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Lockdown Unlocked: Testimonials of hospitality businesses reinventing the service experience

After months of standstill for many businesses due to public authority announcements related to COVID-19, a great number of hospitality institutions have now reopened or are preparing to open the doors of their establishments to welcome back long missed customers.

According to the findings inthe latest survey by Ernst & Young on how COVID-19 is changing the customer behaviour, the businesses now must carefully respect that a third of their clients will reappraise the things they value most and not take certain things for granted. Paying more attention to the impacts of their consumption, customers now will prove to be more challenging to satisfy and businesses will have to find new and creative ways to regain their trust.

In this limited series of testimonials by some of the Alumni from Les Roches, Ecole Ducasse and Glion Institute of Higher Education, you can discover the creative ways the companies in hospitality sector have been coping with the challenges to keep the businesses running during the lockdown phase, as well as their innovative ideas on how they plan re-opening their establishments to the population keeping in mind the context and the high expectations of their freshly changed customers.

 United Kingdom: Contemplating on reinventing client services while waiting to reopen

With hospitality establishments still closed due to the situation in the United Kingdom, according to Statista, 85% of hoteliers and 79% of restaurateurs are still planning on reopening their establishments after the lockdown is lifted. Compared to other members of European Economic Area, the UK hospitality sector does not know yet when the businesses can reopen and take this time reinvent and improve their services.

Anna Michoudi, Glion Alumnus and Director of Sales at Conrad London St James in London, has always been passionate about hospitality, and been working for the best hotel and hospitality groups in London ever since her graduation from Glion in 2015. Thanks to her hard work and dedication Anna has proven she merits a top-level role allowing her to expand her experience in the field even further.

“At this stage nobody knows exactly what tomorrow will look like, however, there are some assumptions based on which hotels will have to build their next steps. Some of the areas where I personally see room for innovation and creativity is the pre-arrival guest experience as well as the check-in process both for individual travellers and for groups.

Ahead of guest arrivals, confirmation letters may have to provide more information regarding the expectations guests should have once they arrive at the hotel compared to what these used to include. For instance, guests who travel by car will require clarity around parking options. Once international flights resume, travellers may wish to have their luggage sanitised through a specific new process or a machine which will be located at the hotel’s lobby before it goes up to their room.

Regarding check-in, technology will play a crucial role and many hotels have already established online check-in with no requirement for physical contact with the Front Office’s teams. For example, it could still be that check-in will be done online but this could be done through a page that’s dedicated to the group’s members. The page may have a user-friendly format, copying the format of social media layout, allowing group members to easily navigate without any need for training. Through that group page, they could connect with each other even when they are not in the hotel while the group leader could be sharing with the group members information, such as meeting time to depart for their sightseeing. Additionally, a hotel representative could be introduced to them via chat and be available for them for any possible questions before, during or after their stay.”

Italy: Developing internal talent to limit redundancies

With the hospitality establishments open to public in Italy since May 18, the country has entered its latest stage of easing the lockdown and has finally lifted interregional travel restrictions along with travel from other EU countries on June 3. The latest measures are a major step in the country’s efforts to restart its economy after two months of lockdown and will for the tourism industry amounting to 13% of country’s GDP to move towards its recovery.

Matteo Mozzetti: Les Roches Alumnus and People Development Lead at miscusi in Milan, has been in the forefront miscusi group’s talent pipeline since 2017 and ensures the group keeps pace with its rapid expansion. Now, since 18th May he is more than ever is involved in assuring that all crucial steps in reopening group’s restaurants are followed to the letter by all employees.

“During the lockdown, in order to read apt the business to new customers and to the situation, the company implemented a home delivery service, which not only “serves” cooked pasta, but also sells healthy, sustainable, as pasta is, ingredients to be cooked at home. Within a week the company implemented a new service “miscusi bottega” with new online menu and special “Pasta boxes” made especially for fans, containing the best miscusi sauces, pasta, flour, a rolling pin and aprons, all to allow people to prepare our homemade pasta by themselves at home. In only two months, miscusi was able to bring this service in 7000 houses in Milan, also giving the opportunity to many employees to work, not only as the delivery guys, but also in the logistic and preparation processes. The service was such a success that miscusi decided to also bring it out of Milan all around Italy and has now been continued even after the lockdown has ended.”

Moreover, Matteo explains that while many on-floor roles remained idle, the restaurant quickly refocused and offered its staff new ways to integrate the business: “Despite the success that “miscusi bottega” has received, one of the major issues the company is facing today is the overstaff, especially the “on call” workers; nonetheless the company realised that many office employees where making a great effort in digitalising processes, such as the e-commerce, the food delivery services and the marketing campaigns. Therefore, miscusi decided to open new internal job positions for its existing employees, giving them a chance to work while their original roles were on halt. The positions miscusi opened in the last weeks are many, such as graphic designer, junior video producer, content creator, copywriter.” He also highlights the importance of employment and adds that “miscusi is planning to give their employees the opportunity to obtain training not only within their company, but also in others by organising cross training among other restaurants in the industry, thus never letting anybody be without a job or training.”

