Mike Said brings 27 years of experience in the hospitality industry to the wonderful world of marketing.
Working 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.
As we enter Lockdown: Season Two the reality of what lies ahead is starting to unfold. Those who once thought this was just a slight hiccup in the road and that things would soon be back to normal have awoken to the fact that there is a new normal on the horizon.
Now I could spend the next few minutes theorizing and philosophizing as to what that new normal will look like and I would probably be no closer than someone throwing a dart at a board filled with options. But one thing that I have realised over the past three weeks is that there are THREE very distinct types of business owners at the moment and where you fit into this scale may just determine what type of future lies ahead for you, your staff and your business.
Before I start I realize that what you are about to hear or read may offend some people out there and for this I am eternally NOT sorry, I am not paid to make you feel good, in fact just like all of you, I am not paid at all, but I love this crazy industry and I would love to see it, and all of you, back on its feet and thriving.
The first type has spent the last few weeks analysing their business, chatting to their management team, formulating plans and preparing for the eventual reopening of the business. When they were not doing that, their days were spent filling out forms for their staff, helping them to maintain faith and assisting them in any way they possibly can. They have been in contact with suppliers and service providers, keeping them updated and in the loop and, as tough as things have been, they are slowly formulating the plans they will need to put in place to reopen their business.
The second type is angry! They spend most of their day complaining about the lot they are in, searching for loopholes or bemoaning other businesses that seem to be making sales at this time. Sadly, they are so blinded by this that are prepared to make changes and take risks that will undoubtedly hurt them right now or in the future. It is not that their fears or anger are unreasonable or their own reality, but it is driving them in the wrong direction and sapping all their energy. We all have staff and bills to pay but suddenly converting a 350 seater fine dining restaurant into one that does three frozen dishes a day is not the answer.
And then there is the third type… Let’s just call them the ‘WTF just happened’ type! Caught completely unaware and still shell-shocked, this group is just hoping to wake up from a bad dream to find everything back to normal. To quote from The Wizard Of Oz “you are not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy”.
It is only normal to have flitted between these three groups over the last three weeks but now it is time to start preparing for the future and what that might be like, even if we don’t know exactly what that is or when it will be.
Here are seven practical things you can do today and tomorrow and the day after that and the day after that…
Number one. Rework your menu today! No, you are not going to be opening to the same number of customers sitting in the same number of chairs for quite some time. If this is not due to legislation, which it probably will be, it will certainly be due to customer spending patterns. Strip down that menu, cut your stock holdings, ensure that every item has a good food cost (this will not be the time to sell loss leaders). Minimize the number of products you will hold and ensure they work in multiple dishes. Involve your staff in this, your chef, your management team and, of course, any and all waiters you are in contact with. Besides the valuable insight they will provide, you will be showing them you are not defeated and already planning for the future.
Number two. Now that you have reworked the menu this is a great time to start speaking to your suppliers about their role in your business. Try and get a feel for what products will and won’t be available. Have a frank and open discussion about money that may be owed, how you intend to pay it and what you will need from them in the future. We are all in this together and they too have expenses and bills to pay.
Number three. Assess your staffing needs all the way from your general manager to your casual staff. How many will you need if you are trading at twenty five, fifty, seventy five or a hundred percent? Which of your staff members can multitask and cover for others? How can you best be fair to your staff who will need to work and earn again? The future belongs to brands or operations who can best utilize their space and their manpower – start planning that today!
Number four. Start scenario planning today. Imagine the future you would like to see and imagine the future you anticipate you will see. Plan for both! Somewhere in those plans you will find a way to create your own future, to once again be the master of your own destiny. Something that seems too remote and distant at the moment, may soon be your new reality and all I ask is that you take some time out to consider it and plan for it.
Number five. Work through your expenses. From food cost to packaging to garnish to bank charges, insurance, subscriptions and a million tiny things that sucked a few Rand a month from the business, now is your chance to rebuild a leaner meaner operation that above all else is a profitable one. Yes, I know, maybe not immediately but surely you are not planning on “business as usual”.
Number six. Don’t ignore your customers! Stay in touch with them, check in on them, say hello, share ideas and recipes with them, ask their opinion on your menu, your décor and how you may make their experience better in the future. Use social media, use video, use WhatsApp or any other means possible. Remind them that you are here now and soon will be welcoming them back to your establishment. Ask them what dish they will be returning to first, which waiter they are looking forward to seeing or how many seats can you book for them on opening day.
Number seven. Take care of yourself. Eat well, sleep well, get some exercise and keep that mind busy. Download a few books, join Audible and listen to some incredible books on marketing or operations or business. I am listening to “Contagious” by Johan Berger right now. It is about marketing and not the virus, but it is giving me great insight into how campaigns work, succeed and fail. I want to walk out of this in better shape than I walked in, and especially more able to assist my clients who I know are all going to need all the help they can get.
So, from me, Mike Said, thank you for listening or for reading this, I wish you all health and happiness and success in the future. If I can be of assistance to you in any way, please don’t hesitate to contact me.