Ken Burgin

My interview on hospitality and the Coronavirus crisis – Sky News Australia, March 21, 2020

I had a short interview on Sky News today about the state of the hospitality industry. I was given four questions to consider, and prepared some bullet point reminders. In the event, only the first three were asked… and I was relaxed!

1. You’ve been in the hospitality industry for more than 20 years. What we’re seeing right now is unprecedented – what should restaurant & cafes owners be doing?

  • Communicate like never before with your customers
  • Offer & sell food and drinks in new ways – delivery, take home packs, takeaway
  • Write to your local MP about the number of jobs that will be lost without direct financial support. There is a lot of cynicism about whether government support will actually help – tax concessions aren’t any good if you’re not making a profit.
  • Talk to your landlord, preferably with your lawyer’s help – urgent negotiation is needed.
  • Overcommunicate how you are operating responsibility – remove tables to stick to the 4 sq m. rule, and cleaning very visibly.

2. Business owners are going to have to have some really tough conversations with their staff – what’s the best way to go about it?

  • Be as fair and transparent as you can – there is so much pain for operators around this
  • Be open with your staff about the real cost of running a business, and what you can afford.
  • Help them apply for benefits.
  • Move quickly – and get support from colleagues or professionals

3. How can Australians support the hospitality industry right now, while we’re social distancing?

  • Keep ordering and keep buying!
  • Share words and acts of kindness with local businesses – message them, share positive reviews online, post on their Facebook and Instagram
  • Lobby for government support for business owners, workers and all the people who will lose jobs

4. What’s your advice to restaurant and café owners in communicating with their customers right now?

  • Do much more of it, use new channels and change the tone – warm and honest, trying to find positive angles if you can
  • Use more channels and put your face and your team into the story – delivering food, cleaning, cooking, making coffee, sharing with customers
  • Daily Facebook posts and try Facebook Live for a TV view of what’s happening – you’ll get better at it! Pump up the instagram, and if you’ve never done email, now’s the time – you’ll be surprised at how many customer contact details you can find. Even TikTok if that’s your demographic – you have staff who can help with all of these, just make sure to give them guidance on the message and the tone
  • Rediscover the neighbourhood – most operators don’t live where they work, and don’t have time to connect with neighbourhood activities – now’s the time. AND don’t stop once this is over!