Hospitality in a Time of Crisis: Evolve - Don’t 'Pivot'
“Every body continues in its state of rest, or of uniform motion in a right line, unless it is compelled to change that state by forces impressed upon it.” - Isaac Newton
During the London plague of 1665, Newton discovered the Theory of Gravity while quarantining. Although there turned out to be a slight discrepancy with this theory, it paved the way for Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity in 1915.
The choices we make today will determine future discoveries. Plant the seed now. I’d like to apply this to the current state of the Hospitality industry. The brands that will be successful post-COVID 19 are those that choose to evolve with the force, not just 'pivot.'
Be Real: Admit What You Don’t Know
I don’t know a whole lot. Fortunately, I’m surrounded by many who do. So let me apply some enlightening conversations I’ve had recently.
Whatever your profession, it’s important to look at the following:
OUTSIDE your industry
I recently spoke to someone who worked in Tech during the 2001 dot com bubble. The word ‘pivot’ was hot then, too. The aftermath lead to dot-com companies being measured solely by their burn rate. Many went through liquidation. Demand dropped and supporting industries such as advertising and shipping were forced to scale back their operations. About 48% of dot-com companies were able to endure the crash through 2004.
Apply it to Hospitality. With hotels and restaurants temporarily shutting their doors and the halt of construction delaying projects, demand for service providers in tangential supporting industries has been impacted greatly.
While many investors lost their share during the 2001 crisis, a lot of programs and software were created during this time. This built the Internet that we know today. This built Amazon. How will the current downturn re-shape hospitality in the long-run? What NEW ideas will come from this?
Recognize Shared Sacrifice
I recently had a conversation with Matt Wexler, Managing Partner at Foxhall Partners. Matt is D.C. based and owns a number of hospitality projects including the LINE Hotel D.C. and the Kimpton Carlyle Hotel Dupont Circle. He mentioned a term which really stuck with me: ‘Shared Sacrifice.’
Face it, everyone is suffering right now. Tenants can’t pay their rent with no revenue. Landlords can’t appease their lenders. But change starts with strong leadership.
Another industry leader executing on this idea is Michael Lastoria, CEO of &pizza. On April 13, &pizza teamed up with Citi Bank to launch 'Hero Kitchens' to make 100,000 free pies for our front line doctors, nurses, administrators, cleaning staff and all other essential workers risking their lives to keep us safe during the crisis.
"At &pizza we made our choice," Lastoria said in a statement. "We're doubling down on what we've always said we stand for - standing with our communities, doing our part to life up those who have always lifted us. Once we had taken care of our workers, the next step was clear - take care of those with the most urgent need right now, frontline workers."
Now is not a time to be greedy. Stepping up is we keep things alive. And those who don’t conform will suffer in the long run. People don’t forget how you act in a crisis.
Support Your People
The number of those currently unemployed are staggering.
22 Million people have filed for unemployment
Nearly 11 Million of those are in Hospitality
If you lead your company, you’ve had to make some tough decisions to furlough or lay off your amazing staff. It has been devastating for all. Luckily, two great people, Amy Ogden and Jitjatjo, are leading the way to help take care of our incredible industry workers through #HireHospitality. The goal of #HireHospitality is to temporarily shift displaced talent to other industries in dire need of hourly support - ensuring our beloved hospitality workers are able to financially survive until we can hire them back.
This is a tough time for existing employees, too. Keep lines of communication open. Schedule video calls to talk about things OTHER than work. Get to know each other on a deeper level. This builds an even stronger bond and loyalty. Hospitality is a people-driven industry. Act like it.
Support the Industry
Work with your competitors. Work for your struggling clients. Advocate for your industry friends so we can hit the ground running when the time comes. Promote or, better yet, build resources for the industry at large.
A current initiative I’m getting involved with is We Travel Forward - a new hotel directory focused on creating revenue now and bookings later. This site was created as a goodwill effort to support the hospitality industry and hotels which are temporarily struggling and closed. An engine to push toward the future.
Innovate, Re-Invent, Send a Message!
Whatever you were 'known' for before - forget it. Hold on deeply to your brand promise and ethos but forget the ‘normal’ execution. The psyche of the modern business and leisure traveler has shifted greatly and so must the once-booming, now suffering hospitality and travel industries.
Note your importance. Adapt. Make noise.
On April 15, travel media site Skift went dark for 24 hours. In part, this was a mental health day for the journalists who have been working tirelessly (support your people!). Additionally, this was a message of importance to the industry at large.
“What would happen day two and beyond, if you suddenly go away tomorrow? This is two ways of saying the same thing: How much of a personal or professional utility value do your users ascribe to your brand? And how indispensable are you to the ecosystem you exist in?”
Make note of your undeniable contribution to the industry. Be indispensable.
When in doubt, make a personal change. Make a bang. Big news hit April 15 when Bashar Wali was leaving his role as President of Provenance Hotels. He announced this in a widely circulated e-mail.
“The landscape has been irrevocably changed. And if it hasn’t yet, then it must………..This time calls for bigger thinking. Bolder action. If humanity is at my door, have I done all that I can to welcome them as guests? To alleviate any distress they may feel? To inspire and revive them? Have I adequately advocated for my community? Have I fought for all the change I believe in? Could I do more? These are essential questions I am driven to answer now.”
All we have now is Time. Time to think hard about where our hearts lie. Time to explore new opportunities. Time cry. Time to strengthen meaningful relationships. What you do with this Time will be remembered for years. People don’t forget how you respond to a crisis.
One thing Bashar told me is "don't go dark." If your business is on pause or if you're currently unemployed, DON'T go dark. Take this Time to strengthen meaningful relationships. Write a novel, engage with others, create.
I don’t care how you ‘pivot.' I care about how you EVOLVE with it. Gravity is simply a consequence of force.
To the future.