What has been the biggest operational challenges to the hotel and restaurant industry due to COVID-19?
- Guest safety and public health are of paramount importance. There is a significant new focus around making sure employees are healthy when they come to work and that they embrace best practices with regard to cleaning, social distancing, and making sure guests are compliant with social distancing and face coverings. Both restaurants and hotels were already heavily regulated and inspected every day before COVID, operating with strict standards to comply with public health guidance. During COVID, they have embraced an even higher level of sanitation and protocols.
What are some examples of the greatest creativity you have seen by operators to address these challenges?
- Many businesses have altered their protocols to allow them to operate during COVID. Many hotels can no longer offer breakfast buffets, for example, and instead are doing pick up or more creative room service options.
- With regard to restaurants, we’ve seen a shift toward more takeout, delivery and drive-thru. Most businesses have embraced technology in new and innovative ways like touchless menus, touchless payments and mobile ordering. Business owners are dependent on delivery services, and we see them embracing delivery in a way they never did before.
- Businesses are revamping systems in the kitchen to respond to significant increase in takeout and delivery.
- We see restaurants pivoting to offer meals delivered to your home, ready to eat or heat and eat. Some are offering a marketplace box or meal prep kit with ingredients to be finished at home.
- Business owners are concerned about safety and security as well as social distancing, so they are embracing tech like Relay that allows them to communicate with their teams effectively and remotely, doing virtual shift meetings for example. Many businesses are operating with skeleton staffs, so security features like panic buttons are vitally important to call for assistance quickly and efficiently.
What operational adjustments do you see as more permanent changes to hotel and food service operations in the future?
- We will continue to see strict cleaning protocols because it’s good operational practice not only for COVID but also for the future.
- I believe social distancing is a concept that will stick for the foreseeable future as it will take some time before people are comfortable sharing space with others.
- Embracing technology has been expedited as restaurants depend on delivery, and that is a trend that will stick around. The move toward webinars and telework means that we will see fewer in-person meetings and conventions which will have a lasting effect on hotel and restaurant businesses.
”Business owners are concerned about safety and security as as well as social distancing, so they are embracing tech like Relay that allows them to communicate with their teams effectively and remotely, doing virtual shift meetings for example. “
For hotel and restaurant operations, do you see there being a return to normal or an adaptation to the ‘new normal’?
- We are not going back to the old way of doing business. Restaurants have been operating on razor thin margins for quite some time, and that’s just not sustainable. I believe we’re going to see more realistic menu pricing to offset the expense of the delivery model along with increased pay and benefits as employees will demand it. I expect to see continued reliance on takeout and delivery and less self-service options like buffets and drink stations.
What will operators’ top priorities be going into 2021?
- Businesses must work to instill confidence in their guests by reassuring the the public that they are following best safety protocols. Face coverings and social distancing will need to be implemented not as an afterthought but as a priority. Restaurants and hotels must embrace doing more with less — finding efficiencies, adding technology, make do with less labor. There is going to be a lot of interest in efficient cleaning systems that healthcare settings use, which can be a huge capital expense but may be more efficient in the long run.
Any other trends we should keep an eye on?
- Before COVID one of the trends we saw was sustainability — a rejection of plastic straws and to-go containers — but now the industry is using them more than ever out of necessity. It will be interesting to see if any innovations arise to address this new reality.