Reopening hospitality venues will be a challenge, a great big massive challenge. And there has been much speculation on how to best go about that challenge.
Earlier today we received news from Inception Group, who for us have a plan to reopen that not only seems to cater for the restrictions, it takes them and uses them to emphasise their brands.
Marketers would say their strategy and tactics are ‘on brand’. We sit back and applaud what in future, if successfully executed, will surely become a case study in marketing.
Inception Group preparation for hospitality reopening is well underway across its eclectic collection of venues.
The top priority is adapting working practices and spaces to create safe socialising environments, which will involve the introduction of temperature checks for staff, hand sanitation dispensers at key points throughout the venues, as well as rigorous cleaning routines and a one-way system for entry and exit where possible.
However, in true Inception-style, these measures will be woven into the experience in imaginative and playful ways, whilst staying true to its distinctive brand concepts.
As the UK awaits further clarity from the government on reopening timescales and guidance, with social distancing regulations still to be confirmed, Inception Group, has devised some fun solutions for potential distancing and PPE requirements. From Victorian-dressed mannequins styled as characters from Around The World In 80 Days at Mr Fogg’s Residence, to beekeeping suits as a fun and in keeping PPE option at Mr Fogg’s House of Botanicals, Inception is out to prove that abiding by any new rules, does not have to compromise the customer experience.
Applause for reopening on brand – at Mr Fogg’s Residence
To enforce safe social distancing measures at Mr Fogg’s Residence, visitors will have the pleasure of making the acquaintance of an assortment of characters – in mannequin-form – from Jules Verne’s novel, Around the World in 80 Days, which inspired the popular collection of Mr Fogg’s bars.
Tastefully dressed head-to-toe in the finest Victorian attire, these new regulars will be a fitting addition to the quirky Mayfair cocktail bar’s eccentric décor, which notably features a hot air balloon and a penny farthing hanging above the bar.
As new social distancing rules will likely mean that fewer people are permitted in the premises at a time, this solution was devised to prevent the removal of furniture or creation of empty tables, so as to help maintain the typically buzzy bar atmosphere.
After enjoying a couple of Mr Fogg’s lip-smacking libations guests will be forgiven for thinking that they are surrounded by Phileas Fogg himself, and a selection of his adventurous travelling companions.
Applause for reopening on brand – at Mr Fogg’s House of Botanicals
Whether PPE is necessary for staff and/or guests in bars and restaurants is still to be confirmed, but should it be enforced, Mr Fogg’s House of Botanicals has found a solution in-bee-keeping with its blossoming natural surroundings.
Well-known as an oasis of exotic flora and fauna in Fitzrovia, Mr Fogg’s House of Botanicals’ staff and guests may be asked to don beekeeping suits, or simply the protective head veil, as an additional safety precaution. With face-coverings now essential on public transport, these fetching light-weight veils could be the new must-have accessory to stand out from the socially distanced crowd this summer.
Applause for reopening on brand – Cahoots
Famed for reviving the post-war spirit in the heart of Soho, Cahoots is planning to repurpose its residual World War II gas masks as a robust facial-covering solution. Whilst this historical headpiece would look out of place anywhere else, at Cahoots it has the potential to become just another eccentric part of the immersive experience that guests have come to know and love at this unusual 1940s drinking den.
Applause for reopening on brand – Maggie’s
Renowned ‘80s haven and iconic late-night bar, Maggie’s will transform into a Club Tropicana paradise, filled with inflatable rubber rings to aid party-goers to keep a safe distance whilst dancing. As an additional reminder, the team has stocked up on metre-long litter pickers, which will allow staff to safely pass drinks over the bar, as well as enabling guests to cheer at a suitable distance.
Applause for reopening on brand – Barts
At Inception Group’s original venue, Barts, a speakeasy tucked away in an apartment building on Sloane Avenue, the talented team of mixologists are gearing up to resume service whilst wearing decorative theatrical masks.
Dressing up at Barts has always been customary, as this one-of-a-kind bar was the first in London to feature a fancy-dress box, inviting guests to don eccentric glad rags, akin to those worn by party-goers at extravagant underground parties during the roaring ‘20s. The addition of masks will create a dual-sense of mystery and, crucially, safety, enhancing both the theatrics and protection of the cocktail presentation.
It seems pertinent during these unprecedented and immensely challenging times to remember that Inception Group, and its first venue Barts, was founded in the wake of the 2007/08 financial crisis. Young entrepreneurs Charlie Gilkes and Duncan Stirling capitalised on a gap in the market for an experiential, concept-led cocktail bar, and managed to successfully carve out this niche on a shoestring budget. 11 years on, and with a selection of award-winning brands under the Inception Group umbrella, the business is preparing to return to its roots, and revive its creative, resourceful and resilient spirit to navigate its way through the impending COVID-19 hospitality recovery period.
Looking forward to reopening and recovery, Charlie Gilkes, Co-Founder of Inception Group, says: “The top priority for planning our reopening is adapting our ways of working and spaces to the new COVID-secure standards in order to ensure we create safe socialising and working environments in all of our venues. But, crucially for us, this must be done without forgetting, or compromising, what originally drew people into our establishments, and helped us build a loyal following. We do not want to welcome visitors back into spaces that feel sterile, devoid of personality and atmosphere because of the new measures.
Now more than ever before, people will need spaces that spark a sense of escapism and imagination, and we are determined to adapt what we were doing successfully before to the new ways of operating, whilst staying true to what we do best: creating unique and memorable experiences. There is no escaping the fact that the new restrictions are going to pose significant challenges to the way hospitality businesses operate but we are trying our very best with what we can do.
Should these playful solutions come to fruition, we will ensure they adhere to official guidelines. We are continuing to monitor the latest government guidance fastidiously, which will determine our eventual decisions on the most appropriate hygiene and safety measures for our reopening.”
The H&C News team hasn’t visited an Inception Group venue, this may well change when reopened and report on our findings.