The Caterer

View the recession as a learning opportunity, says Lowry GM

07 September 2009
View the recession as a learning opportunity, says Lowry GM

Jason Harding, general manager of the Lowry in Salford, Manchester, and a Master Innholder, is remaining positive about the future. Here, he discusses how the economic climate should be viewed as a learning and challenging experience.

"I am sure, or rather hope, we'll look back on these times - given the economic climate - as one of the biggest learning and challenging experiences of our careers. We're getting to read and listen to many views on the future, but one thing's for certain: regrowth and confidence in all markets will be very slow and may never return to recent dizzy heights.

Despite all the doom and gloom, I'm remaining positive about the future. With occupancies down and rates under more pressure than ever, at the Lowry we are experiencing increases in certain markets. Not many, I'll give you that; but some, like our UK leisure business, mainly due to the weak pound, staycations and guests from the Middle East.

Despite these external challenges, we should be creating internal challenges, such as "how to add value without cost", creating "blue ocean" initiatives and ideas that separate us from the competition. Perhaps by creating more internal challenges we will generate ideas and develop markets we didn't realise were there.

Here's one. To counter the drop-off in corporate lunch business, we recently brought the team together and created a "Pay What You Think It's Worth" promotion, where we let customers decide to pay what they felt their lunch was worth. We promoted the offer through our own database at no cost. The team in the restaurant were able to upsell a good number of diners to our à la carte menu, which in turn gave us a higher menu spend. We also received a large number of positive comments from guests, saying how pleased they were to see we had confidence in our product.

What do we learn from this? Well, we think that no matter what industry experts try to tell us, or what survey results say, our customers decide the success or failure of our businesses, and maybe we should let them decide more."

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