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The 15 best hospitality solutions to work profitably in times of corona

Pierre Christiaens | Biography

Delen: Verspreid de boodschap, niet het virus.

Good news: soon you will be able to receive guests in your business again. When can you open again? If the figures continue to develop well, probably on June 8th. That will give you a few more weeks to prepare thoroughly.

Because believe me: → your business is going to be all right again!

In my previous article, we explored the three phases of this catering corona crisis:

  1. The door locked (during the lock down)
  2. The door ajar (working with coronavirus measures)
  3. Open the door completely again (if a vaccine is found)


What do you find in this blog?

1. Together we look at the near future of the hospitality industry in a crystal ball.
2. What are the basic rules for ‘working with corona’?
Wash your hands!
Not too many people
Remain seated!
3. Who is going to pay for that?
4. 15 stimulating ideas to increase your capacity and your profit while respecting the measures.

Be sure to read on. Discover now the 15 best hospitality solutions to work profitably in times of corona.

Your glass ball

Now it comes down to thorough preparation. Yes, and for what? You are probably wondering. I do not even know what conditions and measures I will have to comply with! You are right. It’s a shot in the dark. And yet. Look at the conditions under which the companies and the shops in our country work. And look at the catering industry in the countries around us. There, too, we see a similar catering corona protocol coming back every time.

In Sweden, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and some other countries, the hospitality industry will open at the end of May, beginning of June. Or they already started working again there. The measures are the same everywhere. You can learn a lot from them. If we look at those countries, it is as if you are peering into your own future Belgian hospitality industry in a crystal ball. Are you watching?

First a warning: this is not what will happen, but what is very likely to happen.

The basic rules

Health and safety come first. It is as simple as that. And rightly so. This coronavirus is highly contagious. Anyone can be a carrier without knowing it. That is what all precautions are based on. Think of the après-ski bar Kitzloch in Ischgl: there was an infected bartender working there who (without wanting to) infected a mass of people. That was one of the hotbeds of Covid-19 in Europe.

Would you like your business to be in the news soon? I don’t think so. That is why safety and health come first.

Nonchalant handling of hygiene measures can have serious consequences:

  • Socially (you put public health and that of your guests at risk).

  • Legal: in case of proven contamination in your case, you can be prosecuted.

  • Reputation: if your business is the cause of a wave of infection, the damage to your reputation is incalculable. Today, the authorities have ample means at their disposal, including contact tracing, to very quickly trace the origin of an infection to your business.

  • A new outbreak will inevitably lead to a new lockdown, with all the associated economic consequences, including for your business.

(from ‘Covid-19: white paper by Horeca Magazine’)

But make no mistake. Don’t stick to the rules, because the government tells you to do so. Don’t look for loopholes. Because the hardest judgment will soon come from your own clients. They will feel safe in your business … or not. If you give your clients the feeling that you take their health seriously, they will come back. The hospitality visitors will exchange experiences en masse. And those who do really well will be the winners. They will soon be attracting extra people. Do it for your customers and for yourself. Not because the government wants you to. Start your own corona protocol today.

Now let’s take a look at the expected conditions. For the sake of clarity, I have grouped them into three groups. Because the rules for Belgium have not yet been laid down, I won’t go into too much detail. We are sticking to the big picture.

Wash your hands!

Not too many people

Remain seated!

Wash your hands!

This includes all hygiene measures. Most of them you already know from home or in the shop. Provide plenty of hand gel, especially at the entrance. Make it easy for people to wash their hands. Decontaminate everything you grab. In the hospitality industry I think mainly of door handles and menus. When shopping we are advised to pay less cash. Can your guests pay electronically?

Some hygiene measures are specific to the hospitality industry:

Decontaminate chairs and tables between 2 groups; also ‘high contact zones’ such as your cash register.

You can have customers pour their own drinks.

A hostess or host will open the door (this way you avoid customers grabbing handles).

Can you leave the doors open? Then they certainly won’t grab that handle.

Would you offer disposable menus? Or hang plates with the menu on the wall?

When serving dishes, cover them and wear a mouth mask.

Don’t cover tables in advance.

Not too many people!

