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It's an Opening!

As hospitality gets ready to welcome back customers, is it a case of just unlocking the doors and letting the crowds in? Or is it a little more complicated? Simon Binder, with 40 years as a restaurateur and now Chairman of hospitality accountancy, Paperchase, thinks this calls for a different mindset. So, get ready for the biggest opening of your life!

So, except for a few false starts, broadly speaking you have been shut for the last 12 months. Just think about that, as never in your wildest dreams could you have planned for what has just happened. By now you are planning to reopen the doors and welcome back the diners, so how should we approach this Covid milestone? The answer is simple, just treat it as an opening and consider the following.

Have you spoken to your suppliers? Have you remained in touch? They too have had a torrid time, often being worse hit than their customers. Check if they can supply you on the same terms as before. There might be a conflict with your finances and theirs, so it's better to know now, not when it's too late. Also, another question - can they supply you? Since Covid we've had a lockdown as well as Brexit, so your suppliers may struggle to meet the expected demand, be that in manufacturing or when importing products from the EU?

How about your staff? Do you still have your dream team? If not, there will be huge demands for great people, many of which may have left the industry, so don't delay your recruitment drive. You should have been planning this for some time now, and with Covid, you may need more staff than you have ever needed before due to the extra measures that need to be put in place to be compliant.

When you do finally open, don't assume that you will simply be able open the doors and all will be ok. All the stresses of a new opening will now apply, so take nothing for granted. Equipment breakdowns on your first busy night will kill your service. This is an opening, so treat it as such and go through your pre-opening check list.

Remember what made it work pre-Covid. Your customers loved you before, not just because of the great food, or the brilliant service, or the well-chosen wine list. They loved you for all those things, and they loved you because you are a great hospitality pro who, above all else, made them feel welcome, gave them a great time and they had an experience that was perceived as great value.

We've all done it, you love the place, the food was brilliant, the service was amazing, nothing was wrong, but, somehow, you calculated the price you expected to pay, and the bill came and it's way over. Will you go back? No. So what's the number one, single most important factor in a successful restaurant business? Value for Money. It isn't easy to create the package that feels more expensive than it turns out to be but that's the trick of the best restaurateurs. Much of what adds value doesn't cost money. Think about that as you reopen your restaurant.

Generosity. Warmth. Kindness. The thesaurus offers a ton of alternative words but, for us, hospitality is the very essence of the job. Making a guest feel welcome can sometimes seem like an art but it can be learned. Thinking through the customer journey from the moment they first make contact with you would be a good place to start. What are the opportunities within your offer? Bring a bowl of hot frites to help finish that rib of beef without being asked...? A pudding to share, on the house, when they declined desserts (they didn't really mean it anyway). We are hospitality professionals, and the clue is in the name!

So, with that in mind, do your pre-opening checks, think about being as hospitable as you can, welcome your customers back giving them that all important value experience and treat this return to business as the most important opening of your life.

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