Amidst the all too large numbers being used in headlines currently, there is a very human story behind each and every one of them. The rushed and widely predicted announcement of London’s migration from Tier 2 into 3 on Monday impacted tens of thousands of hospitality businesses, unceremoniously forced to close.
The enormity of the action by Government is of course underlined by scale, every hospitality business closed until further notice. Not only in London but across the country. So, we decided to speak with someone with first hand perspective on how such an announcement impacts, and the operational decisions that followed as the crisis further unfolded.
Stuart Procter is Chief Operating Officer of Stafford Collection, an independently owned luxury portfolio of hotel and restaurant properties, The Stafford London, Northcote, and Norma. All are part of Preferred Hotels and Resorts.
Talking with Stuart it is obvious that the hurt from Monday’s news goes deep, and the task of having to pass some of that hurt on, even deeper.
Like many bosses, having to close a business temporarily and with no ability to foresee when it might reopen means placing people on furlough. A tough task, made even tougher when many of those people earn from tronc payments, not covered by the furlough scheme.
Stuart explained that many of the team are long term colleagues and friends, he knows their wives, husbands, children, and grandchildren in some instances. “Breaking the news, and so close to Christmas was heart breaking. I don’t mind admitting that I left the hotel that evening with tears in my eyes.”
Stuart did not hold back his anger and frustration with the Government dropping the latest bombshell on his hotels, and the wider hospitality family. “The way the hospitality industry has been treated is a disgrace. Despite the claim that decisions are based on science and logic, they clearly are purely political, but to what purpose eludes me. Peoples lives and livelihoods have been turned upside down and that presents people across our industry with pain, it is a total shambles.”
He then explained that it wasn’t only colleagues that suffer, but suppliers also, local suppliers that are highly valued and have been with the Stafford Collection for decades in some instances. “Everything that we had ordered for the Christmas season is now redundant and unrequired as we are unable to host guests. Flowers, Christmas trees, food, dry cleaning services, the list goes on. These are local businesses and local people that are part of our family.”
The financial loss in total resulting directly from the Government announcement for half of December is £500,000.
Stuart used one of my favourite financial analogies to emphasise what that meant and used it when discussing with colleagues the measures being taken resulting from the Government’s announcement. “We are for all intents and purposes looking at placing 25,000 £20 notes on a dining table and burning it all. £400,000 of that was from guaranteed bookings through 16-31 December.
“We also had to contact our loyal and highly valued customers and give them the bad news, all were magnanimous.”
The disappointment and sadness was all too evident from a man that did not sound like they were emotions he was familiar with. Stuart emphasised that his hotels were much more than buildings, they were homes for hospitality that thrive in its generous dispersal. Being closed and unable to be hospitable at this time of year was not sitting right with Stuart.
We discussed the past 10 months and compared observations, most were aligned and led to our penultimate discussion, a Minister for Hospitality.
Stuart was immediately buoyed, delighted that the petition had reached its goal of 100,000 signatures a week ago and truly ecstatic that Parliament had confirmed the debate for 11 January 2021. His enthusiasm was contagious, and he reflected: “This is exactly what the hospitality industry needs, a minister that can represent the millions of hard working people in hospitality.
“I am part of the #SeatattheTable steering committee and we can now all focus on the next steps in the campaign including continuation of further building signatures to emphasise support prior to the debate.”
Before the conversation ended the need for ingenuity and adaptation was brought into our discussion. Stuart was incredibly proud of his team at Northcote, who have ‘somehow’ been able to make a profit in 2020. Lisa Goodwin-Allen, Executive Chef and Craig J Bancroft MI, Managing Director, have led the Northcote team through closure to developing a gourmet dining experience delivery business. This has gone so well that some Christmas dinner options are already sold out.
He asked me: “Please make sure that Lisa, Craig and the team get a mention.” And did so suggesting that it might provide inspiration for others to adapt, let’s hope it does.
Thank you for personal perspective and insight Stuart.
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Hospitality & Catering News: Not being allowed to be hospitable at Christmas, a personal perspective from Stuart Procter – 17 December 2020 – Not being allowed to be hospitable at Christmas, a personal perspective from Stuart Procter.
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