How creativity is key to hospitality industry’s bounce back

Pivot.. pivot… PIVOT!!! Everyone remembers the episode in Friends when Ross, Rachel and Chandler are trying to get the couch up the stairs and Ross is shouting “Pivot” to no avail! Well that is exactly what the hospitality industry is going through at the moment! We are holding the future of our industry in our hands, stuck on a corner, knowing we have to pivot but not entirely sure how to do it! So what is a pivot? A pivot is when a company makes a change to its business model after realising that they are unable to service the market in its current format.

So how do we accomplish that?

I spoke to a number of companies this week to check in how they are adapting and I was delighted to get such a positive response. For example, I spoke to senior management in Boojum and they told me how they decided early on to meet the challenge head-on. They left a small number of stores open for delivery only as well as click and collect and adapted the layout of all their kitchens to create a new workflow that kept the staff a safe distance apart while not affecting productivity. They are now looking at reopening more stores with the same template. Boojum also introduced initiatives for staff that were temporarily laid off, one of which was a free daily meal! This is a fantastic idea as it kept staff engaged with the brand while not working and highlighted to the staff how they are valued by management.

This echoes reports that I am getting when I speak to people in the Quick Service Restaurant Industry on the high street. Most have pivoted their business to service takeaway and click and collect demand which allows them to remain open and functional while working away in the background figuring out how they are going to manage to return to regular service. Amazingly, some QSR operators who have adapted to take advantage of the demand for home delivery are reporting that their sales figures are level with figures for 2019 with one operator that I spoke to admitting that he was in the middle of opening a new outlet!

What about hotels?

We are seeing that a number of hotels and restaurant are starting to reopen, offering a reduced menu for click and collect and home delivery. Earlier, I spoke to The Castleknock Hotel who is doing just that. They have been busy designing and implementing a new service for their customers which has been a massive success for the hospitality industry. They have adapted the kitchen, implemented new Health & Safety guidelines and also rotated the staff to ensure that social distancing protocols adhered to. By rotating the staff on smaller shifts, it also promotes employee engagement and give the staff a sense of purpose albeit in a limited capacity at present. Now doing a takeout coffee service, they will keep the call and collect model when the Hotel fully reopens and they also hope to expand by adding of a new outdoor area in the coming weeks!

There is a lot to look forward to in the coming weeks as we start to see the ingenuity and resilience of the Hospitality Industry adapt to challenges in the market. There are green shoots starting to spring up so get up off that couch and pivot…


Recruitment in the time of corona

Excel Recruitment CEO Barry Whelan gives his tips for recruitment in a socially distanced world

Even with lockdown potentially (hopefully) coming to a full end in the next few weeks, social distancing and remote working where possible are going to be the way of life for many for the foreseeable future. While things might seem all doom and gloom, there are companies actively hiring and many others planning their recruitment needs for when restrictions ease and life returns to its new normal. Whether you’re looking for a longterm leader to join your business or for an immediate scale-up of staff to meet extra demand, below are some tips for employers to help tackle safely shifting your recruitment processes during this time while still finding great talent to join their team.

Do a tech check

There are a huge number of technologies available to facilitate remote working, team meetings and video interviewing, From Zoom to Microsoft teams to Bluejeans, the list is endless. But before you fall down the rabbit hole and rush to invest in tech, assess what you need it for and whether you need it at all. Are your team structured enough that a group email thread will work? What about setting up a Whatsapp group so everyone can stay connected and in the loop? For interviewing new hires, does it need to be a video call or are you comfortable with just a phone interview? As with everything, remote working technology is only valuable if you need it.

Video call confidence

Many employers have embraced video interviews and while it’s great to be able to engage with potential new hires, it’s important to remember that video interviews should be fundamentally similar to in-person interviews. All the advice we’ve been giving to jobseekers about video interviews applies to employers and hiring managers as well. Dress the part, check whatever software and wifi connection you’re using are good to go, make sure you’re in a quiet space and that people know not to disturb you, turn your phone to silent and have a back-up plan should you need it. There are often delays and pauses in the connection that don’t occur face to face so practice not only using the tech but communicating through it.

Ask: who’s doing what?

One of the biggest headaches of remote working is keeping in contact with team members and ensuring everyone is engaged and on the same page. While it may sound obvious, ensuring everyone knows who’s doing what will save a huge amount of time, money and headaches for you and your team. Simple questions such as who’s taking charge of screening at CVs, who’s scheduling interviews/ contacting candidates etc. need to be clarified before the hiring begins. Often this happens organically when the team are all in the office at the same time, but now these details must be discussed ahead of time so everyone’s on the same page. Not only is this important to ensures a smooth running in-house but also improves the candidate’s experience.

Stay engaged with your current team

With everything so up in the air, making considered, thoughtful hiring decisions are now more important than ever. Open clear communications with teams and individuals at all levels of the business means you will be better able to identify where the real gaps and needs in your team are and work to fill these, instead of where you presume the needs are. Developing stronger communication with your team also means you’re in a better position to spot if employees may be unhappy and looking for a move and you can work to address any issues before they start sending CVs out.

Have an onboarding plan

Once you’ve done the hard work of recruiting a role, don’t forget the next crucial part of the process: Onboarding and training your newest team member. It can be quite disconcerting to start a new job at the best of times, let alone in the middle of a global crisis! Depending on your company/ the role, your new hire may be working from home without the opportunity to meet their team/ manager in person or if working in essential services may have a huge amount of information and policies or procedures to absorb. Having a clear training plan ahead of time along with regular check-ins will be key to ensuring your new team member hits the ground running.