In the Netherlands, a business can admit a maximum of 30 people. Your own staff included. The reason is clear: avoid gatherings. Some countries limit the number of guests to a maximum of 50% of the normal capacity.

Getting your customers to make reservations in advance can help: this way you know in advance how many people are coming and how many people you can admit on the day itself. Reservations are compulsory in the Netherlands.

The operator will be responsible for the number of people in the business. Think about how you are going to organise and control this.

For example, if 30 people are allowed , you can have 30 chairs. You will immediately see when you are ‘full’.

Shoes chain Torfs will put a bin at the front of the shop with as many shoehorns as people are allowed in. Can you do something like that? For example, with a ball, or another fun thing?

Our country has now started with a ‘track and trace’ system. Sick people have to tell us who they were in contact with the days before. If someone says he was in your business, you will probably be asked who was still there at that time. That’s why you have to work with reservations in the Netherlands. In advance or at the moment itself. In this way, every group is registered.

In the Netherlands, an operator also has to ‘triple’ every customer. This means: asking whether they had any symptoms in the past few days. You are not allowed to let people with symptoms in.


Our life with corona is mainly based on the distance rule. Keep at least 1.5 m distance from each other. Yesterday my daughter was visiting me at home. It was very difficult to keep a distance and not give each other a big hug. In the hospitality industry, too, that becomes a difficult task. I sum up some specific consequences:

Bar stools and high tables are forbidden in the Netherlands.

Buffets and walking dinners are becoming difficult.

Operation from a distance does not seem to be possible, but it is still possible. Some think of a pick-up zone where guests can pick up their own order. Or a roller table that you drive to the table.

To prevent people from walking around looking for a table, it is best to place a sign ‘wait here until we come to pick you up’ at the entrance. In America this is already normal: ‘Wait here to be seated’

At busy times this can cause queues. Organise a queue outside, like a shop.

Sometimes people will walk around to go to the toilet or serve. With walkways and one-way traffic you avoid them getting too close to each other.

In many toilet areas a maximum of one person can enter.

In several countries a maximum of 4 people can sit at 1 table. But not if it concerns a cohabitating household of more than 4 people.

I see two ways in which people can get closer to each other than 1.5 m and thus increase your capacity.

→ Bring as many cohabiting households as possible to your business. This way, more people can be seated at one table.

Separations between tables, e.g. in plexiglass. In this way companies can sit closer than 1.5 m together.

Who is going to pay for that?

The 4 groups of measures have 2 important consequences for your business:

Consequence 1:   they increase your costs

Consequence 2:   they reduce your capacity and therefore your yields

In other words, you will probably soon be able to work, but you will earn less. But not if you find solutions to increase your capacity and your profits again.

15 stimulating ideas to increase your capacity and yield while respecting the corona measures.

The corona conditions I have listed above are not yet certain. Think anyway about how you can increase your capacity in order to earn a little more.

1. Make your guests feel safe

Where I feel safe, I go back. Show your guests that you care about their health and that you make an effort to do so. Then your clients will come back. And they bring their friends, family and acquaintances.

2. Give an attractive reason to come back

Why not thank every guest with a voucher for a free aperitif at their next visit? Then they really do have a reason to make a reservation with you again. And they bring their friends, family and acquaintances again.

3. Can you sell more per customer?

Imagine: I brought you a bottle of wine. Of course, you ask me what I thought of it when clearing it. If I liked it, you can offer me the same wine for at home. With a discount. This will increase your revenue per customer. That certainly works for me!

4. Can you make your business bigger?

Maybe you still have a space you don’t use. Or an empty floor. Can you put extra tables and chairs there? Do you have a courtyard or a garden where you can do that?

Several cities and municipalities have already announced that they will allow larger terraces. Make use of that. Start lobbying the mayor or the aldermen responsible today. Even catering establishments without terraces might get the chance to put some tables and chairs outside.

5. Expand your business in your customers’ homes.

That is actually the essence of the take away trend that originated during the lock down. You cook and people enjoy your creativity at home. You can continue to do that in the next phase. This trend is likely to continue. From the first day you are open again, give information about your takeaway menu to every guest.

