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Hospitality goes digital: 3 ways venues are adapting to COVID-19

Smarter Writer
Smarter Team

The Smarter Team is made up of business and technology journalists who write to offer insights to small and medium businesses about technology, business know-how and emerging trends.

Smarter Writer
Smarter Team

The Smarter Team is made up of business and technology journalists who write to offer insights to small and medium businesses about technology, business know-how and emerging trends.

Social togetherness is the essence of the hospitality industry. When this core ingredient was taken away from cafes, bars and restaurants, many were forced to change their usual offering to stay afloat during COVID-19.

Delivery person receiving take out food

Restrictions as a result of COVID-19 meant that dine-in experiences were prohibited for several months, so venues had no choice but to adapt if they wanted to remain viable.

Here, we look at three ways hospitality businesses have pivoted and used digital tools to keep their venues alive.

Live-streamed video cooking classes

The rise of the Aussie home cook continues – and if the sourdough bandwagon is anything to go by, it shows no sign of slowing down. Many venues are now offering a tutorial option, where customers take a turn at becoming Head Chef for the night. Popular Melbourne restaurant Atlas Dining, for example, now offers Masterclass – a live online cooking tutorial with Head Chef Charlie Carrington. Customers can purchase their package online for pick-up or delivery (with all ingredients and recipes included), select a date, and spend the night cooking at home.

You don’t need a camera crew to execute this strategy in your own business, a simple tripod and smartphone are enough. There are many free video streaming options, such as Zoom, and you can record your live session for participants to re-watch. What you do need is confidence in front of the camera, so consider a few practice runs before diving straight into a live tutorial. Video allows you to maintain a human connection with your customers (despite the distance), and even when restrictions ease, this offering can supplement your usual business activities.

Order and delivery – the at-home experience

From fine-dining restaurants, to local bars, many venues have turned their in-house offering into a takeaway experience for customers to enjoy in the comfort of their own homes. Three-hatted restaurant Attica now offers Attica at Home. Customers can order the full tasting menu, or a three-course spread, and of course, wine pairings are available.

An easy-to-use website with a reliable and secure ordering system is essential for this. Take Bar Romantica, for example: this local bar and late-night establishment has its full menu and a selection of beverages available to order online. With ordering system HungryHungry added to the website, operational costs are kept low and all orders are streamlined to one central location. 

From venue to grocer – the community approach

Particularly for venues where local, top-quality produce is a key component of the offering, a practical pivot is to on-sell stock that would otherwise be used in the kitchen. This community-minded shift supports suppliers, who may also be doing it tough, and it allowed venues to keep physical doors open to the public when Australia was at its peak of COVID-19 restrictions. Charlie and Frank’s in Sydney opted to turn their café into a grocer, so customers could pick up food items while grabbing their takeaway coffee.

A strong social media presence is critical to ensuring this shift is successful. Charlie and Frank’s post daily on Instagram and Facebook. They share what’s on offer from the kitchen, any specials for the day, and information on how the business is responding to the changing restrictions. Customers expect your business to be on social media, and it’s an effective way to get your message out there – you might even be surprised at the support you receive.

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