As we look to the future of hospitality after another lockdown, we examine what we have learned about the changes in consumer habits and the new standard for rigorous safety measures, and what role training plays in lockdown recovery.
UKHospitality and CGA reported back in July that the hospitality sector accounted for a third of the UK’s entire drop in GDP in March and April and since then we’ve seen a cautious return to hospitality, followed by a boost from the Government’s August EOTHO campaign and then the blow of further restrictions as we face another national lockdown.
To say that the changing landscape has been challenging for operators is an understatement, to say the least. Even during periods of opening, government guidelines of imposed curfews along with the ‘rule of six’ and table service have presented a set of new challenges for operators.
Operators and their teams need to be increasingly adaptable and agile in order to continue to serve guests and crucially, remain a viable business.
In this article, we’ll look at some of the changing consumer habits and opinions of frontline hospitality workers and what the impact of training is in lockdown recovery.
Back in July, we launched, in conjunction with CGA, our first Hospitality Professionals Survey. We asked frontline workers in the sector how they felt about a number of issues related to returning to work and how they had fared during lockdown. The survey provides a key insight into the views of frontline hospitality workers and what impact training had during the first lockdown.
Our survey results indicated that hospitality professionals who had been provided with learning and development resources during lockdown were more likely to have an improved opinion of their employer, with 54% of respondent’s whose employer satisfaction had worsened reporting they had been offered no learning and development resources. Employers who had kept an open line of communication with their team members and supported them during lockdown will have reaped the benefits of a more engaged team, ready to weather the challenges of reopening. In our most recent survey, almost 9 in 10 Hospitality Professionals reported that they received COVID specific training before returning to work, with 87% satisfied with the training they received.
And this health and safety training has paid dividends in consumers’ satisfaction with hygiene and cleanliness procedures and practices when visiting outlets, resulting in increasing consumer confidence and a greater propensity to revisit, with 2 in 5 consumers feeling that their overall experience made them feel reassured enough to visit again last year.
Ongoing mental health support
The impact of lockdown and the ongoing restrictions to curb the spread of coronavirus continues to have an effect on us all. With many people experiencing anxiety around the disease itself and the impact on loved ones, prolonged periods at home without the face-to-face support of colleagues and friends, as well as economic factors such as facing redundancy and the looming threat of a worldwide recession, mental health support is crucial.
During the first lockdown, CPL Learning provided free access to our mental health learning resources, Mental Health Support Champion and Personal Resilience. We saw a huge demand for our courses, with 160,000 courses assigned and over 10,000 hours of training completed during the lockdown period. These huge numbers suggest that people have been keen to access mental health support. When this support is offered by employers, team members feel that their mental health is a priority to their employer.
As restrictions and measures continue to change and impact people’s daily routines, mental health support continues to be an important factor in training. Frontline hospitality teams may feel increased anxiety about working with the public, and mental health training can help build confidence in your teams.
Building consumer confidence
Operators have worked hard to adapt quickly to COVID measures in order to reopen, and despite constantly changing regulations and guidelines have managed to build confidence in consumers surrounding the effectiveness of COVID measures prior to the most recent lockdown. More than four in five guests reported they had been satisfied with safety measures on their visits to venues according to CGA data from their We Hear You survey.
Training has played an important role in operators’ ability to build this confidence. Providing teams with refreshed training in various health and safety helps with the execution of these health and safety procedures. If consumers can see the guidelines being enforced, this helps with building confidence. This might be in the form of visible cleaning rotas or publicised information on the frequency of cleaning. Training is also helpful in the delivery of new COVID related procedures and how to manage the expectations of guests. There are many new challenges to consider such as age verification when the guest may be wearing a mask or the way to communicate new one-way systems to guests, or in requesting the participation in track and trace.
Training can be an invaluable tool in helping your teams build confidence in delivering all of this in your operation quickly and efficiently. This confidence in turn will help build confidence in your guests who feel they can trust your teams.
Striking the right balance for both guests and team members between safety and experience has been achievable through the careful planning and implementation of COVID training by operators in their recovery planning.
What can you do now
In the ongoing recovery of hospitality, it’s important to look forward and identify where we can continue to safeguard our operations. Training continues to be a valuable tool in both helping your teams and building the confidence of your guests.
In our latest Hospitality Professionals Survey, 58% of respondents felt that the COVID measures implemented have had an impact on the level of service they can provide customers. While interestingly, this concern was not reflected in the opinions of consumers, it’s important to identify this area of low confidence in team members. Delivering hospitality continues to be challenging, with increased mask-wearing in venues adding to this, your teams may need assurance and new guidance on how to successfully deliver the highest possible standard of service despite safety measures. You can help your teams by seeking out product and service skill-based resources that will help build their confidence in these areas.
In addition, with new guidelines and restrictions being imposed routinely, many professionals shared concerns about guests not adhering to COVID rules or following social distancing guidelines or difficulty in enforcing guidelines. Again, reinforcing training around conflict management and guest communications can help build confidence in your teams if they are concerned about customer behaviour and how to manage it.
It’s important to identify the key areas your own teams have found challenging. Surveying your teams to understand these areas and inform your own training programme could be an excellent way to make sure you are providing the right training focus. And you can use this period of closure effectively by starting to implement these things, so your teams are prepared ahead of serving customers again.
We’ll continue to report insights from our panel that will help guide your own programmes of support for your teams, so make sure you’re the first to know by following us on social media and reading our Round-up email.