For the hard-working people in the hospitality and events industries, dealing with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has meant dealing with pulling apart the very definition of what their job description is all about.
So, it’s only natural that, while we’ve been exploring ways to help our much-loved clients come to terms with their inability to welcome guests into their special spaces and venues in the traditional sense, we’ve been just a little bit quiet with our communications…
Behind-the-scenes, though, our Perfectly Paired team has been working around the clock to support Australia’s venues in their time of need.
At its core, our recent work has been about helping hospitality brands focus on the delivery of three key ingredients – how to survive, stabilise and strategise.
And now, in this post-pandemic world we find ourselves navigating, we’ve been helping venues in fresh ways, by forecasting the corporate events’ market and interpreting what our dynamic hospitality sector will look like as we factor in safe but practical social distancing and evolving operational guidelines around hygiene, health and wellbeing. Compliance and regulations can already be confusing enough and by ensuring venues understand their obligations, we can help reduce your costs and plan for a positive, profitable future.
Menus & Pricing
There will be many changes, post-COVID – not only in the number of restaurants and operators that will still be around and can afford to operate, but also changes that affect how service is delivered. The days of a grazing buffet may be gone, as clients will, no doubt, be more nervous about the ongoing management of contact and how to avoid serving options that require people to touch shared items.
When it comes to sustainable business budgets, one of the biggest issues in the industry is the costs of rents, and we know that this will come to a head with building owners/managers across both urban and regional venues. Deals will have to happen, otherwise there will be more vacancies than operators – and that won’t be good for anyone.
As a venue/event patron, would you still want a 10-course degustation that demands staff – including sommeliers – hover over you every 10-15 minutes? We suspect that, for many people, the notion of pouring their own wine may even be preferable in some settings, so there is certainly a lot of thinking and planning to be done.
The flow-on of all these new approaches means that pricing is going to be extremely interesting. Before COVID struck, it seemed, sadly, that it was already a race to the bottom in terms of prices and reduced margins being driven even further down, so one positive thing to focus on is the reality that prices will, in many ways, be driven up – and perhaps that can work in the favour of smart hospitality operators, provided they have the best possible planning and the support in place.
Our prediction? Venues with in-house caterers will need to work even closer than before. If there were previously any barriers between venue and caterer, there has never been a more critical time to sort that out. We truly are all in this together and to help deliver exceptional experiences, venues and caterers should work side-by-side in ensuring that venues are completely compliant and that marketing messages during this time are clear. Now is the time to work together to strategise for your venue’s future success.
Here are some ways to help you figure out how:
Check in with your event partners and suppliers – how are they coping? What can you do to collaborate with them during this down time? Creating co-branded content and promotions can be a smart first step.
During downtime it’s the perfect time to work with partners to create co-branded marketing, such as styled venue or food photography shoots – AND new packages for the months ahead.
COVID Sales & Marketing
It has been challenging for hospitality and events businesses to know what to do over this time. With restrictions easing and both State and Federal Governments advising of timelines for venues to reopen, planning for an affective ‘relaunch’ for your venue should be starting now.
Whole long-term strategies have been recommended in the past, the only way to develop strategy at the moment is short-term. Focus on the next three months ahead and focus with clarity. Likewise, sales budgets should be mapped out on a short-term basis – breaking it down into just chunks of 12 weeks at a time.
Your venue should be touching base consistently with confirmed events (keeping them abreast of latest industry changes, venue hygiene and social distancing policies, etc.). For brand messaging, keep it personal and authentic – we are all human, after all – but be consistent. Anything you can do to cut through the confusion that is encroaching so many other areas of your patrons’, partners’ and suppliers’ lives is a good thing. By working closely with your clients, you can help find the right solution for them. Businesses that are flexible and provide creative solutions during this time will succeed post-COVID.
With many businesses downsizing, it is likely that event management may be outsourced to PCOs, post-COVID – so with that in mind, it is essential for venues and caterers to work closely with PCOs in ways that are relevant and timely. Treat them as part of your sales team. Invite them to your venues, communicate with them regularly – and learn from them. PCOs know what events are happening and when!
It is likely that event number restrictions will be eased to allow up to 300 guests by year’s end. That means that now is the time to communicate with previous clients who have focused on smaller numbers, less than 300 guests. When you take the time to learn how they are faring, you can offer flexible options for their events to help all of you move forward successfully.
You should also take this down-time as an ideal opportunity to do all the things that you are too busy for during the year – photoshoots, updating image galleries, and updating all of your directory listings.
What kind of events will take place post COVID? Review your corporate target markets. It is likely that conferences and events will reduce in size. Some sectors, such as Government and Education, will provide great targets post-COVID. Research which industries have survived and even thrived throughout the pandemic and will be likely to event both this year and next – for example, the Construction and Tech sectors are likely to present solid potential.
COVID Compliance For Venues
The key areas for compliance will be in the areas of cleanliness, sanitisation, staff training and record-keeping of patrons in attendance. The venue operators that adapt to this in the most costly and timely manner will be the winners.
Asking yourself this important question is a sensible thing:
What is going to give punters peace of mind to return to venues?
Success in hospitality will be about the ability to create confidence.
With cleanliness and hygiene on the top of every savvy operator’s list, venues that focus on thorough compliance will benefit.
Yes, change can be challenging. But it can also be exciting and it’s going to be an interesting time ahead to see how the cream of the hospitality industry we all love rises – and what we can all do as a community to help each other re-emerge with energy and enthusiasm.
What commitment can you make to pledge your own business success in a post-pandemic world? By investing in sustainable growth and streamlined, cost-effective measures to ensure your hospitality brand is post-COVID ready, you are investing in protecting your ability to turn lemons into lemonade – and profit at the same time.
Our Perfectly Paired team of specialist hospitality consultants are here to help your business survive through COVID and thrive in the future.