We are almost a month into the coronavirus crisis. It is just 2 weeks since the lockdown that froze almost all parts of the hospitality industry and the announcement of the government furlough scheme that has provided a lifeline to many of those affected.
In some ways it feels too soon to think about the future – but we are a forward-looking group, and it’s in our nature to think about what the customer will want before they have thought of it themselves. Also, many of us are responsible for assets – teams, office buildings, leisure venues – that are currently frozen. We must find the ways in which these assets can thrive again, accepting that the world has changed, and we must change with it.
What We Know.
Let’s start with what we know. We know that people will still eat and drink. We also know that hospitality, social interaction and community remain important (even though the ways we can express these things are now severely curtailed).
We also know that the world is not going to return to normal in the next few weeks. Hospitality has always been about human interaction, and coronavirus has overnight turned human proximity into a risk to life. In Wuhan today – three months ahead of us – shops and restaurants are slowly opening, but with ongoing requirements for capacity limits, masks and fever checks.
The lockdowns will not last at their current scale and intensity forever. At some point we will be out and about again, and we will need food and drink and a warm welcome – even if the conditions under which these can be provided have changed significantly. The ‘Return’ horizon is practical in nature. It is where we work out how to operate food & drink and guest hospitality in a way that is compatible with post-coronavirus requirements.
We are starting work now to design new covid-aware operations. While these are early days, we would welcome your insights into what factors we should be considering in redesigning the way we work?
Alice Woodwark, Managing Director – RA Group