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Webinar explores next steps for hospitality coronavirus recovery

PUBLISHED: 11:49 08 July 2020 | UPDATED: 13:39 08 July 2020

The Globe Inn at Wells-next-the-Sea was one of four Chestnut Inns to open on July 4    Picture: Chestnut group

The Globe Inn at Wells-next-the-Sea was one of four Chestnut Inns to open on July 4 Picture: Chestnut group

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As customers begin returning to pubs and holiday destinations, how can leisure, tourism and hospitality businesses ensure a sustainable recovery?

Chris Scargill, Lead Partner at Larking Gowen  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNChris Scargill, Lead Partner at Larking Gowen Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

As tourism, leisure and hospitality businesses begin to reopen from July 4, following changes in guidance, the challenges involved in recovering from the Covid-19 shutdown become clearer. A free-to-view webinar called “Hope or fear? The first steps for the sector” looked at the way forward.

Chaired by Chris Scargill (inset) of accountancy firm MHA Larking Gowen, the panel consisted of Andrew Barnes of Bure Valley Railway, Ruth Knight of Waveney River Centre and Norfolk Broads Direct, Phillip Turner of Chestnut and Andy Wood of Adnams.

“Our panellists represent businesses in every sector – from camping to retail, brewing to accommodation, running of attractions through to the gem of hospitality, the food and drink offering of our pubs,” said Mr Scargill, introducing the webinar. “As we begin to move into the next stage from lockdown, their businesses face the same issues 
as everyone else in the sector.”

Chestnut opened four of its 11 pubs on July 4, with another four opening this weekend. “We can’t control the number of people who walk through the door, but we can control the preparation: how we set up the properties and how we train our staff,” said Mr Turner. “I think some people held back from going out on ‘Super Saturday’ but we were steadily busy all day and that allowed us to road test all of our procedures.”

Norfolk Broads Direct has holiday cruisers and day boats running, with new systems to reduce contact between staff and customers   Picture: Norfolk Broads DirectNorfolk Broads Direct has holiday cruisers and day boats running, with new systems to reduce contact between staff and customers Picture: Norfolk Broads Direct

Adnams has 46 pubs and hotels across the region and opened 90pc straight away. “We traded well, given the restrictions we had to work with for social distancing,” said CEO Andy Wood. “Our systems all seemed to be working well. We had screens and one-way systems in place – all the customers were sitting down 
and staff were bringing them their beer.”

Customers have already begun returning to Norfolk Broads Direct for holiday cruisers and day boats, though the passenger cruises haven’t yet resumed. “We are allowed to do them but we’re taking the time to make sure we conform with the guidelines properly,” Mrs Knight explained. “It’s unlikely that we’ll be able to do the boogie nights or jazz nights, but we hope to get traditional river trips up and running before the end of July.”

The Bure Valley Railway also decided to wait until the end of the month before reopening. Mr Barnes spoke during the webinar about the revised measures needed to reopen the popular attraction, ranging from a one-way system for visitors to screens in carriages. “There is also a regular cleaning regime,” he explained. “We’re not just putting up signs: people need to see us doing it. That will also reassure the staff.”

A lot of the recovery will be about confidence – staff confidence as well as customer confidence. “As we’re leaving the lockdown, are customers going to be happy to go back to venues? Can the ‘theater of clean’ reassure them they will be safe? Will staff be happy with the way things have to work?” said Mr Scargill, touching on the issues debated on the webinar.

Adnams' flagship hotel The Swan in Southwold reopened on 'Super Saturday'   Picture: AdnamsAdnams' flagship hotel The Swan in Southwold reopened on 'Super Saturday' Picture: Adnams

“What surprised us was just how tiring it was for the staff,” said Mr Wood. “There was a lot of extra walking with carrying beer to the tables. They also had to direct customers and help them interpret the new rules, so there was a much higher level of interaction.”

Mrs Knight explained on the webinar how Norfolk Broads Direct had changed the way it works. “We’re still able to give customers the full service but we’ve managed to lessen the contact time between staff and customers,” she said.

Going forward, that ability to adapt to deliver the same service in a different way will be key.

“What we set out to do this weekend was deliver a hospitality experience while making people feel safe – both staff and customers,” said Mr Turner. “We managed to do that while taking some money as well. And that’s what the business is all about.”

Bure Valley Railway has fresh systems in place to keep passengers and staff safe   Picture: BVRWBure Valley Railway has fresh systems in place to keep passengers and staff safe Picture: BVRW

Mr Scargill concluded: “Though the webinar was recorded before July 4, what we’ve seen over this first weekend is that everything debated is just as relevant now.”

The Webinar “Hope or fear? The first steps for the sector” is available to view for free - just click here.


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