How to stay positive and proactive in these unprecedented times

Ollie Brand
Cost control

Times are challenging for hospitality. With or without intervention, we will either fall victim to circumstance or need to be more proactive about our lives and businesses - to do what we can, with what we’ve got. Here's more on my thoughts.

Take a moment to consider the environment we are working in. I’m not looking to add to the headline gloom, but inflation is now being touted as reaching 18% next year, the cost of living crisis is very present and getting worse with outrageous energy price increases, and a recession is anticipated in the coming quarters. All obstacles to navigate whilst businesses are also struggling with staff shortages following Brexit and the pandemic.

Considering all the above, waiting for the causes of the issues to alleviate themselves (whenever that may be) is not a viable option. Nor, more unfortunately, is the support from our country’s leadership to help steer us out; the signs so far seem hardly reassuring. With the announcement that Liz Truss is our new PM, and news that Russia has closed the Nord Stream 1 pipeline from Russia to Germany, all eyes are going to be on our new prime minister and her ever-increasing in-tray of pressing priorities. How Truss and her newly formed government will handle the energy crisis, an issue that is seriously hurting the hospitality sector, will be of significant interest.

Either way, with or without intervention, this is a time where we at the coal face either fall victim to circumstance or become more proactive in our lives and businesses - doing all we can, with what we’ve got. I wanted to share my thoughts, taken from the collective experience here at Zupa on how we approach times of adversity.

Back to basics

This is the time you need to be proactive and focus your efforts on those areas where you have control - direct or indirect (what Stephen Covey in ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ calls your sphere of influence). You need to get to the core of your business and focus on your 'why'. Stripping it back to this basic level, something that is rarely done in the day to day, ensures you can find and articulate the purpose of why you do what you do. This goes a long way to helping hearts and minds navigate turbulent markets like the one we are in today.

Then focus on your people. Ensuring you have got the right people in the right places. Support them with coaching to do what they do best! The expression of ‘happy people > happy product/service > happy customers in that order’ is integral in modern business. Naturally there is a balance to this; cash is king in any environment and if there are no customers then there is no business. But, if your people are happy, it will have a positive impact on productivity, and you will maximise on potential and grow your customer base through positive Net Revenue Retention and adding new business. If you invest in your people, they make the process that enables you to deliver the product/service to the customer.

On the topic of process, success is a by-product of the process and you must ensure you have got a robust repeatable process, whether you are a single site or scaling. To make the most of process, take a step back to consider what you do on the day to day. It will help you to identify where there are unnecessary tasks, and where you can streamline. Once you have mapped this out, consider solutions to support.

Look at the software and hardware solutions you have in place that could make the process as effortless as possible. The goal is to ensure all processes are fully automated, so you and your team can focus your energies on your people, customers, strategy and menus. When building process efficiencies, the ROI isn’t always immediately obvious, but it leads to saved time, avoidance of human error, potential direct cost savings and fulfilled staff with reduced turnover. To support getting to this point, we have created a tip sheet on how to broach new technology here.

Single version of the truth

Provided you have invested in your systems, you will be able to achieve the holy grail of having a ‘single version of the truth’ to support a smooth operation. One simple way to see if you have this is by asking the simple question of ‘where is our single version of the truth?’ If you have got a confident answer for every responsibility within your business, and you stop hearing comments like ‘where do we store this’ or ‘where is this information’, it will help to reduce miscommunication and encourage efficiency.

Once you've done all the above, circle back to the top. Revisiting your purpose helps to provide that overarching direction in all decisions. It gives everyone focus and ensures that the short-term deviations don’t take you far from the long-term vision, whilst working smarter. It helps you make informed decisions to optimise you and your team to thrive in any environment.

The future

This year it is proving more challenging than ever to predict the right call. Indeed, in reviewing my own predictions in my 2021 end of year blog here, I can see some of the technological advances I mention are under way, like Umbrella and Metaverse collaborating to use VR technology for hospitality training. However, the impact of the war in Ukraine has impacted all of our lives. And more significantly than anyone anticipated. It is also highly likely we are going to continue to feel it for some time. Currently a recession has been predicted that is forecast to last into 2024; based on the misfires on predictions and reactions, it is highly possible that it will go on for much longer and bite even more deeply.

This all brings into question the decisions that you are making now, and what they mean for the important long-term initiatives. For example, what does this mean for your carbon zero targets? Whilst this target is fundamental to get right, and technology providers like us have it in our sights to resolve, it is hard to tell with the current unpredictable impacts if we are still on course to achieve this.

The one thing that's for certain, we work in a sector that has been hit from all sides - and has been greatly weakened - but in amongst the casualties there is also incredible resilience. We need to build on this resilience, which will take focus, energy and investment.

Our purpose at Zupa is to support companies and help them build this resilience. Through our technology, our core mission is to simplify business and enable people to thrive at work. We are completely focused on ensuring you have full control. If you'd like to know more please do get it touch. I’d also love to hear more about your thoughts on current challenges and how you are planning to move forward. You can get in touch with me on LinkedIn and/or continue the discussion with me on Twitter.

I also plan to attend the following events in the coming months and hope to see you there: Casual dining 202, The Big Hospitality Expo, Care Roadshow (Epsom), Restaurant & Bar Tech Live 2022, and Coffee Shop Innovation Expo.