Asked about the importance of health and safety measures, Matteo proudly states that “In miscusi, the marketing team worked a lot to communicate a great deal of information and procedures in a proper and easy way. In miscusi we say that “there is no good morning if you don’t measure your temperature before going to the office or in the restaurant”, we underline the importance of “eye contact” as unfortunately smiles are covered by the masks, and that this mask will be the “new fashion of the summer”!”

France: Becoming more transparent to create relationship built on trust

To get the economy back and running, with the second phase of easing lockdown effective since June 2, France is officially opening its restaurants and hotels in the green zones as the coronavirus outbreak continues to diminish. With Paris still considered an orange zone, only parks and restaurant terraces alone can reopen, leading to challenging openings for many establishments.

Luc Baudin, Ecole Ducasse Alumnus, Confectioner & Chocolate Maker Consultant and Co-founder of the chocolate factory and shop “La Mutiniere” in Paris proudly carries the name of« Compagnon du devoir » (The Compagnons du Devoir is a French organization of craftsmen and artisans dating from the Middle Ages). Luc learned bakery and chocolate crafts travelling around France and other parts the world and being athletic and looking for a good nutrition he co-created the first pastry boutique for diabetics in 2014 in Paris.

While Luc had to temporarily close down his chocolate shop “La Mutiniere” during the lockdown, the factory situated in the premises next door kept on running allowing to please his regular customers with home deliveries since most products were made available online. To keep the business viable the production was reduced by half and great chocolate donations were made to encourage the medical staff in a local hospital on Easter were made.

By making careful production choices and keeping the business running, Luc is excited to take on construction works in his factory and make the space fully visible from the street through a large window shop. “The idea is to show to our customers that our production processes are clean and respect all the safety regulations so essential when returning to professional activity. We want to be fully transparent with our clients as the mutual respect is fundamental for a lasting relationship.” In order to place the customer in the core of the activity, Luc has planned to turn his shop in a masterclass in the afternoons allowing the attendees to learn more about the products, their local and biological provenance thus highlighting the sustainable nature of his business.

Spain: Developing services to help hoteliers win back customers

With the hotels and restaurants allowed to partially reopen since mid-May. Due to numerous sanitary restrictions imposed to the players of the hospitality industry representing 12,3% of country’s GDP, many hotels are inclined to postpone their comeback to the end of June or later as the interregional travel still forbidden until mid-July.

Alejandro Soria Sáez, LRM Alumnus and the CEO of Cohosting in Marbella, has used his extensive hospitality experience in the F&B arena of the world-renowned brands such as IHG and Vincci Hotels, to create a unique service company aimed at providing hotels with tools to increase their cross selling revenue and the advantage of creating that extra revenue through touchless solutions so important during this sensitive time. The services offered include the possibility of booking personalised in-room amenities, flexible adapted check-in and check-out times or airport pick-ups, adapted to the emerging new customer needs.

With a service business in hospitality industry, Alejandro explains how they adapted their services to best answer the needs of hospitality establishments after reopening.  “Right before the COVID-19 hotels had already recovered from the 2008 financial crisis and were comfortable with their occupancy and ADR levels so they were looking at new revenue sources such as Intelligent Cross Selling among others. Within 3 months hotels have gone back to a scenario like 2008 and are again looking at how to increase their Occupancy and Average Daily Rates therefore we have used the power of Intelligent Cross Selling to help them on these two metrics.”

With security, flexibility and hospitality as main drivers, Cohosting is helping their clients overcome difficulties arisen due to the crisis. “Due to local regulations or less manpower hotels are not allowed to have many of the in-room amenities they had before, e.g pillows or full stocked minibar, and our service allows the hotels to let their guests personalize their room upon arrival. Moreover, being flexible with check-in and check-out times helps hotels to prevent their guests from waiting on the street or in common areas, thus guaranteeing higher levels of safety. As security is one of the main concerns for many hotel guests, our service offers the technology and the right suppliers for hotels to offer frictionless, stress-free hospitality airport pick-up service to ensure a secure journey.”

To add to the list of adapted services, Alejandro is happy to highlight that Cohosting’s Food &Beverage module allow guests to personalise their minibar and coffee corner or even order their grab & go breakfast boxas offering breakfast buffets is no longer an option for many hotels due to the sanitary restrictions.

Asked about what lessons he learned from this situation, Alejandro states: “Do not charge for everything but nothing is free.We are supporting our clients without charging them anything, this way of approaching the crisis is a win-win and allows securing many long-term business relationships”.

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