The last long months of lockdowns and re-openings has confirmed just how important having highly skilled, trained and motivated staff, ready to pick up the pieces when restaurants and bars re-open, are to any on-trade operator. As the sector prepares itself for what is being billed as more of a re-launch when it comes, Harry Crowther sets out why he thinks communicating and engaging staff now now is even more important as he looks to build his own on-trade training and support platform, Grain to Grape, for all hospitality businesses.
In the first article, in partnership with The Buyer, Harry Crowther introduces his Grain to Grape Insights series by setting out what benefits a motivated and trained team can have for an on-trade business.
The latest Business Confidence Survey report from CGA outlines the results from a pool of 121 business leaders, from chief executives and managing directors, to board level and ‘other senior management’. Without delving too far into the doom and gloom of confidence-knocking stats, there are some silver linings and trends coming out of this that many operators are already engaging in, and those that aren’t, really need to be reconsidering.
It’s a scary stat: given current levels of support from the government, 27% of multi-site operators feel that their hospitality business won’t be viable by the second half of 2021 if tier measures continue after lockdown 3.0. Couple that with ever changing legal guidelines and ‘fragile’ consumer confidence that is, in itself a ‘challenge’ to pre-empt, what are the best operators doing to ensure that their company hits the ground running when reopening day finally comes around?
It’s no secret that the hospitality workforce has been one of Covid’s biggest casualties. You’d be hard pushed to find anyone without a colleague or employee who hasn’t packed their bags and headed home or overseas in 2020. The workforce has contracted by around 25%. However, it is comforting to see that so many operators have focused on staff engagement throughout the furlough period.
(click here to watch a debate hosted by CGA on staff engagement during Covid)
With recruitment always an important topic (Covid or not), only 5% of CGA’s sample think they will recruit to a greater extent than pre-lockdown days. This suggests that employers are putting quite a bit of stock into employee engagement and the fruits that come with it.
Through the lockdowns, almost all business leaders have been, and continue to actively focus on staff engagement. That could be motivating staff, or simply increasing transparency and general levels of communications within the business. It’s no coincidence that there is a strong correlation between frequent communication levels and higher ‘staff satisfaction’ (CGA Business Confidence Vodcast) with frequency of more than once a week delivering higher levels of gratification.
The lesson here: don’t leave your team in the dark, they need you.
Should you be shifting your communication for a greater (training) balance?
But what are the operators actually saying to, or doing with their staff? ‘Career pathway support’, ‘additional perks’ and ‘Wellbeing and support’ are all common and super important to the engagement cause. In particular hats off to the Drinks Community’s ‘Mentor Program’ which is much needed right now – perhaps I should sign up as a mentee.
‘Provision of training and professional development’ comes in at third in CGA’s survey when business leaders were asked what they prioritise to maintain employee engagement.
One thing that the hospitality-restrictive furlough scheme has allowed for in the downtime of that last 12 months: is training.
Effective training carry’s a three-pronged benefit that all feed into the success of an on-trade outfit.
1: Personal development for staff
It doesn’t need much explaining, the more you offer your employees the chance to grow, the more like they are to stay with you and go on to greater things and deliver all important service that consumers are craving- something they can’t get at home. Ensuring staff development will not only bring value to their CV, but might just help you find a legend or two within your workforce.
2: Customer benefit
When those doors reopen (fingers crossed for good), there will be wave of demographics who will hit your bar, shaking the dust off of their cards as they plonk them on your PDQ machines. These aren’t the guys you need to worry about, they’ll be there, come rain or shine. In fact, training isn’t even that relevant for the revellers and enthusiasts of this world.
But where training does become all important, is when that cautious consumer steps through to door, in some cases, sitting at the table for the first time in a year, wary and vigilant. They have probably chosen your establishment because you are exercising Covid compliance in spades… or simply because you are local to them.
So now that they are in, how are your staff going to maximise their experience and spend. Ensuring customers leave their first on-trade outing in months feeling safe and well looked after is crucial.
Third: Company benefit
In short, better training will increase average spends. There will be insufferably more content from me on this over the coming months, but never was there a more important time to increase and ensure staff engagement through training, than now. Consumer and staff benefit aside. If it’s not top of the list of priorities then neither will have a place to drink, or work at respectively.
Increasing average spends has been important for a long time now in the wine category, way before the lockdown days, but now it’s even more important if your wine list is going to be sustainable.
There are some telling numbers that come out of the CGA report. The need to touch base with the hospitality workforce has never been more important, and it’s great to see that this is happening. Couple those levels of communication with a balanced training and development strategy to really make sure that those spends and upsells are being captured and nurtured in a way that brings added value to the customer, the employee, and the company.