6. Attract customers during the lockdown

Do you offer takeaway during lockdown? This is an excellent opportunity to lure people in if you are allowed to open again. Thank every takeaway client with a free aperitif during the first month that you can reopen. Be sure to ask for contact details so that you can inform them when they are welcome again.

7. Can you be open more often or for longer?

Maybe you can temporarily drop a closing day to increase your capacity.

You can also ‘stretch’ your opening hours: start earlier or stay open longer.

8. Receiving guests in shifts

Several business managers told me that they are going to receive customers in shifts: at lunchtime from 11.30 to 13.00 and then from 13.15 to 14.45. Customers will certainly be open to that in these strange times. In advance you can organise an ‘apero time’ from 11.00. And afterwards coffee and cake. And in the evening, of course, the same story. This way you can receive more customers and earn more.

9. Away with the 1.5 m distance!

With partitions people can be seated closer to one another. Plexi or other materials are suitable for this. Compartmentalisation is becoming a new trend in the hospitality industry.

10. Corona surcharge

Not so sympathetic and not achievable for everyone. In some shops and garages you temporarily pay a little more to cover the extra costs. If that amount is modest, it should be possible. Or maybe you can ask for a voluntary contribution?

11. Temporarily higher corona prices

These are hard and expensive times for the hospitality industry. Can you temporarily pass on these extra costs in higher prices?

“I wonder if customers would not be willing to pay a little more for their favourite business: a kind of corona premium that goes straight to the operator.”

Pierre Van Damme, epidemiologist & vaccinologist (Latest News, Sunday 17/05/2020)

12. This is how a hotel (and the airlines) do it: ‘dynamic pricing’.

At busy moments you pay more, at weak moments you pay less. In a hotel, school holidays are more expensive. Can you charge a little extra in your business for the popular Saturday evening, when everyone wants to be there? That way you attract people to the less busy moments and increase your occupancy.

13. Non refundable costs less, flexible costs more

You also know this idea from the hotel sector. If customers book well in advance, they enjoy a cheaper price. This is non refundable if they don’t make it on the day itself. With a flexible price (which is more expensive), they can postpone the booking to another day. This way you avoid empty chairs, because of people not showing up.

14. Rent scarce chairs instead of selling food and drinks

I read about this idea in Wouter Verkerk’s blog. A challenging and innovative idea. I quote:

With few guests using a lot of space, we are not going to sell food and drinks, we are going to rent out very scarce chairs and make our money with them. Everybody wants to occupy that lovely chair in the sun, but what does it cost?

A Grand Café in Utrecht looked at it cleverly. They don’t put a price on the coffee, beer and cake, they let guests, in their plan of reopening with limited capacity, pay by the moment and by the block. What’s more, they pay in advance. That’s how it works:

  • All visit goals have been mapped out, four goals have been defined: does a guest come for coffee, lunch, drinks or dinner?

  • A time block is available for each visit goal: coffee is half an hour, lunch and drinks are three quarters of an hour or an hour and dinner is an hour and a half.

  • All time blocks with a destination have a price tag. For that price you also get something sweet witch ‘coffee’, good water and a second round of hot drinks, with the ‘drink’ you get up to three drinks and a snack, and the lunch and dinner package are also generously composed.

(from https://wouterverkerk.nl/gastvrijheid/perspectief-de-terrassen-mogen-bijna-weer-open-wat-is-je-terrasplan/)

15. Rent even scarcer tables instead of chairs

This idea goes a step further. If you are allowed to sit at a table with a maximum of 4, a table where only 1 person sits is really a loss. Do you only allow tables of 4 to be booked for groups of 4? Or if someone wants to sit there alone or in couple, can you ask the price for 4 to compensate for the loss of the empty chairs? Can you think of something to attract households of 4 or more people living together?

I know. These are challenging ideas. We live in challenging times. You often hear that crises are opportunities. That is, of course, a slogan. But is it also a hollow slogan? I don’t think so. Grab your chance. Now is the right time to innovate. Try things out. Have a good time. Because your business is going to be all right!

Pierre Christiaens.
Contact me: christiaens@symoparasols.com

Read more about hospitality in times of Corona / Covid 19 ?

Delen: Verspreid de boodschap, niet het virus.

Pierre Christiaens
Contacteer mij: christiaens @ symoparasols.com https://symoparasols.com

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