Honesty and transparency are vital for the next generation of bar owners

Own up to errors: being accountable for your actions may be difficult but it’s for the best, according to Sacha Lord (right)
Own up to errors: being accountable for your actions may be difficult but it’s for the best, according to Sacha Lord (right)

Related tags coronavirus Alcoholic beverage Beer Public house Staff

The past seven days have shown us the importance of having open and honest dialogues with those around you.

They’ve also taught us that when things do go wrong or mistakes are made, which they inevitably are, that owning up, being accountable for your actions and taking responsibility may be a difficult admission to make – but it’s one that is best for the business and for your team. 

In my 25 years in the night-time economy, I’ve come across countless challenging situations. I’ve made bad judgements myself, and my team have made their own bad decisions but, ultimately, we’ve worked together to get through them and come out stronger for it.

This crisis has seen its fair share of bad calls. We all know stories of the chains that didn’t particularly weather the storm very well at the start or who chose to adopt a head-in-the-sand approach, and I’m still hearing from pubs and bars that are being hassled by their landlords for rent – most of whom are big parent companies – with no leeway given to defer payments. In fact, last week, I personally carried out some research and found that in Greater Manchester alone, 50% of businesses across the night-time economy will be required to pay full rent for June despite being closed. 

However, for all the horror stories, there are many more examples of the good work being done across the sector, and of the companies that are adapting to difficult situations and taking care of their teams during this crisis. 

Didsbury Gin is one clear example of this. The brand announced it was halting drinks production at the start of the pandemic to make sanitiser for the police and NHS and, as a team, has already made the equivalent of 3m bottles. I also know that the volunteer site Furlonteer.com has received countless applications from furloughed bar staff who want to take part in volunteering to give back to the community during the crisis.

But, as we move forward, the sense of teamwork will be pushed to its limit.  

I know, in Greater Manchester alone, 93% of bars have furloughed staff, rather than jump head first and make immediate job losses in the face of the pandemic and, while we wait to understand more about the imminent changes to the scheme as a sector, we know there will undoubtedly be job losses in the coming months. 

It’s in these situations that I’d argue, as with good news, it’s important to share the tough news and be as open as possible with teams as you make these decisions. While delivering this news will be hard, the likelihood is that many staff will already be aware of the situation and the uncertainty the business is facing, which will allow for brutally honest conversations around the potential for reduced or part-time hours. 

I’d also implore operators who are considering job losses to encourage their furloughed staff to use this time wisely to retrain or network in sectors that they may wish to enter (we know many hospitality employees use the sector as stop gap after university), and for those who do dream of working their way up to be bar owners, to be open with them and take them on this difficult journey with you.

Involving them in the hard decisions and difficulties faced in business will help them to become the best managers of the future.

I can only hope that there is elbow room given to the sector in terms of the furlough scheme support​ as it winds down and we can reduce as many redundancies as possible. But as this pandemic has shown, while hoping for the best, preparing for the worst means we can position ourselves to face bad news head-on when it hits, with the strength and courage that the pub industry shows on an annual basis in the face adversity. 

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