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Morning Briefing Strap Line
Fri 26th Feb 2021 - Friday Opinion
Subjects: Steering clear of overly cautious mindsets, kind regards, supporting teams in managing change and building resilience
Authors: Glynn Davis, Ann Elliott, Jill Whittaker
 

Steering clear of overly cautious mindsets by Glynn Davis

One of the notable features of the hospitality industry this past year has been the snaking queues of cars leading up to the counters of the drive-thru units of McDonald’s, Costa, KFC and a growing number of other foodservice operators.
 
These outlets have been the perfect creation for servicing diners in a covid-19-ridden landscape where even the most cautious of individuals have felt safe venturing out for takeaway food while cossetted in the controlled environment of their own vehicle.
 
The drive-thru has moved on from being largely used for meals that are taken home to also fuelling “car picnics” where people park up and eat from within their vehicle. This broadening of the use of the drive-thru has led to the rise of the term A-commerce or auto commerce in the US. 
 
Consumer appetite for the drive-thru has not surprisingly led to a significant rise in revenues, with spend up 45% at such units during September to November, according to the NPD Group, and this will have at least been maintained through the ongoing third lockdown. 
 
Needless to say there has been a serious increase in interest in drive-thru units among foodservice operators. Starbucks said 80% of its new openings will have a drive-thru lane, Tim Horton’s has been opening drive-thrus as part of its plan to have outlets across the UK, and drive-thrus have featured in the majority of sites opened by Costa in 2020. Meanwhile at Greggs, sales at stores accessed by car have been roughly 10% higher than the rest of its estate and chief executive Roger Whiteside has stated drive-thrus have been the “most heavily competed property market there is”. 
 
Long-time drive-thru operator McDonald’s even launched a “Click & Serve” option. This enables orders to be made through its app and the food delivered to the customer’s car while they wait in the car park. The company stated diners do not even have to “lean out of your car window or any of the usual stuff”. I take the usual stuff to mean interactions with the McDonald’s servers, which even at the most convivial of times must surely be banter-lite. 
 
This is all rather worrying. It suggests that, for a significant number of people, all roads seem to be leading to the car. Covid-19 has driven people away from using public transport and fuelled a major increase in second-hand car sales. While new cars have been shunned – as people keep their existing models – there has been a record increase in demand for used models as people have added second or third vehicles for their families, according to data from Auto Trader. In the US, this driving revival is predicted to lead to some sort of “carmageddon”.
 
While this is all great news for used car dealers, it is not so good for the underlying need of people to adopt more sustainable lifestyles and reduce their carbon footprints. It also, undoubtedly, fuels the cautious mindset that has become the norm for many people as covid-19 has gone on and the roadmap to the exit lane still involves many more weeks of restrictive lockdowns. 
 
Research from Redfield & Wilton Strategies found an extremely cautious public sentiment with 54% of people stating restrictions should only be lifted once most of the UK has been vaccinated. Half of the respondents to its survey believe restaurants and bars should not be allowed to open until May, June or even later. While only a modest 22% believe they should be allowed to open either immediately or sometime in March.
 
Clearly, overcoming this mindset of extreme caution will be critical to the industry when it begins to reopen its doors. I’m also hoping the rise of the drive-thru and people living their lives from within the inside of a car will prove to only be a fleeting moment in time in the UK – for the saviour of the hospitality industry, the sanity of these car dwellers, and also the planet.
Glynn Davis is a leading commentator on retail trends
 

Kind regards by Ann Elliott

Seemingly, 21 February was National Hug Day – not a day that was much remembered this year with hugging on the banned list of things we can do. In fact, I think I only hugged my dog and my husband that day – and probably in that order. Only four days before that, on 17 February, it was Random Acts of Kindness day and I don’t remember doing any or receiving any of those either. That’s all a bit sad really.
 
We are an industry that thrives on human contact so the fact we can’t hug our friends or our colleagues hits us hard. We are a sector that, at its heart, is exceptionally kind and the fact we can’t be kind to guests on a daily basis also hits us hard. We are a sector that is angry, frustrated and despairing unable, in many cases, to look much beyond having enough cash to live through another week.
 
On a personal basis, we run our own house as an Airbnb property that can’t really open again properly until June when mixed households can stay away together. For many Airbnb owners, it’s their only source of income (thank god it’s a hobby for us) and their stories on Facebook are really desperate. They have no help from the government, find it difficult to access grants and don’t have furlough. Its almost another 17 weeks before they are likely to see any income – and probably almost ten weeks since they last earned money from their property. That’s a total of 27 weeks with no income, on top of the closures from lockdown one and lockdown two.
 
Many in hospitality are in the same place too. What on earth are they to do? In these circumstances, its really hard to think about being kind to others when it feels as if the world is not being particularly kind to you and that you are hanging on by a thread – both financially and emotionally.
 
Well, Mark Stretton sent all his team “The little book of kindness” as a gift to celebrate Fleet Street Communications’ tenth birthday and reading it has made me think again about kindness and how important it is, particularly to those individuals who are at their lowest right now. They need our kindness most of all.
 
