My partners and I had nearly a hundred employees and a thriving restaurant business between the UK and Italy at the beginning of 2020. The industry hasn’t been at its peak for the last decade and margins have been getting thinner every year, but in the last two quarters of 2019 we had managed to consolidate the group, made processes more efficient and reduced costs, still supporting our teams and their families.
Lockdown hit Italy first and we didn’t know whether to expect help from the government and for how long we would have to keep our businesses closed, however we knew from the begging that we had to get ourselves out of this crisis. Fear was definitely present. It was present between my partners and I, between our teams and in our customers. Our London restaurants started decreasing in sales even before the announcement of lockdown in Britain and our revenue in Italy had ground to an halt: we just knew we had to take the bull by the horns!
We quickly took the decision to close our London venues and furlough our staff, we reassured them we were going to look after their welfare and we set up systems of communications to keep everyone up to date and create a network of support; we quickly designed take-away products -including vacuum packed cocktails and mocktails- for our restaurants and bars in Turin and we began focussing on the most important task of all: diversifying out business!
We opened an online deli in London, offering local deliveries of Italian and French food and decided to revive our hospitality consultancy business -that had been put on the back seat since our London restaurant operations took off in 2019.
At the end of this eventful year, we have realised that reacting quickly to the change of circumstances has allowed us to save most of our businesses and, although our teams have shrunk considerably, we are now looking at a more hopeful 2021 with new opportunities on our estate and a useful baggage of survival experience that will surely help us grow stronger in the future.
Fear has been the spark plug to this.
Fear of loosing our businesses, fear of not being able to support our teams and fear of loosing our own livelihood.
Fear got the adrenaline going, but we decided to fight rather than flight.
I feel very lucky for what I had the opportunity to build and I hope that looking back I will be grateful to this pandemic for making me a stronger entrepreneur and a better individual.
Hospitality consultant and operator