60 seconds with...Dermot King, Chief Executive – Oakman Inns & Restaurants Ltd, 4 months later

How was the re-opening of your business and how was it carried out in line with safety procedures put in place to allow social distancing?

Put a lot of planning into the reopening period. Everything re-opened in the 4th of July. We invested a lot in the pre-opening period. Screens, PPE, menus (to protect kitchen team). Rearranges layout of venues to make sure customers safe. A lot of training of team to avoid face-to-face contact with customers but still being approachable. Plenty of signage in the pubs and lots of re-assurance given to customers as well. Been pleasantly surprised by customer demand – they forecast being 25% down on last year but have actually been level. 

The government eat out scheme the actually extended the government eat out scheme for the last 2 weeks of July at their own expense and this increased turnover by 25%. In total for July they ended 4 % up on this time last year. The rooms part of their business was 70% down on last year and they expect this to recover last

How is the general feeling and feedback from your team members and your customers now the lockdown is over?

All our soft measures are very strong. Net promoter scores have improved on last year, feedback from guests is that there is a safe environment. Teams are happy to be back and busier than they expected to be. We are very happy with our soft measures. Feedback is that teams are very well treated – we have not made any redundancies and we paid our team their tronc payments over lockdown. The old only negative that we get from customers is that our teams are not wearing masks. Due to the distancing we have in place we are not asking out team to do this.

What role has technology played in supporting your re-opening plan?

We have introduced a new app – really interesting – we expected it to drive food sales but actually driving wet sales. Our outdoor spaces are larger than most. Out later night vertical customers have been displaced to our outside spaces and these are being facilities through the app. This has been something that has been adopted by the business

What market trends are you seeing since re-opening?

Looking at why we are doing well – the advantages we have is that we are larger spaces, we have lots of outside space so people can eat inside of outside. Creating heated, covered spaces will be key as we move into autumn. Our experience inside our venues feels normal and that is what customers want. A lot of our competitors service now feels quite clinical.

What techniques have you used to build sales and re-engage customers?

The app has been a main driver. The key marketing driver was about moving the eat out scheme forward by two weeks. That has driven footfall and new customers to the business. The kitchens have been operating within pods and the menus themselves are at a high standard. Customers returning have commented that the food is still excellent and that the experience is the thing that customers have enjoyed the most. We have also had feedback that our female customers prefer the environment and are spending more time on our operations.

What positive lessons do we need to learn from what the industry has been through?

Service to the table in a bar environment does drive spend per head. A traditional bar with 5 deep at the bar has been a trusted way of operating licensed businesses, but taking service to the table has been a more profitable method and worth the investment. The majority of our customers are in the 25+ market and seem to be spending more

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Date Published: 11th August 2020