With the guts of 20 years looking after clients in the hospitality sector, I have put together some thoughts on what might be considered ‘the new norm’ when it comes to convincing the public that the hospitality sector in particular, are leading the way on their customers’ health & safety and that it is safe to live life as before – with a few little changes.
As the restrictions are lifted, the term ‘Social Distancing’ can be renamed ‘Physical Distancing’. The important outcome in all hospitality offerings is that we manage to retain the original atmosphere of the interiors. Without that, we will struggle to entice people back and spend time in our premises.
Automation – a lot of these mechanisms already exist in the supply chain. Sensor taps in publicly accessible toilets, automated door mechanisms, smart controls in accommodation and food ordering etc. We have the technology and products for all these items, we just need to incorporate them into our everyday procedures.
Retro fitting is possible, and perhaps a grant will come about to aid in the upgrade of certain establishments to come in line with new guidelines. Companies like Irish Door Systems and CDS Architectural Metalwork have lots of options for retro fit door opening solutions.
Sanitising – yes it’s a buzz word right now, but can these ‘hit’ points be integrated seamlessly at the design stage? Similarly to the way we integrate air conditioning within timber paneling, perhaps at entry points could we incorporate hand sanitiser?
Branding these points is another way to integrate them into your premises. Metals such as copper & copper alloys can stop micro-organisms from flourishing on surfaces. There are also interesting products emerging that can coat your surfaces with an antimicrobial finish. These can’t be developed soon enough.
Staff training on new cleaning regimes & physical distancing measures adopted by the owner will be essential going forward. Serving customers’ food and drink with staff wearing face masks and possibly the use of cloches on plates until they reach the table are all being considered.
Post pandemic customers will expect to see a more vigorous cleaning regime in place. we’re not talking disinfectant spray in your face as you sit at a table waiting for your food, but within the venue literature or website and every time a table is cleared for the next sitting. Very recently, Portugal established a ‘Clean & Safe’ stamp for hospitality businesses showing they adhere to hygiene protocols aimed at controlling Covid-19 and future infections. Perhaps something like this could work here too for the hospitality sector?
Consider going back to paper towels in publicly accessible toilet facilities. In recent years Dyson hand dryers have appeared in pretty much every venue. It is now widely believed that the hot air from hand dryers can spread germs & virus from wet hands. Also you might consider installing touch-free soap dispensers in public toilets & kitchens if not already provided. Mediclinic through Hubris do a good colour range of these.
Reduce the amount of tables in your restaurant/bar- this can be tricky on many levels and it extends far beyond a table layout. With this new normal facing us probably for the next 1-2 years, owners are considering alternatives to the Perspex dividers. The cost of a timber with glass screen may be worth the difference in your venue. Remember you can have tables of 4 people if they are from the ‘same household’. Outdoor seating can also be a huge advantage if you have the space.
Some easing of outdoor seating regulations may now be considered by local authorities due to the current crisis. Further discussion will be required but will also be necessary.
Recently in an interview for The Clare Echo, John Burke of the Armada Hotel said of the changes to his business: “This could see new capacities and interior layouts introduced as they begin the process of trying to deliver food and drink in a way that’s safe for staff and customers. It’s going to be potentially an entirely new business going forward.”
ADI Studio are currently working with existing clients on providing floor plans showing the physical distance layout and what this will look like within their specific limitations. Introducing a ‘one-way’ route for customers is also beneficial as it will help with separation.
Keep the communication line with your clients open. Update your website with relevant news, send out updates on social media every few days, tell your customers what you’re up to & how you are planning to evolve in this new world. If you’re considering introducing a new offering, let people know and get some feedback from them.
Make more of your room service. Some city based properties that offer accommodation are
considering promoting their room service from their own kitchen or from local restaurants in their neighbourhood. Also, if you have space, equip bedrooms with more dining furniture – investigate the introduction of more suite/half suite layouts in new or existing accommodation. Pre ordering of meals is gaining more traction as the typical hotel food buffet is now a no go.
And finally, buy a ‘WELCOME BACK’ sign for your customers when you re-open. You need them & it will be so important to let them know! Signage will be a big introduction to your venue. Whether it’s to aid with physical distancing, directing customers or highlighting the new policies in place. I’m working with clients and signage suppliers to place more of their branding on the signage so that it is visible but not overpowering.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, at this stage we can only guess what the real effects of the pandemic will have on the hospitality industry going forward. For such customer centric businesses, it will be the expectations of your customers when they appear back at your door to how well you have prepared for the pandemic economy.
As the Government rolls out its phased approach, the next couple of months will be crucial for all our businesses and how we prepare to reopen. Groups like the RAI, IHF, LVA and others are all trying to propose easing of distancing requirements that may ease this burden on hospitality businesses. Every little bit will help.
Are you planning your response to the crisis and finding it too big a challenge? If you need any help, get in touch with us.