The Caterer

Robin Hutson marvels at the difference a day can make

31 March 2020 by

With the situation regarding coronavirus changing by the day, Robin Hutson stresses the importance of keeping in touch with your guests and staff

I thought that I had seen most challenges in my 45-year career, but these past few weeks... Wow!

I'm not sure where to start with this column – so much has happened I could be writing a book.

Each day, every hospitality operator in the UK, large and small, has tried to digest and respond to the latest government information, as well as manage the daily changing rhythm of business. Staff have understandably been nervous and guests unsure what they should or shouldn't be doing.

Just when we get our heads around the latest directives and make our decisions, a different scenario emerges and we need to change tack once again. All of this while keeping one eye firmly on the dwindling cashflow.

I am writing this piece having just listened to Rishi Sunak's announcement pledging to support the workforce to the tune of 80% of salary. Now that really is a ballsy intervention.

Obviously, we are encouraged, relieved and grateful that the government appears to have listened. I have been feeling the responsibility for our 800-odd staff this week, so taken at face value this is a great relief and looks like exactly the kind of package required. It gives us the confidence to conform with the directives, while at the same time protecting the health and income of our staff. Well done Rishi and Boris, I say.

The human response in these difficult times has been really fascinating: lots of digital interaction, old friends and colleagues actually picking up the phone to speak, and lots of helpful suggestions.

We have received so many wonderfully supportive messages over the past week from staff, guests and hospitality mates – some sharing experiences, one or two asking for advice, but the vast majority thanking us for our handling of the situation.

Our policy has always been to be on the front foot and as open and honest as possible in both staff and guest communications

The value of good, timely and clear comms has taken on a new level of importance. Our policy has always been to be on the front foot and as open and honest as possible in both staff and guest communications.

We haven't always had all the answers, but I think it has been appreciated that, in some cases, we have just said precisely that.

Regular updates seem to be what's required
Regular updates seem to be what's required

Regular updates seem to be what's required and we will definitely need to be focusing on these in the weeks and months ahead. Keeping our teams together, speaking with our suppliers and staying in touch with our loyal guests will be key to getting off to a flying start as soon as the restrictions are lifted and it's safe to do so.

One final thought: as horrendous as this situation is, and I am not in any way underestimating the human sacrifices we will all need to make in the coming months, but I am personally looking forward to having perhaps a little more time to contemplate how we operate and how we can all do things even better in the post-coronavirus era.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

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