More than 18 months after the pandemic turned Australia’s hospitality industry on its head, optimism is growing. So-called “freedom days” will be triggered in New South Wales and Victoria as vaccination targets are hit over the coming weeks. When they’re met, restrictions will ease, industries will reopen and thousands of hospitality businesses and millions of diners will again enjoy the experiences that we once took for granted.
However, when freedom day arrives, it isn’t a simple case of dusting down the tables, firing up the kitchen and putting the champagne on ice. The industry and consumer habits have changed, and mastering the transition requires preparation, communication and savvy, technology-driven business practices.
Preparing for the “new normal“
The core principle of hospitality – beautiful food and drink, and memorable experiences – won’t change, but the provision of them will. Prepare early so you can hit the ground running. Restrictions will vary nationwide – not just in NSW and Victoria, but every state – so venues must adapt to differing state-by-state guidelines. In NSW and Victoria, strict capacity measures will be enforced, so businesses must ensure their venues are compliant with social distancing guidelines. A COVID-safe plan must be in place and followed by staff and guests alike.
In many industries and businesses, it will be mandatory for customers to show proof of vaccination. No matter the guidelines, technology like SevenRooms can help small hospitality businesses communicate their policies during the booking process and even add a “Vaccination Verified” tag, so a guest only needs to provide proof during their first visit, but not on subsequent visits. Measures may seem daunting now, but small hospitality businesses have handled every challenge over the last 18 months, and have the resiliency, adaptability and innovation to thrive post freedom day.
Meeting and exceeding expectations through technology
Technology is no longer optional, it’s essential, and will separate great businesses from their competitors when the industry reopens. Hospitality is a traditional industry, but one that stands to gain immensely from technology – particularly small operators. When venues reopen, guests will prioritise businesses that can provide convenient, meaningful customer experiences at every touchpoint, on- or off-premise.
Whether it’s acquiring guests by wowing them with online reservations, virtual waitlists, and delivery and pick-up options; engaging them through contactless order and pay and tailored experiences; or retaining them by turning approved data into personalised marketing that keeps them coming back, technology has become as important as the quality of a venue’s menu. SevenRooms recently teamed up with reservation platform TheFork, to provide even the smallest of businesses with cutting-edge technology that helps them fill their reservations and provide an unrivalled experience that turns one-off visitors into regulars.
Providing clarity through communication
One of the most important, but potentially overlooked, aspects of reopening is communication. For both guests and staff, things will be a little different – especially in the early weeks – but communication helps alleviate uncertainty. Across both your online presence and in your venue, clearly outline your COVID-safe plan, the measures you’re taking to provide safe and exceptional experiences and how your business will operate as restrictions evolve. Automated, personalised marketing is an excellent way to keep your guests updated about rules and expectations, as well as the deals and experiences that they won’t want to miss.
If there’s one thing the pandemic has taught us, it’s that our vibrant hospitality industry is incredibly resilient and innovative. The impending freedom days bring with it optimism that the worst is, hopefully, behind us, and through preparation, communication and the power of technology, small hospitality businesses can master the transition and set new standards of excellence in COVID-normal hospitality.