Under starter's orders
It is now only a matter of months before 27 July 2012 – the start of the London Olympic and Paralympic Games when literally millions of extra mouths will need to be fed out of home. Establishments that want to offer great hospitality and benefit from the ‘Greatest Show on Earth’ need to start planning right now to ensure their house is in order and able to excel even with substantially increased footfall
Under the leadership of the ubiquitous Sebastian Coe, the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) certainly has its work cut out for it. With approximately 15,000 athletes, more than 20,000 media, 70,000 volunteers and approximately 100,000 workers involved, alongside millions of ticket holders, it is expected that a staggering 14 million meals will be served on site during the Games.
Independent catering establishments take note. To ensure the smooth running of the Games in all areas both before and after athletes compete, LOCOG has already appointed catering, cleaning and waste contractors, giving them plenty of time to plan and get organised for the 19 days of competition that will be held across 34 venues for the Olympic Games and 11 days of competition across 21 venues for the Paralympic Games.
While your task will not be as enormous as LOCOG’s, you nevertheless need to start planning now if you are to benefit as much as possible from the once in a lifetime opportunity that the Games bring to these shores next year.
According to People 1st – the sector skills council for the hospitality, leisure, travel and tourism industries (HLTT) – customer service skills are the most common skills gap across the HLTT sector. “The UK’s HLTT sector needs to raise its game in customer service standards if it is to take advantage of the estimated £2bn that could be generated from visitors around the Olympics,” insists Brian Wisdom, CEO of People 1st. “There is a lot of focus on developing the infrastructure for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games but not enough on ensuring we have the softer skills needed to welcome the world to Britain. It’s anticipated that up to half a million visitors will arrive for the Games and we need to ensure their experience of Britain is a very positive one.
“The Olympics will bring a great deal of revenue to the country and if we want any of those visitors to come back again and spend their money in Britain we need to ensure they have a good time. Moreover, delighted customers have the essential qualities for great profitability. They’re much less sensitive to price, spend more per head and are more receptive to cross sales.”
Customer service guru Mario Dolcezza agrees that London 2012 provides an excellent opportunity for Britain to show it can offer the best welcome in the world. “In the world of customer service, Britain is not generally accepted as being one of the leaders,” observes Mario. “Customer skills need to be addressed right now so that next year we can show the world that we can give a great customer experience, just as good as anyone else, and shake off, once and for all, our bad reputation.”
Great customer service should be a given whether the Olympics are coming or not. If you are struggling in this area, visit www.worldhost.uk.com for information on training programmes that enhance customer service skills.
Keep it clean
Procter & Gamble is one of 11 worldwide sponsors of the Olympic Games – with brands including Ariel, Lenor, Fairy, Febreze and Flash, the company knows a thing or two about cleaning.
“With thousands of tourists flocking to the UK for the Games, independent operators need to up their game to ensure they set the standard for the UK hospitality industry and cope with the increased demand for their services. This starts with impeccable basics: creating a clean and welcoming environment for guests,” comments Nick Beresford, managing director of P&G Professional.
To help operators, the company has created the P&G Preparedness Pack – a guide with information on ways to ensure your business is ready for London 2012. Advice contained in the guide includes the following:
Front of house first impressions
A recent P&G Professional survey revealed that after welcoming guests, a clean and shiny reception area created the best impression for 90% of respondents. First impressions of an independent hotel, B&B or guest house are vital in creating positive word of mouth, and this positive word of mouth results in repeat business.
Even if you are rushed off your feet, make daily checks on your reception area. Is it clean? Does it smell nice? Is it welcoming to guests? Make sure your reception staff are well trained on all of the cleaning hotspots and understand the importance of making a good first impression.
Turning over guest rooms
When every minute counts, how can independent hoteliers balance turning over guest rooms quickly without cutting corners?
Reviewing your products is essential – have you got the right cleaning solutions? Are staff using too many different types of cleaning materials and products, when fewer high-quality ones would get the job done quicker – and to a higher standard?
Will you need to hire temporary staff or ask existing staff to work more or different hours during the Olympic Games? If so, it’s worth checking whether employment contracts can enforce the new working patterns, or whether new hours will be voluntary. You need to ensure you have adequate staff cover to cope with the demand for additional cleaning services.
Keep staff happy and motivated
You can only improve service and levels of cleanliness if your staff feel valued and engaged. Don’t make key hygiene and cleanliness decisions during the period of the Games without consulting your staff. Involve them in your planning process and seek their guidance; they are after all on the front line of your business and instrumental in creating that all-important positive first impression.
Check your supply chain
With transport resources likely to be stretched during London 2012, check who your key suppliers are and how they will be able to continue operating during the period.
Identify potential problems (such as delayed deliveries and a shortage of supplies) and make alternative arrangements if necessary.
To receive a copy of the Preparedness Pack, email email@example.com with your name, address and contact details.
Best of British
“2012 will be the UK’s time to shine across all sectors of society and we are on a world stage to show everyone the best we have to offer,” says Mark Rigby, senior business development chef at Premier Foods. “Rather than focusing on the vast number of cultures that will be gracing our shores during the event, we have the chance to showcase British talent, cuisine and produce.”
Emily Frank, brand manager for Heinz Foodservice advises: “The key to attracting footfall over the Olympic period and maximising on the profit potential is to keep menus simple, original and well-priced. Offering favourites such as the traditional fry up complete with Heinz Beanz or a bacon or sausage sandwich in the morning will help provide a winning combination for any outlet, and will be a great pull for spectators getting up early for the journey to one of the many Olympic arenas.”
Alex Gort-Barten, director of Dualit and grandson of Max, inventor of the iconic award-winning Dualit toaster, agrees that breakfast will be an important eating occasion during the Games. “The great British breakfast is an institution celebrated across the globe and people will be wanting to enjoy it when they are here,” says Alex. Visit www.dualit.com for a range of great British toasters including the new ultra-reliable DCP4 Pop-up toaster with ‘armour-plated’ ProHeat elements.
British Food Fortnight
For 2012 only, British Food Fortnight will leave its usual September/October slot and run at the same time as the London Olympics (27 July to 12 August). “The aim is to stage the biggest showcase of British food the world has ever seen,” says Alexia Robinson, founder and organiser of British Food Fortnight. “We are urging every shop, pub and restaurant in the country to start planning Love British Food promotions now, so they are ready when the world arrives in Britain next year.” www.lovebritishfood.co.uk
If you have any local athletes competing, why not benefit and support them in some way? Hold special events when they compete and ensure that you tell your local media.
Check the Games schedule and plan offerings around different events. This may involve staying open later than usual to attract supporters. If this is the case you need to ensure that you have the right late operating licence from your council. Similarly, if you are going to offer screenings, you must have a TV licence.
If you are going to create special Olympic menus, you need to be aware that you are not entitled to use the Olympic logo or link yourself with the Olympic Games as you please. Basically this is to protect the sponsors’ multi-million pounds worth of investment.
Don’t forget that proceedings kick off on 19 May when the Olympic flame lands in Britain to be carried by 8000 torchbearers the length and breadth of the nation until the opening ceremony on 27 July. Visit the official website (see below) to see when the flame is near you – giving your business another opportunity to benefit from this unique sporting extravaganza.