If you're the owner or manager of a restaurant closing because of the Coronavirus crisis, these are the things you need to consider when you inform your staff.
We are facing one of the scariest times for the hospitality industry in modern history. Restaurants, hotels and other venues are subject to mandatory closures across the country and the world. We know that hospitality management across the board has told tens of thousands of their employees they don’t have a job and many more will have to be told in coming days.
As business leaders, it is imperative that you take your team through the process both professionally and with empathy. Doing so will minimize the emotional trauma for your employees and help ensure that the team that you have worked so hard to train is waiting for you when the industry gets the all clear to re-open for business. Here are a few core values to keep in your mind.
This is a anxiety-ridden time for all of us. That said, as the person your employees look to for social cues, it’s important to present your best game face. Employees typically lack information that those in charge of an establishment are privy to and in times like this, that vacuum can become a fear multiplier. Answer your phone, your texts and your e-mails and respond with whatever accurate, up-to-date information you can. It is important to relay the information that you know to be true, especially in regards to your own operation. We’re all aware of how service industry rumor mills roll, so it’s important to displace rumors with truth when possible.
It’s also important to let employees know that they have done nothing to cause the situation that they find themselves in. The loss of their job at this time in no way reflects poorly upon them. We are all victims of circumstance and there is help on the way.
You don’t know a lot about what the future holds. That’s okay. At this point, no one does.
We constantly teach our team to avoid the phrase “I don’t know”. We need to follow our own guidance. Instead of “I don’t know”, try to say “That’s a great question. I’m going to get that answer for all of us.”
Be an advocate.
One of our biggest goals as restaurant owners and operators is to have not just employees, but advocates. Employee advocates create and spread not just a positive work environment within your four walls, but build your brand wherever they are outside of the workplace. Advocacy is a two-way street. For all our employees do for us, here’s what we can and should do for them:
-Unemployment Insurance is a huge factor in alleviating so many concerns that service industry employees have at this moment. During some state of emergency declarations, benefits will kick in without the typical delay. Educate yourself about how the application system works and lead employees through the process. Provide them with computers or tablets if possible. Taking employees through this process is a means to reduce high stress levels. It also reinforces ties to the workplace that they are temporarily leaving, making it more likely that they’ll are ready, willing and able to return when America is open for business again. Employee retention is always a high priority, but if you need to re-open a restaurant in the “new normal” post-Coronavirus world, you’ll want to do it with as many familiar faces as possible. No owner or operator needs to spend additional weeks on training new staff.
-As our medical system braces itself for the impact of that actual pandemic, it’s important to recognize the dangers presented by the stresses of the situation and the prescription of social isolation to prevent the spread of COVID-19. There is a large segment of the hospitality industry who suffer from mental health and substance abuse issues, and they’re all likely to be exacerbated by what’s happening. Free time, the absence of a “social space” and the uncertainty of the future can create serious challenges.
-Make sure that people are checking on each other. Depending on the size of your workforce, you can make the occasional phone call or text to everyone yourself or you can ask trusted team members to keep a few employees under their wing. The key is to help everyone help each other stay out of dark places.
At the end of the day, we are people looking out for people. With open communication and our strong industry community ties, we’ll get through this.
Justin Ferland & Tristan Pinnock
Ocean Drive Communications