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How to support hospitality clients post-pandemic

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As pubs and restaurants (finally) start to open their doors, accounting experts in the hospitality sector share advice on how to help these clients thrive.

21st Apr 2021
Community Assistant AccountingWEB
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As we approach a long-awaited summer, venues are at last beginning to open up their doors for business.

The coronavirus pandemic hit the hospitality industry particularly hard, with no remote or home-working options viable for these employees.

Since lockdown measures were eased last week, venues with outdoor spaces have been thriving - as anyone who unsuccessfully tried to book in a last-minute pint will tell you.

However, and especially as this has been the end of the third national lockdown, the future is uncertain for the hospitality industry. As we slowly ease back into our social lives, how can accountants support hospitality clients during this tricky time?

Look at the glass half full

“In reality, the industry is being supported to a higher level than any other - it’s what you do with that support which is key,” said owner and CEO of Avery Martin, Glenn Martin.

A quarter of Martin’s clients are in the hospitality sector. By using different options such as outdoor space and deliveries, the majority of Martin’s clients have actually thrived during the past year.

Focusing on what you can do rather than what you can’t, will help your clients’ businesses stay ahead of the competition, he suggested: “It’s a lot about maximising your outdoor space, which needn’t necessarily cost a lot of money. We didn’t want to do a half-baked scheme to just get us through the next couple of weeks.”

While many hospitality businesses had no option but to turn to furlough, Martin advised being as proactive as you can now that social distancing measures are being relaxed.

“There’s this huge pent up demand from people which can be tapped into now. A lot of people might really like these new outdoor areas, and won’t want to go back into sitting inside a pub in June,” said Martin.

He advised investing in equipment and furniture for these spaces to maximise their appeal: buy outdoor seating or even heaters for the coming winter months to ensure longevity in your investments.

Martin recommended three main steps to support each client in utilising their options.

Glennzy’s three-part hospitality support strategy

  1. Find out what the client wants: What does the business owner want out of the next year?
  2. Create a 12-month plan: Once that’s established, you can then create a forecast of how to get there.
  3. Quarterly accountability meeting: On the back of the 12-month plan, you then make time to sit down and monitor their progress - look at what is or isn’t working, and adjust accordingly.

Communicate with your clients

As with Martin’s approach, the most successful strategies start with communication. Steele Financial managing director Ben Steele advises making consistent communication with clients your top priority. Start seeing your client base as individuals, rather than as a whole.

“It’s about talking to every individual owner and seeing what’s going on,” he said. “What are they offering? Are they opening up? Do they do takeaways? Get down to the detail of how they’re offering deliveries - what sources are they using? Start to understand how each of them works and the level of commission that’s deducted.”

Knowing the business inside and out lets you give proper advice on which avenues to pursue: which companies will most financially benefit your clients, or when to start exploring other options in their business.

Even with clients who might not have wanted to pursue the delivery route, for example, checking in with them consistently allows these avenues to potentially be explored. See if they’ve changed their mind, or thought about it any more, and ask if there’s anything you can do to help with their decision.

“Firstly, make sure they know we’re still here and constantly communicating. Secondly, offer services they don’t necessarily know they need, or understand that they need, or why they need it, and explain that you’re here to help. It’s about not forcing it upon them - they’re going through a tough time as it is.

“In something like a pandemic, which nobody’s gone through and involves sadness and death and being apart from loved ones, you do need that close personal relationship. I don’t think a cold, distant accountant relationship was going to work in a situation like this.”

Use your technology

The challenges of furlough, lost teams and financial struggles remain; some businesses have had to completely empty their bank accounts during the pandemic.

“To get back up and running isn’t always as easy as just opening doors. They’ve got to restock, they’ve got to make sure they’ve got the staff on hand, and to do that costs money,” said Steele.

To stay on top of cash, Steele’s second top tip is to give your clients live data throughout the entire process.

“The biggest thing we like about being 100% cloud-based is that it’s live data - it’s giving restaurant and bar and hotel owners their financials on a weekly or monthly basis to see how they've performed. Are profits being made? How far away are they? What margins are they currently making?”

Being able to give live information, assistance and vision on what the business is doing will support growth as hospitality clients return to a normal way of operating.

“Covid itself is a live situation, it’s changing constantly. Things are opening up, things are closing down and restrictions are changing. Business owners are having to adapt to those changes each and every time.”

Hopes for hospitality

Steele remains optimistic about the coming months: “I’ve got a personal feeling that it is going to be a fantastic year for the industry. I think people are going to be getting out there and socialising as much as they can, and the best way to do that is around a table over food and drink.”

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