Comment: Shifting from survive to thrive mode

Published: 11 May 2020 - 1:15 p.m.

The million dollar question in these times is will the fine dining restaurants survive the onslaught of the novel coronavirus. As an avid believer in the magic of the culinary industry journey, my strong resilience is that not only will we unitedly survive, but we will thrive in the challenging future that throws many an opportunity ahead of us.

Brands with strong foundations will fight it out and survive in challenging times. Those with a passion for the culinary art and fervent love of the business have, over the years, proven to have the resilience to overcome any challenge that threatens their existence.

Around the globe we have seen evidence of the restaurant industry having survived the challenges of the World War 1, the Spanish Flu, the depression and World War 2. Even in its darkest of moments, when it was all doom and gloom, the stern resolve with which restaurant industry has overcome every challenge is proof that we shall overcome this pandemic. No period of temporary isolation and social distancing will take away the craving of sharing a meal when there is an occasion to celebrate.

While we wait for a vaccine, there is work to be done:

  • Get the team into regular interaction and motivational coaching through online portals and video meetings. Make the most of their time through group training exercises and home schooling to develop their skills and aptitude.
  • If the team have access to the site, get them to do a deep clean of the venue’s back-of-house areas, all the technical maintenance work, painting and polishing work and all those heavy tasks which normally cannot be undertaken when operations are busy.
  • Develop and try new menu content, renegotiate supplier rates, do market studies and competition checks, consolidate and improve on best practices or identify new training avenues.
  • Have a deep look at your website and social media platforms and develop some creative content. Pause and plan media content and marketing activations that can be fast forwarded when the time is right and you are ready to go full throttle.
  • Aggressively and actively engage – with empathy – with your existing clients and customers. Consistently share the activities that you are initiating on social media. Due diligence should be taken on the tone of the messaging that you use.
  • When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Brand reputation is well defined during challenging times. Always be positive in your approach and motivational in your tone.

The businesses that survive will see less competition on the other side of the bridge and will experience fresh opportunities to evolve and thrive. New strategic business models will emerge from this crisis, and there will be a more adaptive approach to businesses with more variable costs, lower debt, stronger balance sheets and with better risk management in their foundations.

We will and should never forget this experience. We will eventually overcome this challenge too.

About the author
With more than 28 years of hospitality experience globally, Naim Maadad is the founding CEO of Gates Hospitality, which owns and operates hospitality concepts including Ultra Brasserie, Bistro des Arts, Reform Social & Grill, Publique and Folly by Nick & Scott. The company also has ownership of Six Senses Zighy Bay.

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