New Beginnings

Excel Recruitment’s Commercial Director Jennifer Maher on what it’s like to start new beginnings in a pandemic.
Two months into my new role as Commercial Manager in Excel, coronavirus hit. To say it was a scary way to start a new job is a fairly massive understatement; I had barely learned everyone’s name before I was no longer seeing them in person every day says Jennifer Maher.

Building Excel’s Commercial and Industrial Division was a project I was really looking forward to, but to not be able to go to all the meetings I had arranged with some very well-known and exciting companies made it far more of a challenge than I had anticipated!

Rising to the challenge

Over my twelve years in recruitment, the highlight of any role has been getting out to meet potential clients, spending time onsite with them and learning their business. This is how I have always built relationships with my clients and in many cases, has led to real friendships. Not having the ability to do this was something I was really going to miss and an obstacle I was unsure how to overcome.

Thankfully with the wonders of technology, these meetings have been able to happen, albeit virtually. To be able to keep some sort of normality while nurturing my relationships with my clients is a blessing.

“We are all in this together” has become the slogan for these times and it has proven true over the last few weeks. Clients have, at times, been unsure of next steps, nervous about what was going to happen and how long it may last. I have heard first-hand from many, that knowing they had our back-up put them a little more at ease. The knowledge that we would pull out all the stops to help them in any way possible gave them peace of mind. Many clients came to us to help ensure their workforces that were temporarily laid off were looked after, a goal we achieved in many cases.

The positives

Excel’s reputation for success nationwide in the retail and hospitality industries meant we were able to adapt to what was happening rapidly explains Jennifer Maher. Rather than lose our hospitality and events workforce, we redeployed them into other workspaces like warehousing, logistics, administration etc… while also helping out our clients’ employees by finding them temporary work.

I have always met with all my candidates face to face to learn about them and to ensure I put them into jobs they will do well and be happy. Now the ‘new normal’ means these interviews are telephone / Zoom based. A lot has changed in the past few months, but I’ve found people being more isolated means they are happy to have telephone conversations and are opening up a lot more in terms of their goals and where they want to see their future. This has given me more opportunities to steer them in the right direction, even sometimes in directions they may have never considered before.

Continuing to build

With Excel’s reputation for being professional and trustworthy and our extensive network of clients and candidates, we have been able to break into a new industrial division and place excellent people in various roles. Excel Recruitment has always prided itself on its ability to form new and lasting partnerships with clients and we still work with clients today that first came to us when we opened in 2002. I count us very lucky to have formed new relationships and partnerships during this time and I am confident the new clients that we have gained since the beginning of this pandemic will be clients we will work with for years to come. Going from beginning a brand-new division to three months later, having over 250 temporary candidates on-site nationwide across a large portfolio of clients is something we will be forever grateful for and I am proud of the team for rising to the challenge.

I am looking forward to the days where we can all meet again face-to-face but until then I count myself lucky to be part of such an amazing team of people with a management team who really care for their employees!

As this crisis lifts, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me for any of your requirements across logistics, warehousing, transport, admin, finance or anything else you may need.

retail reopenings, social distancing, retail

Retail’s Return: The reality of retail in a socially distanced world?


To state the obvious, the past couple of months have been strenuous for retail to say the least. It has also been hugely heartening to see the industry, retailers-suppliers-staff and so many more, pull together in putting collective thinking caps on to assist vulnerable customers meet their basic needs as well as getting creative to find new and exciting ways to reach and engage with customers.

Hypothetically speaking

What also has to be commended is the resilience, patience and positivity of our grocery retailers and pharmacies in the face of customers’ fears, fraying frustrations and disregard (whether naïve or intentional) for social distancing guidelines. The Government have released their own “Return to work safely” but at 29 pages, how much of it can actually work in real life?

Retailers in all areas have two big questions at the forefront of their minds, a) how to recoup some of the losses from the last few weeks of physical stores being closed and b) how to keep staff and customers safe while doing it?

What we do know is the measures put in place and valiantly maintained by grocery retailers and pharmacies over the last few weeks will now be the standard. But how much further will that go as retailers, and society, move from the hypothetical to the reality of retail in a socially distanced world?

But how will it actually work?

It’s a proven psychological quirk of human beings that we remember those who break rules or social standards and not those that follow them. As a retailer, suddenly everything about your physical store; the store entrance, the width of aisles, the space near checkouts, the density of people in-store are going to come under intense scrutiny. Is tape on the floors, reduced shopping baskets available and plexiglass screens the extent of what’s needed or only the start? Globally, some interesting solutions are being proposed, with Apple and Best Buy trialling appointment bookings for in-store services while IKEA has enabled virtual queuing and remote kitchen planning sessions. While these obviously use more resources in terms of infrastruture and roll-out, it does remove the stress of retail staff being responsible for enforcing physical distancing in store and have the added benefit of a more personalised, premium service.

Communication breakdowns?

Whatever way shops decide to implement the guidance, communicating the new shopping etiquette to ensure adherence without alienating or frightening customers is going to be critical. In-store, again as has already been proven in the grocery sector, non-verbal/ non-direct communication is equally important – from choice of music to tannoy messages to the type and amount of signage. Messaging needs to be transparent and frequent to reinforce rules to customers. Digital communication has proven critical over the last few weeks as social media has been in many cases the only ‘socialness’ people have. It will continue to be crucial as brands strive to extend their influence in the customer journey beyond just the basics and return the idea of shopping to a pleasure activity, even with social distancing in place.

Retail is and will remain a people-centred business and now more than ever it will be crucial that retailers of all sizes put the needs of people, customers and colleagues at the heart of what you do.