Where to start? Possibly with a drink.
We had big plans for the year 2020. It was all mapped out in our strategic plan which was named our “2020 Vision”. Cheesy name, but it seemed too perfect not to use. We now think that it may have been so perfect that it tempted fate and actually created a global pandemic! We’re not superstitious, but after the year we’ve had we decided to name our current document our “Strategic Plan”. Let’s keep things simple from now on.
Like so many companies, we started the year on a high. Our business had experienced several years of growth and we employed two new team members to keep up with the customer service demands.
Before the first lockdown we were able to leverage our strong supply chain to secure a consignment of hand sanitiser during the national shortage. It didn’t last long! On top of sending it out to bowling centres across the UK and Ireland, we were supplying it to our team and their families, bowling centre staff for their families and we had requests from lots of other businesses outside of the industry.
Start of lockdown
The start of the pandemic was daunting for everyone. Truly unchartered territory. People had fears for their friends and families, their staff, their business and customers. What to worry about first?
Before the support packages were announced (or maybe even written!) it was painfully stressful. Is this the end of bowling as we know it? What would that mean?… How long can we look after our staff, and at what point do we need to put the health of the business first? Horrible questions that nobody had expected, or wanted.
We told the staff early on that family and health comes first. We supported them to do whatever they felt they needed to do, for some that meant isolating early with their high-risk family members. We reinforced that with the message that we are a people over profit company. Our ability to provide financial stability for our team gave us at least one easy and rewarding business decision to make early on. Our team adjusted incredibly well, we’re very grateful for their dedication to supporting us to come back stronger. We’re also proud of Graham who, whilst guiding the leadership team through one of the most challenging periods in history, managed to find the time to volunteer with his wife to pack thousands of meals for the NHS.
During this time we tried to do what we could to support our customers. Subscribers to our email newsletter received MP letter templates, social media customer engagement content, re-opening operational strategies and whatever we could find to support. Brunswick set up a dedicated page with resources to re-open & Brunswick Sync clients had access to digital signage files through the cloud.
You can sign up to our newsletter here – Don’t worry, we only use it when we have something useful to say!
Strike Back at Covid 19
Hollywood Bowl Group shared their re-opening protocols early on to help the industry to meet a standard and make the case for re-opening. We supply and support equipment in a diverse range of venues such as a Virgin Money bank in Sheffield and student accommodation in Manchester (Shown above). The protocols were a great point to work from, but we were fielding a lot of questions as it wasn’t a one cap fits all solution. There were a lot of people with opinions, operators, associations and safety consultants but ultimately the power rested with local authorities who weren’t coming from a unified, informed position. A very frustrating situation for all.
The industry leaders came together in a way that has never been seen before. The protocols were adjusted and accepted by BALPPA (The British Association of Leisure Parks, Piers and Attractions) to be published as guidance by UKHospitality who represented the whole of the hospitality sector to government.
We created our own catalogue of products to help bowling centres to re-open, including bowling themed products to help operators to preserve their environment – such as our bowling ball themed floor stickers and our pin shaped hands-free door openers which reduce contact points.
Virtually all of the products we sourced were from existing manufacturing partners. We were pleased to be able to give this small gesture of support to our supply chain, and grateful to all of the customers who supported us.
Some of our Strike Back at Covid19 range are still available, view the catalogue here.
The biggest shock to the system was when our industry got kicked by government whilst it was already on its knees.
Everyone was working towards August 1st re-opening. Staff had been taken off furlough in advance to be refreshed on how to do jobs that some had now spent more time not doing, than doing. Not to mention all of the new covid secure procedures that had to be put in place.
Operators had to invest into their facilities, their teams, their re-launch marketing and fill up their fridges with food & drinks. Then at the final hour, lunch time the day before opening – Boris announces a last-minute u-turn for indoor leisure. Throwing us under the bus in a last-minute political move.
This seemed to be the watershed moment. I would like to think that all future kicks to the groin will be protected by the resilience created by this almighty blow. Loosing cash and not being able to do your job now seems to be water off the duck’s back in the aftermath of that Friday.
Thanks for reading – We will be publishing more posts from this series in the coming weeks.