Hospitality on a mission

Why purpose-led business is the key to success

Hospitality on a mission

In many ways, running a business is like being on the front line of combat. Whilst the stakes may not be as high, many of the components are the same ‘ you need clear-headed leadership, a committed team and the courage to face up to adversity. You also need a robust strategy, tactics based on experience and the capacity to cope with the unexpected.

Above all, those facing adversity need to know what they are fighting for. Teams with a mission are much more likely to be able to channel their efforts and adapt their training to the tasks ahead, however threatening. Mission and purpose engage and motivate.

Covid-19 is the biggest challenge we have faced in generations. It is a battle for survival ‘ and for the survival of our livelihoods.

The global economy remains in turmoil, and the hospitality industry, in particular, has been decimated. Recent data fromOxford Economics reveals that hospitality will experience a 50 per cent. decline in revenues in 2020 compared to previous estimates. Meanwhile, 70 per cent. of hospitality colleagues are currently laid off or furloughed.

Despite businesses worldwide reopening their doors, customers are not, at present, flooding back. In the UK, for example, hospitality businesses were given the green light to open on July 4th yet according to HospitalityUK’s reopening survey, the majority of restaurants and accommodation businesses were still unable to reopen and sales and customer numbers that weekend were at onlyabout half pre-virus levels. Fear, mistrust and risk aversion partly explain these trends.

Covid-19 presents real jeopardy and real challenges, but with that comes the unity of shared experience. This in turn has the potential to build empathy, which itself presents an opportunity to refocus on intuitive, personal service. Though customers may not return to hotels, restaurants or bars overnight, businesses must focus on re-defining their mission and building both customer and colleague trust for the long term.

A purpose-driven business that fosters trust is not a one-size-fits-all model ‘ every business will need to carve out its own mission and understand how it can combine purpose with profit. 

Planning goes a long way. The process of setting out your mission and strategy enables your colleagues to take ownership of your purpose, which in turn makes them better prepared for risk, uncertainty and setbacks. This will also be crucial for investors who will be looking to see if your business is prepared and if your people are aligned with you.

The service culture of an enterprise must also fairly reward a colleague’s dedication to serving others. We are all familiar with the phrase ‘the customer is always right’. However, whilst the focus in hospitality is on catering to the needs of guests and customers, this cannot be to the detriment of the team that is on the front line. Looking after colleagues is crucial ‘ and if they are proud to serve, and they are fairly rewarded for their contribution ‘ guests and customers will notice.

At any time, good leadership means effective, clear communication and cultivating a collaborative culture. Colleagues must be empowered to make decisions and not be afraid or unsure of their role. There is an opportunity to use the restrictions implemented as a result of the global pandemic to highlight the value of the role played by each and every colleague working in hospitality businesses and to offer clear guidance to reshape the ways that teams work together.

In addition to building a company-wide culture, it is important to establish a connection with the wider community. For example, there has been huge support for hotels who opened their doors to key workers during this period or donated surplus food to local food banks. This should not end with Covid-19 ‘ goodwill has economic value at any time in any business.

The global hospitality industry also has a responsibility to work on improving its environmental impact. Prior to Covid-19, research showed that foodwaste is an estimated $100bn problem within the hospitality sector alone. Lessons can be drawn from the pandemic. Across industries we have seen the equivalent of decades of transformation take place in just months ‘ proving that businesses can adapt quickly when necessary. This period has the potential to generate systemic change and people will place their trust in those brands that lead the way.

Having a sense of mission also drives collaboration across different teams. The hospitality industry needs to unite to get back on its feet. No one part of the ecosystem can solve the response to what is a global pandemic, but whether it is honouring and respecting essential workers, or committing to deal with sustainability and climate change, these efforts multiply their value when combined with others.

The hospitality industry has experienced the greatest halt in operations in living memory. It would be a significantly wasted opportunity not to pause, assess, rethink and to evolve to a higher purpose. Customers will respond to thoughtful and generous hospitality which emerges from this crisis and the brands whose colleagues and customers are clear about their mission, will be the ones to win this fight.

Robert Swade
Robert Swade

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