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The list of rules and guidelines enforced around receiving guests without risking corona-contamination has grown to be longer than the average menu. What the future will bring, isn’t clear in the slightest. Having an unclouded view of the future is still necessary, however. What do you need to take into account for your hospitality strategy after COVID-19? Are you prepared to get back into the race? Something that we can know for sure, is that at least some of the changes we’ve seen over the past year are here to stay. The “New Normal” demands a future proof hospitality strategy. We have listed 7 “Foods for Thought” to take with you when developing your new hospitality strategy.
Guest focus is shifting from a location-based experience towards a brand-focused experience. Visibility and availability are becoming ever more important and your hospitality strategy should be adapted thusly. The traditional brick and mortar model won’t disappear completely, but you must be able to reach your guests through a multitude of channels (see previous article) , including digital ones. The fast rise of the Dark Kitchens or Ghost Kitchens is a good example of this phenomenon. Good food remains the foundation, but guests are enjoying this food where and when THEY want to.
A product without a story, does not have added value. Hence, double down on storytelling is an important part of your hospitality strategy and starts with making choices. Choose a clear value proposition, build everything around it and, last but not least, communicate how and why you do so. The kitchen you choose, where you choose to source your products, how you choose to position yourself online, how and where you choose to receive your guests, how you choose to furnish that space, what you choose to do regarding sustainability and CSR. Every choice matters and each of them should help to build the story around your brand, even up to the point of how you choose to contact your guests after their visit. A strong brand experience throughout the entirety of the customer journey truly belongs in your hospitality strategy.
If there is one thing that can no longer lack from your hospitality strategy, it is transparency. People have become much more hesitant to go out due to COVID. Is your restaurant a safe space? What extra steps are you taking to ensure hygiene? How do you guarantee ample social distancing? Guests have become much more keen and much more critical about these issues. This is understandable, so, above all, be transparent and communicate about the steps you have taken to ensure their safety. This isn’t just important to them, but also to your staff. This can be taken as far as even sharing employee satisfaction and guests reviews with your guests.
People are paying more and more attention to the impact of their ecologic footprint. The clothes they wear, the way they travel, but also the food they eat. A hospitality strategy without focus on sustainability and health, is a thing of the past. Guests are demanding increasingly often that you make it easy for them to make a healthy choice. One way of doing this is to show the nutri-score of your dishes. Set a clear course and be transparent in how you are contributing to themes such as reduction of (food)waste. Nando’s is a good example of a chain that really pushes the envelope on these themes. They source exclusively at local poultry farms and during the first lockdown they handed out the leftover stock for free.
Delivery, take-away and curb side sales. These are just a few examples of channels that have been booming since the lockdown of the traditional hospitality sector. Many hospitality businesses will continue to push these channels even after the COVID threat has subsided. Critically revaluate your hospitality strategy. Which items on your menu are suited for which sales channel – quality remains king – and is your current kitchen setup suited for this new way of working? Take another look at your location. Do you need all of that space if less guests will physically visit? If you are taking a Dark Kitchen-like approach, you can do with a lot less square meterage. Hospitality business owners and landlords alike will more often transition towards flexible renting contracts. With a healthy revenue will come a fitting rent, but in hard times you will make arrangements for temporarily reduced rates.
Hospitality strategy will more and more revolve around the centralization of the guest through use of technological innovations. Guests order online, contactlessly take away their order or get their order delivered when and where they want to (off premise). These are developments that cannot be implemented without the use of technology. Sophisticated camera technology could notify the kitchen staff whenever a client enters the parking, allowing for optimized timings in order-preparation for take-away. Similar systems could identify guests so that they will no longer have to touch any of the ordering kiosks. Safe, secure, hygienic, fast and efficient: especially during the pandemic, these issues are of the greatest importance. No-touch food safety and service solutions are on the rise, and these solutions are impossible without the integration of technology. Building customer relations throughout this increasingly digitized customer journey remains key. Within your app or website, through which you are taking your guests on a virtual culinary experience, but also in the way in which you are serving your guests. Technology should most definitely be taken into account when designing your new hospitality strategy.
COVID-19 has generally changed the behavior of people. They are more involved in their environment and are more likely to provide feedback. More than ever, people are aware that we are all collectively responsible for a safe and sustainable world. Make use of this newfound involvement and invest in lasting relationships with your guests. The “New Normal” of the 2020’s means that we will have to be faster and more flexible. Use the input of both new and existing guests to be able to shift quickly when needed. Guests that tell you what they want (differently), are worth their weight in gold for the evolution of your hospitality strategy.
The guest has to be the focus of your hospitality strategy. Choose a clear concept, build up your brand experience, communicate about your choices and let your guests experience your brand when- and wherever they are. The technology needed to do so is already here. The guest is ready to choose. It’s now up to you. Conceptional is here to support you with that.