Ep 01: Hard Decisions We Have To Make To Survive COVID-19

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Hard Decisions COVID-19 F&B Businesses

It is an especially stressful season for Singapore’s F&B business owners, hit by wave after wave of new measures and restrictions. Juggling issues from rent, delivery, staffing decisions to even team motivation, all while trying to stay afloat, key questions include:  

  • How can my business cut costs while increasing revenue and sales to maintain a decent margin? 
  • What practical measures can we implement to tide through this season well? 

In StaffAny’s first Wok the Talk series, we had the privilege of hosting Janice Chew, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Royal T Group Pte. Ltd as well as Jesher Loi, Director of Branding and Market Development of Ya Kun International, to understand their perspectives on these pressing issues.

Brick-and-mortar Decisions

Operations Decisions COVID-19 F&B Businesses

Social distancing, later proceeded by the Circuit Breaker, one of the strictest COVID-19 measures yet, has seen many businesses close temporarily or even permanently. With declining revenues, a tough call we may have to make is whether to shut down an outlet or our business temporarily.

Both Janice and Jesher encouraged fellow business owners to think back to the core of their business: Who are we serving? Are we still able to reach them from this particular outlet? For outlets in vicinities hit hard such as the CBD, perhaps the current best option would be closing off the shutters temporarily. Nonetheless, this is not all doom and gloom as the redeploying of resources can help businesses serve their customers more efficiently.  

Businesses could also consider a mix of flexible options such as concentrating working hours around mealtimes when demand surges to optimize output as well as launching curated delivery menus. Thinking out of the box, businesses could also consider collaborations to increase product offerings such as meal sets for instance.

Delivery & Marketing Efforts

With that, our new norm today has become: Grabfood, FoodPanda, Deliveroo and more. Though delivery does support businesses with an additional revenue stream, it is still a battle considering the high commission fees. Genuine concerns sounded out were: How can my business stand out amongst the crowd in the delivery space? Should we go all out in marketing (think: ads and price discounts)?

Before running ahead full-steam, Jesher suggested that businesses would do well to consider the current crisis season of the economy and our priorities as a business and nation. It may not be the best or right time to spend our strength and energy on aggressive marketing campaigns; instead, we could shift the focus to how we can stand together, sustain the community and do what we do well; even though that may mean getting by with slimmer margins.

Going back to fundamentals, it is also important that businesses avail their offerings and information to customers easily and readily so that they are aware of businesses activity and know how to reach us.   

Motivation

Could you believe that the key to motivation is: communication? With updates from various sources sometimes, it can take time before internal measures are confirmed and rolled out. Although ground staff tend to be notified in the later stages, the last thing we (and they) want is a last-minute shock, “Hey, it was not an easy decision but we’re closing this outlet temporarily … you don’t need to report to work tomorrow!” 

Thankfully, most employees are understanding of current circumstances. We can maintain this trust and support with upfront and transparent communication. After all, it is these such uncertain and unstable times when staff are in even greater need of assurance and support.

Janice and Jesher shared several tips on how owners can improve staff morale. Firstly, involving ground staff with the brainstorming stages of projects directly impacting the company or customers. These could include the enhancement of current menu offerings or internal workplace projects, which can better engage them and improve their sense of involvement with the business. Secondly, selecting the right combination of staff for shift work. Once the right dynamics are spun off, every employee’s spirits are immediately boosted at work – many F&B staff look forward to work because of fellow team members. Here, store managers and supervisors play a crucial role in being able to understand staff personalities and pool the right good groups together. At the core, it begins with recruiting the right people with a heart to serve.

HR Issues

HR Decisions COVID-19 F&B Businesses

And we’ve come to a sensitive topic for all… it’s hard to let people go! Many businesses have already skimmed part-timers. However, if COVID-19 does not improve as quickly as we hope it to, we might face a dilemma: should we release some full-timers? It is both a social and an economic decision. Jesher shared that their staff are of priority and while they cannot make a promise to sustain their pay at 100%, they are committed to keeping as close as possible to that level.

He also shared that both tightening and loosening measures can be used where seen fit in this season. Instead of letting people go, we could look at alternatives such as a 2-week pay reduction while the company endures a rough patch. It is possible to still prioritize people while incorporating flexible and creative measures.

What Next?

Moving forward, some things F&B owners can do include:

  • Watching the government’s messaging
  • Reacting partially
  • Ensuring decisions and measures are rolled out gradually, with employees’ understanding
  • Forecasting issues such as packing alternatives should packaging material run out

We hope this article has provided insightful perspectives and ideas on how F&B businesses can shape their strategies and navigate through this time of crisis. StaffAny believes that even in such challenging and restrictive situations,  there lie opportunities to be seized and we can continue to focus on what truly matters. 

P.S. Keep a lookout in your inbox for our next Wok the Talk webinar, happening mid-May!

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