents are up to date, and all staff have received recent necessary training