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What the hospitality industry can learn from Winnie The Pooh

Is it really all doom and gloom on the high street and in the hospitality industry?

In the UK, we are masters at looking at and focusing on the bad news stories. I’ve heard so many times that “bad news sells”. And yes, it is true that a lot of companies and people are having a hard time with increasing costs, stretched budgets, the uncertainty of the economy and what’s coming next. But not everyone.

One of my favourite philosophers is the very wise and humble, Winnie The Pooh, and this quote of his really resonates with me:

You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.”

What has that got to do with the hospitality sector you might ask? Well, Pooh’s advice reminds us that we can’t just sit back and wait: wait for costs to go down, wait for more staff to appear, wait for things to ‘return to normal’. The onus really is on all of us to create the new opportunities and shape the future direction of the sector, even if we have to make tough decisions and it does take us a bit out of our comfort zone.

And that’s just what many in the hospitality industry are now doing, and as a result some of our clients are doing very well at the moment. They are reporting like-for-like sales up on last year, footfall remains strong, customers are still spending and measures they have put in place to mitigate increased costs and drive sales are paying off.

Understanding your market is key

Companies are rethinking their business models and are adapting to face the challenges of rising costs and staff shortages. So, who is doing well and who is expanding? High street coffee shops, café bakeries, garden centres, farm shops, concessions in large retail stores and supermarkets, travel hubs (airports & railway stations), and smaller stores with a grab & go offer, minimal seating, minimal staffing, and self-ordering screens all seem to be bucking the ‘bad news’ trend.

They all know their market, who their customer is, what their customers want and where to open/expand – we see them opening all around us, often with very ‘soft’ openings.

So how are hospitality businesses breaking out of their corner of the forest? Clients are telling us that they are:

  • continuing to invest training;

  • cross training their teams to work front and back of house;

  • challenging their suppliers and investing in new product development and slicker production methods & procedures;

  • looking very closely at what is and what isn’t selling, and tweaking as necessary;

  • introducing smarter labour models (posting available shifts on an online shift management systems where staff can login to see extra shifts they might want around their other responsibilities)

  • constantly working to improve consistency of product and service and to gain customer feedback.

  • Appreciating that recruitment is a two way process and that both parties have to sell themselves – people buy people!

There is also a very definite pattern of some companies benefitting from people still working full/part-time from home – popping out to grab a coffee etc, targeting specific demographics with offers and incentives to return. Seeing people working at laptops in coffee shops is now commonplace.

A little thought makes all the difference

When it comes to recruitment (the topic we talk about most of all with our clients), everyone wants to know if it is getting any easier to hire and how hard will it be to fill my GM position? Honestly, the market is still tough, especially for those looking to recruit chefs. Employers want to know: what do I have to do to attract someone?

In a nutshell; “money”. It is all about the basic salary, followed by mileage (how much is it going to cost me to get to work and back?). The constant media earworm about the cost-of-living crisis, increasing mortgage rates, water bills going up and increasing food inflation makes people think twice about moving jobs, whether or not they are personally struggling, and no-one will move for less than they are currently earning.

The reality for some businesses though, is that often there just isn’t any more money in the pot to increase salaries. Some companies are getting more creative with their benefits packages - while they are great for helping with staff retention (something which is equally important these days) they are not so high up on the priority list for those looking to move jobs. It really is all about the money for job seekers.

But one piece of advice we would have for ALL employers: when it comes to your staff, sometimes it’s the little things that really do matter most to people. It may seem obvious but saying ‘thank you’ to your people and teams and genuinely appreciating their efforts, really can go a long, long way.

To quote one of Winnie The Pooh’s best friends, Eeyore:

"A little consideration, a little thought for others, makes all the difference."
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