With the current global COVID-19 crisis sweeping the world, many people in the hospitality industry may be wondering how they can cope. This 5 point guide will give you all the information you need to get through it!
It’s the beginning of 2020 and the world has been gripped by a pandemic caused by the novel CoronaVirus (a.k.a COVID - 19), at the time of writing (March 16th 2020) there have been a total of 176,000 cases reported worldwide, a number that seems to be growing without stop. One of the industries that has been the hardest hit is hospitality: with governments (justifiably) shutting their borders and people becoming increasingly worried about leaving their homes, it’s becoming difficult to be a hospitalian (a hospitalian is someone working in the hospitality industry) in this day and age. Which is why I have set these tips to help you get through the COVID-19 crisis and any future pandemic that (hopefully never) comes.
LEARN, LEARN, LEARN!
When dealing with a new threat, knowledge is always power, in fact Sun Tzu once said “If ignorant both of your enemy and yourself, you are certain to be in peril”. This lesson is equally as important when applied to CoronaVirus as it was applied to ancient Chinese armies. You can’t possibly prepare against something you don’t know about!
So the first item on your to-do list for the coming weeks should be to learn as much as you can about this virus while it is still (hopefully) not at your door. For starters, here is a brief explanation of the Novel Coronavirus from John Hopkins, one of the top research facilities in the USA:
Now this is a good start, but there are numerous resources available at your disposal, and as our understanding of the virus gets deeper in the coming weeks, it’s important to arm yourself with as much up to date information as possible. The following resources will give you the most accurate overview of the current situation and how it is developing:
While the above tools are useful resources, they should not discourage you from doing your own research! There are a number of useful sources of info across the web that you can find to support your work. It is also important to prioritize your information, most of us don’t have a degree in microbiology, so learning the molecular structure of the disease may not be the most valuable use of your time. My recommendation on what you should be prioritising first would be:
- What is COVID - 19?
- How is COVID - 19 spread?
- How can I protect myself and others from COVID - 19?
- What is my government doing to stop COVID 19?
Once you’ve learned this, you are free to learn, learn, learn all of the other information to your heart's content! But be careful and always take what you read with a pinch of salt, remember: fear sells headlines and there is a lot of it to go around in 2020, so try not buy into the panic. If you feel yourself getting particularly afraid of what you are reading - take a break and limit the media you are reading/watching.
TAKE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE HEALTH OF YOUR GUESTS
Now that you are armed with an arsenal of useful knowledge, it’s time to take it into the workplace. As hospitalians, we need to be constantly aware of how our actions will affect not only ourselves and our team, but also our guests. Below you can find some helpful tips on how to fight the Coronavirus, that can be applied both to locations that are trying to prevent the virus and those that are trying to contain it:
Ensure that all employees adhere to strict handwashing and hygiene guidelines (this one is a no-brainer, but it’s always worth mentioning!)
As previously mentioned, it pays to be as knowledgeable as possible on the subject, in order to give up to date and accurate information on the subject should a guest inquire.
Educate and encourage guests to maintain the same hygiene standards expected of you and your colleagues, this can be done by putting up educational posters and creating and accessible handwashing stations throughout the property
In dining and lounge rooms, make sure that all seating areas are arranged to allow for guests to remain at least 1 meter apart.
Sanitize all surfaces multiple times throughout the day, and ensure that all employees (especially those in the kitchen) are aware of the difference between ‘cleaning” and sanitizing, this guide is especially useful
Encourage all non-operational employees to work from home where possible, and make sure you or your colleagues inform management if you’re feeling any of the listed symptoms of COVID - 19
Ensure that your place of work is fully stocked with the necessary PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) such as gloves and masks, to be used in the event of an outbreak at work or when your local government advises it.
Make sure the emergency contact and medical information of yourself and your colleagues is fully up to date.
Follow any and all advice given to you by your local authorities, this includes staying home if necessary!
While these are all precautions that every hospitalian should take, there are many more that can be taken depending on your position and workplace, take a look at these recommendations to see if they can apply to you: here and here.
TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOURSELF
As hospitalians, it is very easy for us to get so caught up with the well being of our guests, that we forget about ourselves. Now more than ever is the time to shake that habit. We have a responsibility to ourselves, our colleagues and ultimately our guests to maintain our health in this time of crisis.
Taking responsibility for your own health means taking steps both in your personal and professional life, for example: Wash your hands! This may sound like a broken record at this point but this advice is as relevant now as it was when your mother first taught this to you!
In addition, follow the advice given by your local government: avoid public transportation where possible, distance yourself from social gatherings and when feeling any symptoms of illness, both related to COVID - 19 and otherwise (now is not a time you want to end up in a hospital bed, for any reason).
If you are part of the population that is particularly at risk to Corona (e.g. you are around 40 +, have a weakened immune system or have respiratory problems) then consider asking your manager to allow you to either work from home, work in shifts that put you in contact with less people or allow you to wear protective clothing at work.
Lastly, if you work in a country in which the CoronaVirus has caused a nationwide quarantine, follow this quarantine and stay home! It may not be interesting, nor will it help you in advancing your career, but once the virus has gotten to this stage, the only way we can fight it is at home.
USE YOUR EXTRA TIME WISELY
So, let’s face it, in the next few months the hospitality industry is going to face a bit of a dip, as borders close, quarantines come into effect and guests become afraid to travel or visit your restaurant - you will see a drop in your business (if you haven’t already). It may be tempting to lose all hope and just sit out this crisis until normal business can resume, but don’t fall into this trap! This crisis is what you make of it, and the extra time you now have could be a way to explore new avenues that your business can take. Here are some examples for you:
Utilize this time to conduct new team trainings or refresh old training that may have been neglected in the peak seasons
Try out some new recipes that may have been neglected in the past
Create media content for your company, you now have the opportunity to be creative and make sure your guests/customers don’t forget about your business in this temporary lull
Plan events for when this crisis has passed, once cases have decreased and it is safe for gatherings to take place, people will want to celebrate and meet their friends, so it is good to get planning now! (Note: be careful not to set a date for any such event, as health officials have been unable to give any estimate as to when we’ll see an end to this)
For restaurants: explore the possibility of using delivery services such as Deliveroo, Uber Eats or Glovo. While people may be afraid of visiting your premises, they will most likely appreciate the opportunity to order. This would also open your business up to this increased opportunity post-pandemic.
These are only some of the suggestions for you, there are many more to explore! There is no doubt that the current situation is a catastrophe for the hospitality industry (not to mention the rest of the world) but as the old proverb goes: crisis can breed opportunity, and now is your chance to be creative with this mantra!
KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON
So I have explained a little bit about how we can prepare for the crisis and prepare your business/place of work for the coming economic and social impacts. However our duty as hospitalians should be to set an example for our guests and colleagues. It may be tempting to follow the fear that is befalling the rest of the world, but it is our duty to put on a smiling face and reassure our guests and customers.
This does not mean that you should abandon all caution and live fearlessly (in fact, most of this article has been very much to the contrary of this message!) but we should all aim to keep calm, listen to all advice given by our local/ international health authorities and continue to do our job in a professional and helpful manner for the sake of ourselves, our colleagues, and the guests.
At the end of the day, we will get through this crisis like every other and on the other side of this dark period, the hospitality industry will need talented individuals to help rebuild it. If you think you could be one of them, sign up here and we can start the process of jump-starting your hospitality career post-pandemic!