On the busiest days of the Olympic Games, business as usual - behind the scenes at least - is simply not going to be an option for hospitality. Elly Earls rounds up 10 measures you should be taking to ensure the period not only runs smoothly, but leaves tourists chomping at the bit to return to the UK
1 Get the welcome right
The 2012 Olympics will provide Britain with the perfect opportunity to showcase its hospitality venues' world-class standards to the world, but they won't get a second chance to make a positive first impression. Indeed, according to VisitBritain spokesperson David Leslie, a staggering 90% of people are extremely or very likely to recommend visiting the UK if they felt extremely or very welcome while in the country. So, make sure that from the moment a guest steps through your doors, their expectations are not only met, but exceeded.
Cleanliness plays a huge role in a guest's perception of a venue, and some simple techniques you can follow to achieve this include upping your staffing levels and being flexible with timing; sticking to check lists and protocols; ensuring your staff have the correct equipment; communicating effectively between front and back of house; and paying attention to the obvious things such as empty glasses on tables and overflowing bins.
2 Keep the staff happy
One of the most crucial factors that could mean the difference between a successful Olympic period and a complete meltdown is a motivated team. "Engage your staff," advises London and Partners spokesperson Chloe Couchman. "Get their ideas and get them excited. They are your brand ambassadors and the more they know about your plans, the better they can sell and deliver your product. Enthused and welcoming staff are fundamental to the city's welcome to visitors."
3 Manage your deliveries
About 11.8 million people are set to flood to Britain during the 29 days of the Olympics, resulting in countless road closures and restrictions across the country, which will inevitably affect normal delivery schedules.
There are several ways you can ensure you still receive your essential supplies: postpone non-urgent deliveries; reduce deliveries where possible; check whether you can switch to out-of-hours deliveries and, if so, talk to other businesses to see whether you can share staff for out-of-hours deliveries; stock up in advance; carry out any required maintenance ahead of the games; and ensure you get up-to-date, detailed information from the Transport for London (TfL) website at www.tfl.gov.uk.
4 Stay safe
For London-based businesses, liaising with the Metropolitan Police is absolutely essential to stay up-to-date with the latest security information.
Indeed, the Special Taskings Team of the Metropolitan Police has started to offer a Protective Security Testing service to hotels, which involves covert police officers testing the business's security measures over a period of two to three weeks. They will be checking aspects such as general staff vigilance, access through back doors, luggage handling procedures, guest room security, access control, and credit card fraud, among other things, as well as having a covert one-night stay in the hotel.
5 Be accessible for all
The spending power of disabled people in the UK was estimated at about £80b in 2010, with 58% of them saying that the way in which businesses treat them affects the shopping habits of their friends and families.
As such, the Mayor of London is determined to deliver the most accessible games yet, and there are plenty of free resources out there to ensure that your business is able to offer the best possible service for visitors with access requirements.
For example, Destination London: Accessibility Training for Businesses, is a free, fully interactive service including videos, top tips and first-hand accounts. You can log on at www.london.gov.uk/destinationlondon.
Tourism For All is an equally comprehensive resource at www.tourismforall.org.uk.
6 Make sure your staff can get to work
As well as road closures and restrictions, the Olympics will see 20 million extra tube journeys in London. "Be under no illusion," Couchman notes. "The transport operations will affect nearly every part of the capital."
However, this doesn't mean it has to affect your business too much. London's transport network is well-suited to hosting the games and TfL is highly experienced in operating during major events, such as the Royal Wedding and the London Marathon. Moreover, transport services are being enhanced both in London and across the UK thanks to £6.5b of investment, and extra staff and volunteers will always be on hand to help.
So, by using the tools available, particularly from TfL, and planning ahead, there's no reason your staff can't make it to work in as good time as ever. "There are already detailed maps, guidance and tools for businesses, highlighting the effects on London's roads and tubes," Couchman remarks. "Review the implications for your business, staff, clients and suppliers."
For more information, head to www.london2012.com/business/travel.
7 Keep your guests informed
Make sure your guests get the most out of what could be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. As well as ensuring that they are kept informed of the Olympic events taking place near your venue (the best way to do this is by liaising with LOCOG), keep them up to date on the other attractions London has to offer.
For example, the Society of London Theatre (SOLT), together with TfL, has produced a games-time travel guide for London's theatre-goers, and later running tubes during the Olympics will make it easier than ever for people to enjoy a night out at the theatre.
8 Parking could be a problem
Parking restrictions are to be put in place on all roads near Olympic venues during the games, including roads that aren't subject to parking controls to prevent spectators from driving to events, so remember to advise guests of the local possibilities or alternatives when they book into your venue.
In Weymouth, which is hosting the Olympic sailing events, for example, parking in the town centre is extremely limited and visitors to the area are advised to look at alternative options. But if travelling by car is the only option, visitors are strongly advised to use the park-and-ride services available and pre-book spaces in advance.
9 Be careful with your advertising
Special regulations have been introduced to bring in temporary restrictions to advertising and trading in open public places within a few hundred metres of competition venues during the Olympics with "event zones" established around every venue and route being used during the games to define areas where the restrictions will apply.
Although most standard advertising, such as shop signs and in-store advertising has not been affected, anyone wishing to carry out other advertising in event zones needed authorisation from LOCOG to ensure that it was in line with sponsorship arrangements. Note that the application process to trade and advertise within the event zones for London 2012 has now closed.
For more information on advertising limitations, log on to www.london2012.com/business/advertising-and-trading-regulations.
10 Don't forget your regulars
Last but not least, remember to look after your regulars and reward customer loyalty. At Nothe Tavern in Weymouth, owner James Parsons is planning to offer benefits to his regular punters after the Olympics. "We'll be communicating with people and reassuring them we're still going to be here; there will definitely be some benefits for them after the Olympics," he says.
Make sure Each team member has an action plan
For the Hoxton hotel in Shoreditch, Olympic preparations began in October 2011, when the team attended a session run by the London 2012 Travel advice for businesses programme.
Each head of department then created an action plan for their respective areas," says operations manager Timothy Griffin. "Examples include amended shift patterns to avoid travel peaks, stocking up on dry goods prior to the games to reduce frequency of deliveries, the up-skilling of non-operational staff to help with a higher volume of guests, and a programme to encourage local staff to get to work on Boris Bikes."
According to Griffin, the team at the Hoxton are a high-energy group who are used to a busy hotel, but communication between management and staff has nonetheless been essential in the run-up to the Olympics. "Our key strategy has been to communicate frequently with our team to keep them abreast of planning activities, who is staying at the hotel, and what other activities are happening in Shoreditch during the Olympics," Griffin says.
Be flexible with service times
The Bloomsbury hotel near Covent Garden will have a large number of media staying during the games, and in order to accommodate their needs, food and beverage services have been amended.
"We are extending our breakfast serving times by an hour each side and offering take-away breakfasts for those that require it," says general manager Michael Neve. "The bar and dinner services times have also been extended and will be open until 1am. In order to maintain our high standards of customer service, we have increased the number of staff and kitchen cover during those times."
Moreover, the hotel is working closely with staff to ensure they arrive on time for their shifts. "This includes staggering the start time of the housekeeping staff and encouraging members of the sales, HR and finance teams to be flexible in the number of hours they need to be office based," Neve adds. "We've also provided advice on travelling during this busy time, including encouraging staff to seek alternative modes of transport and walking where possible."