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 in the 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.

India: Planning on reopening with innovation in mind

India is currently on the 7th spot on the global list of countries worst-hit by COVID-19. A phased exit from the world’s biggest lockdown in Maharashtra — the state where Mumbai is located — has started and some small relaxations will take place from June 5th in Mumbai such as allowing shops and markets to open on alternate days. This will be followed by the opening of hotels and restaurants resuming operations from June 30th.

Viraf Patel, Les Roches Crans Montana Alumnus and now Executive Chef at “Olive Bar and Kitchen, Mumbai” in Mumbai and Business Head at “Olive Bistro & Bar in Mumbai & Hyderabad & The Hoppery in Hyderabad” in Hyderabad is known for his culinary adventures laced with much eccentricity, conviction and belief in truly honest cooking. One of India’s most celebrated young chefs is sharing how Olive brand is planning on stepping outside the box to provide a personalised and safe experience to their clients once finally opened.

The Olive group of restaurants with brands like Olive Bar & Kitchen, Guppy, Olly, Toast n Tonic, SodaBottleOpenerWala etc. is working hard to implement all necessary steps required for contactless dining. These could include digitizing of menus and valet experience, stringent safety measures of sanitation, mandatory use of masks and gloves, temperature checks, partitions in some restaurants and much more.”

While the restaurant group applies strict sanitary protocols imposed by the public authorities, it goes a step further to make sure the experience remains pleasant and special: “Along-side we are also striving to enhance  the rest of the experience for the diner, from flowers to playlists, to mood lighting, to usage of candles, to greetings, thus focusing more on personalizing the experience.  We would like to give as much human value as possible to the guest.”

“Additionally, we will launch innovative social media campaigns to give confidence to the customers. These will include kitchen tours and going live with the cooking and service process, to reassure the guests that we are doing everything to provide a safe dining experience. For delivery these will be virtual tours, but when we open these could be on ground tours. We will essentially go live in the kitchen so people can tune in. We will also make videos showing all the processes – from guests entering and temperature checks been done on the guests to the staff getting to work, taking temperature checks, washing hands, wearing their safety gear, talking from a distance, cleaning surfaces regularly, and using digital menus and digital forms.”

According to Viraf, the restaurants are also looking at enhancing the delivery experience and developing alternate FnB business models like introducing subscribed meal plans and DIY meal kits containing nicely packaged measured ingredients. The kits will mostly include non-perishables, e.g. Aglio E Olio pasta meal will include pasta, dry herbs, sea salt, pepper, while Garlic Fried Rice at Guppy will include rice, garlic chips, seasoning, soy, sauces and other ingredients. All ingredients will be sent in a quantity required for a meal for two so that our clients can get the brand experience at home.

France: reducing mealtimes while expanding the services

To get the economy back and running, with the second phase of easing lockdown effective since 2nd June, 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.

Frédérique Chenevier, Ecole Ducasse Alumnus and Founder of two restaurants “Saisons” and “Poulette” in Paris, France has always been passionate about culinary arts. Following her heart Fréderique decided to quit her 20-year career in Human Resources and devoted herself to cooking after completing the “Culinary Arts Essentials” program and graduating from Ecole Ducasse in 2016. She has ever since founded two restaurants and is not planning to look back.

Frederique believes this is the perfect time for the restaurateurs to reinvent themselves and improve their offer. “In order to keep on satisfying the demand from our loyal customers, we turned to the take-away service once the restaurants had to close due to the imposed lockdown. We did initially plan to provide this service only temporarily until the restaurants reopen, nevertheless thanks to the huge success of the initiative we are considering of diversifying our business model and maintaining this business alongside the on-site service once they reopen.”

Coupled with the strict sanitary measures of deep cleaning the premises, providing all staff with protective gear and spacing out the tables in the restaurants, Frédérique has also decided to switch to small format disposable paper menus that for the sake of customer safety shall be placed on each table before their arrival and replaced with new ones before the next sitting. This will go hand in hand with a reduced menu allowing to present its customers with new dishes more frequently than before, perfect for the demanding customer of today.

Also, due to the reduced number of clients indoors, Frédérique is planning to add a sitting for each meal hoping the clients would be understanding on the reduced time allocated per visit and would be willing to replace the cultural long meals with more efficient shorter visits.

More importantly, she is keen to help local producers that struggle to sell their products during this time. In order to help her suppliers, Frédérique has diversified her business and started offering restaurant’s supplier local gourmet products in her restaurants making sure her partners stay afloat and her business generates that extra revenue so important during this vulnerable time.

Portugal: Special labels to certify the safety standards and regain customer trust

With its southern beaches, Portugal’s tourism industry generates 15% of country’s GDP, however with the spread of COVID-19 some experts predict its fall by up to 6%. To revive tourism, the Portuguese government has announced the third phase of easing of lockdown measures from June 1st, and many hotels will also start reopening. The hotels following proper hygienic measures will be rewarded a “Clean&Safe” seal that will reassure guests of the safety of the establishment.

Henrique Tiago de Castro, Les Roches Marbella Alumnus and Director of Operations at Novotel & Mercure Lisbon shares how Accor Hotels in Portugal are planning to reassure their customers upon the opening once again on 8th June.

“After long hours spent in our hotel lobbies on my own during this confinement period, it is great to be back in operation. At this point in time, we made the choice to open the Mercure Lisboa Hotel but not the Novotel Lisboa due to its size and operation costs. Just today I had some of my team walking through the main door and it felt amazing to be able to welcome then back.

Being part of AccorInvest is a great experience that makes you feel like a role model for the industry. We get the best advice from the Portuguese government but also from Accor, which developed the #ALLSAFE stamp. At the moment, we are implementing #ALLSAFE, a global program of cleanliness & prevention standards that have been developed with, and vetted by, Bureau Veritas, a world leader in testing, inspections, and certification. All the Group’s hotels must apply these standards and will be audited, either by Accor operational experts or by third-party auditors, such as Bureau Veritas, to receive this label. “

Along with the safety and sanitary standards applied though all properties, Henrique highlights the medical services available for all hotel’s guests: “Apart from this partnership with Bureau Veritas, we have also entered a global partnership to offer medical care to our guests wherever you are in the Accor network.”

Henrique is extremely glad to be increasingly busy to get the hotel set up to open next week and remains optimistic on the time to come. “Allow me to finish with a quote by Timber Hawkeye “You can’t calm the storm, so stop trying. What you can do is calm yourself. The storm will pass””.

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