Well we did it … again! Survived the ups and downs of the pandemic and we have come out the other side, a little damaged perhaps, but all in all feeling incredibly grateful. It’s been devastating to hear of businesses closing down and people’s livelihoods inevitably being affected and we hope all our customers are OK.
On Monday 18th we will re-open all our venues to normal operating hours. We took an extra week to be ready but we will be. We can’t wait.
So how did we do it? What strategies did we use to survive? How did we manage to put a stop on our business as we know it and ride the unpredictable, unprecedented wave of the pandemic for a second time? Here’s what we think made the difference:
- Draw on your business relationships
When you base your brand on relationships, this is where loyalty comes in. As a business that turns 21 next month, we simply had to pick up the phone to our suppliers and ask them to meet us in the middle. We asked for them to do what they could do to help us survive – some didn’t, but most did. This was invaluable and further strengthens those relationships moving forward.
- Staff wellbeing
We checked in regularly – on our staff’s wellbeing and on their intentions moving forward. We asked our staff to be honest with us regarding their working status. We offered free food for those who could not get shifts. Equally, we offered rewards to those who worked tirelessly to get us through this difficult time. By doing this we not only made sure that our Bitton staff were ok but we also increased the likelihood of their return to us when things opened up again.
- Keep in touch with clients
All client relationships were kept open despite holds being put on many contracts and any new works. We made sure that we kept the relationship positive and kept front of mind. We wanted them to know that we were keeping on top of things and would be ready as soon as opening up was an option.
Such an overused word, but it’s true! Keeping one foot firmly on our core business values, we pivoted around with the other – searching for new and possible revenue streams, new markets and innovative ways to keep our customers engaging with us. We met as a team weekly to brainstorm new ideas, quickly decide what was working, what wasn’t and putting short term plans in place.
- Lean into what works quickly
Taking the experience we had during last lockdown, we built on what worked. Our weekly specials become a very welcomed service to our customers and therefore a regular income to us. In the same way that we create experiences in our restaurants, we attempted to create experiences at home, and people quickly responded. Once it was obvious that something was working we leaned in a little further and extended on it.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate
We didn’t stop. To our customers, our staff, our suppliers, our clients. Social media, EDMs, in person, a phone call, whatever way we could engage with our people, we did.
- Stick to your values where possible
Its easy to get carried away in difficult times and before you know it, you find yourself further away from your core business values than ever before. We tried to avoid this. Yes, we ventured out into new markets and created new revenue streams but also ensure that we were true to the business and brand.
- Set expectations and don’t apologise for them
Don’t try and be everything for everyone. While flexibility is of course important during unpredictable times, don’t do it to the detriment of your business or your sanity! Its important for the efficiency of operations to set boundaries for your customers and stick to them.
- Question every dollar spent
This goes without saying but we took it to the next level. Can it wait? Cutting costs and increasing revenue was how we survived.
Other businesses are looking to do the same so why not partner? Two is stronger than one after all. Our ‘pandemic babies’ were a French beer in collaboration with Frenchies, a pop up burger joint called Booty Burger utilising the kitchen we had sitting idle, a French picnic hamper and many dinner and dessert specials using fabulous products being created by our suppliers.
The last 2 years have been challenging for all businesses – large or small and Bitton has been no exception. We have had to adapt to changed circumstances, consumer behaviours and find new opportunities. It required innovation, creativity and just plain hard work. and we have learnt a lot. We have learnt that diversification is essential to survival. That having some savings and some cash flow as back up is invaluable, that Technology and being at the forefront of it is super important, as business owners we have had to be a combination of ruthless and creative when cutting wages, stock, hours. Finally we have had to remove the fear of negotiating terms – hard! Despite the challenging times, we are grateful to be here and stronger for it.
After all, as Nelson Mandela so eloquently said “Do not judge me by my success. Judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again”.