Stephen Montgomery’s Roundup of the last four weeks

Circle black
Another month down the line, and mixed views from me. Everyone who felt they could open did so on 26th April, not many viable, but more for getting the doors open, regaining customer confidence, getting our great teams back into a working environment, into a routine before the 17th of May for level 2 starting and the service of alcohol indoors.
Many didn’t opt to open on the 26th April. They looked to the 17th May as their target and started to bring staff in for training, to start to clean down everything,  menu plan, rota plan, talk to suppliers……the list goes on.
The smell of cleanliness, the sound of music as staff scrubbed and cleaned, customers feeling the buzz as social media was awash with advertising of opening dates of 17th May, suppliers delivering beer, and fresh produce, chefs starting to prep food…….and then BOOOOOOOM, at 4.50pm on Friday 14th May, our First Minister administered the hammer blow to our colleagues in Glasgow. The silence was deafening, before the screams of anger and discontent. That shock that was felt was simply unmeasurable for businesses within the sector.
Financially crippling, and mentally indescribable. I just feel that after 14 months of this, some people still don’t get it. Moray at least had a bit of a heads up, and although I felt their pain, it was nothing compared to the pain I was feeling for our colleagues in Glasgow City.
The final grant payment that was for “restart”…….remember it? Well, that was just flushed down the drains in a 5-minute speech. For many this was the last throw of the dice, they saw a bit of light at the end of the tunnel, and for many, it felt that this was finally for them a road to the end of worry, but instead, they were left in a dark room full of perishable stock, upset staff and customers, and an empty bank account…….but wait…….in charges the white horse with £750 a week. A drop in the ocean given the fact many had not been open since 9th October “short, sharp, shock”
On other news, some have seen a relatively steady return of customers, but with physical distancing and everything that comes with it, it is still not a profitable trading time they are lucky to break even. I think there is now an absolute need to sit down and have a grown-up conversation on where we go from here.
The yoyo of going from level 3 down to 2 and vice versa is just not a viable option for the sector anymore, and “if” this is something we are going to see more of, then now is the time to rethink the trading restrictions for hospitality in relation to the current route map. Do we actually need 4 levels? I really don’t think we do. Would it not be better to have a simple system of 2 levels?
At the moment we are looking towards a level zero, but no dates as to when the restrictions within level zero will end. Would it not be better to have a level 1 with normal licensing and a level 2 with some form of restrictions but allowing the sale of alcohol indoors?
It is the view of SHG that we now need to focus on the hospitalisation rate rather than test positivity. Yes, some will argue that positive tests may mean hospitalisation and possible fatalities, but if the vaccine is our way out of this, and the old mantra of “protect the NHS” is still the case, then surely this is a viable proposition? After all, Chris Witty says that we need to start thinking about living with Covid, and I don’t doubt his ability or judgements in any way.
The final point for me this month is on recruitment. The shortage of staff is without doubt one of the issues we now face as we emerge from this. We start to leave one pandemic, and straight into another one of debt, mental health and staff shortages. During the last year of lockdowns, many of our fantastic teams have made personal changes to their work-life balance, and many have changed their career path into other sectors. There is now a need to rethink about our sector, how do we encourage people either back into it, or how do we encourage people into it as a professional career.
We all know this is an amazing profession, full of many different skill sets, and many diverse and entrepreneurial people. Promoting the industry in a positive way is key. Changing people opinions on the sector being low paid, long hours, weekend work etc is essential. We need to talk about the skills, the great destinations that a career in hospitality could take you, getting the work-life balance right for our teams and taking a leaf out of the British Army campaign of “Be the Best” is what we need to be doing. We need Scottish Government to support this, not only in a financial aspect but in putting out positive statements and campaigns, which of course the Scottish Hospitality Group will help and work alongside them with.
I wish everyone a pleasant bank holiday weekend, and I look forward to 3rd June, when SHG will meet for the very first time from behind the screens of our computers on zoom or teams’ meetings, where we will be discussing the exciting future which SHG have ahead, and of course sample some fantastic food and an odd glass of wine
Stephen Montgomery
Scottish Hospitality Group
Category: Editors' Picks
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