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Open Letter to the Restaurant Industry During COVID-19 Lockdowns by Mike Said from MikeSaidWhat?

Mike Said MikeSaidWhat Edward Chamberlain-Bell JoziStyle Interview Restaurants

Mike Said often refers to himself as “Just a Waiter Who Got Lucky!”

After 27 years in the hospitality industry including 3 years as the marketing manager of one of SA’s leading brands (Mugg & Bean), Mike brings his own brand of humour and understanding to the weird and wonderful world of marketing.

Today, Mike’s company MikeSaidWhat? works with companies and individuals from all industry segments, advising them on branding strategy, market development and customer service. MikeSaidWhat? specialises in the development and implementation of social media strategy for all business. His ability to impart his knowledge in a humorous and down to earth manner has made him a sought after speaker at corporate functions and conferences.

Mike shares his advice about how restaurants can adapt and thrive during and after the COVID-19 lockdowns in South Africa.

Mike Said MikeSaidWhat Edward Chamberlain-Bell JoziStyle Interview Restaurants

Greetings my fellow hospitality professionals, and I use that term loosely because a professional is someone who makes a living from doing what they do, and I am not sure anyone is making a living right now.

I know you all have a little time on your hands, in fact, you have about 21 days of free time at the moment and I thought I would leave you all with a little to think about over the next 21 days.

When the post-apocalypse dawn is suddenly upon us, we are going to wake up to a very different industry to the one we know now. We will talk about 2020 BC (Before Corona) and 2020 AD (After Depression).

Will things go back to normal? Well, that may depend on your definition of normal right now.

• Was it normal that we employed so many people under one roof?
• Was it normal that we signed such onerous leases that people are still reeling from?
• Was it normal that we allowed two delivery companies to control the market so tightly that they were making more money than we could?
• Was it normal that we chased turnover instead of customer loyalty?
• Was it normal that we had so little control over our own businesses?
• And the list goes on and on…

My suggestion to each of you is to think long and hard about the business you want to return to and about the industry you want to return to, for it is going to shape the next few years of your life and possibly beyond.

Some will walk away, some sadly may have no choice but many will go back and rebuild the pieces and start again.

If insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, then surely this is the time to stop, asses and plan so that you can break that cycle.

Here are a few things to ponder over the next few days so that you can use the remaining days to start formulating a plan of action for your new dawn.

• Join RASA (www.restaurant.org.za) today! The Restaurant Association is not about awards and a monthly newsletter, it is about having a strong body with an even stronger voice! I was in almost daily contact in fact more than daily contact with Wendy Alberts and her boundless energy and commitment to the industry was and is unbelievable. Let’s work together to build this organisation because cometh the hour cometh the woman and this woman stood strong.

• Start to treat it like the business it is! Take back control from your managers, from your staff and from your accountant. So many people woke up to the realisation that is a real business with millions at stake, suddenly numbers mattered, food cost and stock control became critical, the turnover to rent ratio was vital as was the turnover to staff ratio. Well truth be told it always was, we were just too busy to notice it.

• Think long and hard about your lease renewal. By now all of you know which landlords stepped up to the plate and which ones didn’t. That is an onerous document you are signing and it is time to bring the turnover clause to the front and centre again. Sure you may pay a little more when things are running well but we all just discovered there are no guarantees and you need a lifeline.

• We need to stand together collectively when dealing with the delivery companies. It is time to hand this collective bargaining over to RASA and let them negotiate a deal for the industry and not just one group. It took many years and plenty of back ad forth for the banks to come to the party on credit card charges but an industry that once paid around 5 % has seen some great reductions. We simply don’t have the 20 percent to give away anymore.

• Build customer loyalty! The old expression that nothing costs more than empty chairs hit most operators right between the eyes. Who would not have given away free tap water with ice or some extra lemon at no cost just to have customers in their restaurants? Hell who wasn’t discounting call and collect just to see customers again.

And finally, let us not forget that we will more than ever fight over the same and now rarer consumer and this is the time to prepare for that fight

There is so much more to add including a pre-opening plan for all of us but fortunately, we all have some time to work TOGETHER on this. So as you head off into isolation, remember I am just a WhatsApp away and always happy to talk about all things restaurant and share a few war stories. Stay safe everyone and stay indoors.

Vist www.mikesaidwhat.co.za.

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