What makes a pub stand out in a pandemic?

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What makes a pub stand out in a pandemic?

What makes a pub stand out in a pandemic?

This year has been exceptionally difficult for pubs, and yet some have thrived and have forecasted to come back stronger than ever. So, we wanted to find out, what makes a winner in this strangest of years, and what are some of the new behaviours that successful pub companies should continue once the pandemic is over?

Sally Whelan, HGEM's founder, and a judge at the upcoming Publican Awards, is sharing her experience on judging pubs during the pandemic, and her key takeaways.


How does the judging process differ this year?

Entries were submitted and once the finalists were shortlisted, the lead Judge carried out a virtual visit with each finalist and completed a report on their findings. Before the judging day I was able to view entries & read the supporting documentation and links to ensure a good understanding /sense of the business.

The final stage of the judging involved in-depth interviews by a panel of industry experts, the difference this year - instead of this taking place face to face it took place over zoom. During each interview we had the opportunity to probe finalists even further about their business performance, retail offer and future developments. And it gave us a real feel for the personalities behind the business.


What makes for an exceptional pub company during the pandemic?

What came through for me from those that I interviewed was how with determination, flexibility and sheer hard work they had managed to navigate through the uncertainty the pandemic has created whilst still caring for the well-being of their teams and guests. Some of the stories shared were very inspiring.

The pandemic has like never before given operators the green light to try new things; innovation for survival has led many to discover new opportunities for sales. Those that have been clear and honest in communication with teams and customers seem to be in a more positive position.


What are the things that haven't changed? What are the reliable constants?

I’m trying to think what hasn’t been affected and conclude that everything has been affected in some way. All businesses will have had to scrutinise every element to survive. And the pandemic has resulted in many businesses having to significantly restructure their cost base, with many taking the opportunity to invest for the future. Food & drink will always be needed, the way we think about it may have changed but consumers will always seek experiences and enjoyment from food, drinks and service. Hospitality will remain a guest-centric industry.


Are there any new behaviours / processes in hospitality that you think should continue after the pandemic is over?

Many businesses will now have multiple channels through which to sell product and reach more consumers more often. And the discerning consumer will demand their experience with the product & service to be great despite the channel.

In the past most businesses were happy to provide good guest service, but this won’t be enough in what’s going to be a highly competitive market. So going the extra mile to deliver a clearly distinguishable guest experience is what will guarantee sales growth. Businesses need to put guests at the heart of the offering, move at pace and listen closely to their needs and expectations – which will have changed.

Tech is here, adopted much faster than we could have anticipated pre-covid; it will continue to shape the way every business operates. Technology allows for a faster, safer and more efficient service; it should give guests answers, seamless transactions, convenience and consistency. But it can not replace the personalised interactions; greeting guest by name, anticipating their needs and following up on feedback promptly with a call or email, these sorts of interactions are ultimately what is going to result in happy guests.

Covid has forced people to re-evaluate and understand what is important to them, we have seen many individuals from the industry show such resilience and great kindness, integrity and empathy towards teams and communities throughout the pandemic and it is demonstrating those personality traits that will distinguish the great from the good and the future success of hospitality businesses.

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