Today, as I made my way back to Los Angeles from the Catersource convention in Las Vegas, I had 5 hours to reflect on my experiences from the past 4 days. Overall, it was a week of incredible education, jaw-dropping events, and inspiring trends. When you bring together over 10,000professionals in the hospitality industry, it’s bound to be nothing short of amazing!
Even with all the incredible activities taking place, the COVID conversation was always waiting in the wings to distract our focus. Whether it was an organized panel of crisis management professionals giving advice, hushed discussions in small huddled groups, or just the shift in energy from Monday to Thursday, CoVid-19 was the headliner at this year’s show.
I want to share some of the points that I took away from these discussions regarding the uncertainty we face in our industry.
- Set the Tone
o As a leader, your team is looking to you to decide how to react in this uncertain situation. Now is the time to remain calm, factual, and focused. Remember the example, when the plane is hitting rough air…we look to the flight attendants to see how they are reacting….be mindful of your reactions and your words.
2. Communication is key: Internal and External Communication
o It’s imperative to provide your internal team with frequent communication. Executive leadership should establish a plan for ensuring the health and safety of the employees. This plan needs to be communicated promptly to your associates. When faced with so much uncertainty, providing a well-defined plan-of-action, that is communicated promptly and with transparency, will provide a much-needed sense of stability.
o External communication is also critical at this juncture. Your clients, and potential clients, need to know that you are being proactive, by taking every precaution possible to protect their safety. This communication is vitally important to keep the bonds of the business relationship strong.
3. Get Creative:
o Remembering that you are in a relationship with each of your customers, your partnership means more now than ever. Each one of us is facing cancellations, revenue losses, and financial insecurity. Knowing that your client is in the same boat as you, collaborate as a team to establish creative terms that can help you both get through this challenging time. Be accommodating in order to preserve the relationship for when the dust settles. Some creative terms could include:
o Deposit (minus hard costs) can be transferred to another date within xxx amount of time
o Deposit non-refundable, but remaining balance applied to a future date
o Full deposit refund with a signed contract for two additional programs/events within 18months.
o Deposit refunded; the future program has higher guest room rates (that cover the difference of the deposit)
4. Be Prepared….Not Panicked!!
o The people I have had the privilege of working within the Hospitality/Sales/Catering industry are the most resilient people I have EVER met! We repeatedly face challenges we never imagined, yet always manage to find solutions and thrive. We take risks when we book 100 rooms for the high school marching band about to perform in the Rose Bowl. We couldn’t possibly know that they would set off firecrackers in the hallway and practice their drumline until 1 in the morning. We take risks when we cater a Bar Mitzvah…and the kids end up using the centerpiece candles to light the table settings on fire. We take risks when the celebrity guest at a wedding, causes the bride to have a total emotional breakdown because she isn’t the center of attention! We face these risks every single day and we find solutions. We manage the crisis. We solve the problem. We push forward and thrive because that is who we are at our core. We are hospitality professionals with a heart to serve, and we will #StayStrong no matter what!
This is my message of hope to each director that reads this today. Remind yourself and your team to #StayStrong and remember, this is only temporary, and we WILL get through it together.
At Your Service,
Kate Foster, CWC, CMP