So I read the book for some inspiration – for myself sometimes (when our own Airbnb reopening seems so far away and I am not being particularly nice to live with) and for others going through their own difficulties. I particularly liked these quotes from the book:
 
“Let us be kind. The way is long and lonely, and human hearts are asking for this blessing only – that we be kind. We cannot know the grief that men may borrow. We cannot see the souls storm swept by sorrow, but love can shine up the way today, tomorrow. Let us be kind.” Walter Lomax Childress
 
“It is the characteristic of the magnanimous man to ask no favour but to be ready to do kindness to others.” Aristotle
 
“Life is mostly froth and bubble, two things stand like stone, kindness in another’s trouble, courage in your own.” Adam Lindsay Gordon
 
“Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.” Lao Tzu
 
“Kindness is in our power even when fondness is not.” Samuel Johnson
 
And my own favourite:
 
“No one can live a happy life if he turns everything to his own purpose. Live for others if you want to live for yourself.” Seneca
 
I know it can all sound a bit corny and a bit trite but when our world is being turned upside down, we do find solace and calm in being kind both to ourselves and to others.
Ann Elliott is a hospitality strategist, connector and adviser
 

Supporting teams in managing change and building resilience by Jill Whittaker

With the announcement of the government’s roadmap for exiting lockdown, it looks as though we will be experiencing another period of change as new regulations and restrictions come into play on a regular basis. Change is nothing new to us now, with so many pivoting their business models to provide takeaway or delivery-only options. I salute their ingenuity.
 
Even for those businesses that have remained open throughout, kitchen teams are now under more pressure than ever. Whether your staff are working or not, we have an increasingly stressed, demoralised and anxious workforce. 
 
Thanks to the rollout of the covid-19 vaccine, there is hope on the horizon – but we’re not there yet. While we don’t know for sure what the coming weeks and months will hold, one thing we can be certain about is there will be another period of change for business leaders to contend with and prepare their staff for. In the meantime, here are my thoughts on how managers can best implement change and build the resilience of team members. 
 
1. Maintaining human interaction 
Hospitality is an industry of people, for people, and losing that daily interaction with others can really hit your mental health and motivation levels hard. In fact, a recent survey by the Mental Health Foundation found one in four adults in the UK felt lonely within the past two weeks. To try to combat this, some businesses have been placing emphasis on regular virtual touchpoint meetings, sometimes with a business aim in mind but also just for fun and team bonding purposes. 
 
Regular contact should be encouraged but be mindful that everyone likes to communicate in different ways. To beat “Zoom fatigue”, try to understand what works best for your team. It’s also key to consider who delivers these messages. Every organisation has what we would call “key players” – people who are respected, known and trusted by other employees – and these aren’t necessarily the senior management team. Spending time with these influencers to disclose your plans and get them on board before sharing with the whole team allows for actionable feedback, as well as providing a more personable contact for your staff members to come to with any questions or concerns about any changes. 
 
Honesty and transparency are key to trust among staff members – even if you can’t give people certainty, you can help them to feel comfortable and reassure them that you’re doing your very best.
 
2. Action now, resilience later
Now is the time to consider how to minimise the risk of future disruptions. Sacrificing efficiency and operational performance in the short term is a necessary evil in order to set your business up for increased resilience in the long term. If there’s ever been a time to focus our attentions away from the bustling day-to-day activity, it’s during lockdown.
 
According to the Harvard Business Review, there are generally considered to be six key actions for a business to become more resilient. Here are my top picks from those, which can be implemented immediately and will have a lasting impact on your resilience as a business: 
 
a) Seek advantage in adversity – don’t just look to mitigate risk or rectify the problem, push for an advantage. Welcome adversity as your opportunity to change for the better.
b) Measure beyond performance – by looking solely at performance metrics, you are, by definition, always looking backwards. Look at how your business reacts to issues and changes – champion flexibility and adapt.
c) Prize diversity – resilience requires varied viewpoints and ideas to navigate situations, so cognitive diversity is your best friend when tackling a crisis. People are your best asset and different experience levels, backgrounds and skills can bring fresh ideas to the fore that can birth innovative solutions and plans of action. 
 
3. Use the opportunity to grow
Research has shown training staff with new skills can increase productivity by as much as 12%, something that will be invaluable as the industry reopens and consumers return en masse, looking to make up for lost time. Even if managers and team members have taken a step back from their normal roles during lockdown, they can still use this time to continue their learning journey via apprenticeships, training courses and workshops (most of which can be carried out online). Research has revealed almost every UK worker needs reskilling in order to possess the skills they will need to do their jobs effectively in 2030 so there is no time like the present to begin developing these skills. This also means that teams can keep busy (keeping busy is important) and learn new skills to put into practice when restrictions are lifted and normal service can resume. 
 
However, this must not be treated as an entirely self-led programme – having a genuine two-way touchpoint will be invaluable to all parties, allowing your staff to feel supported and motivated and you to feel confident they are developing the necessary skills. While moments of crisis can be seen as opportunities to expedite change and develop your staff, it is important to recognise the effects this pandemic has had on individuals are not always plain to see and forcing additional training on those who do not want it can cause further distress.
 
Gaining new skills is a positive step, and not only is it an important way to help teams feel inspired and motivated at a time when many of us feel “stuck” because our lives have been put on hold, it can also mean a more effective business for the future.
Jill Whittaker is managing director of HIT Training

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