Looking back on a whirlwind 2020…

Dale J. Venturini
President/CEO, RI Hospitality Association

At the dawn of the new decade, we could have never guessed how the year ahead of us was going to unfold. With each New Year comes a sense of hope, relief and revitalization that motivates us to set goals, work harder, break bad habits and create the framework for a positive and productive year ahead. This year, however, we were quickly derailed when on January 21st, the first American COVID-19 case was confirmed in Washington State. Within a mere matter of weeks, our lives were flipped upside down and nobody could predict for how long. We battled through the shutdown, reinvented the way we serve our customers, and even enjoyed some semblance of normalcy when restrictions on our industry were eased. Now, COVID cases are back on the rise and restrictions are slowly being re-implemented. As we brace for this surge and the winter weather, hospitality business owners and industry workers can take solace in the lessons we learned and steps we took at the onset of the pandemic that leave us better equipped to handle this next phase.

To the restaurant owners and hotel operators who are feeling overwhelmed having to prepare for a harsh winter, ingenuity and creativity are key. Right now, we have the opportunity to ask ourselves some very important questions: “how can I make the best of a bad situation? What can I do to keep my business afloat that I have not tried in the past? What have I seen my peers doing to offset the difficulties that arise as a result of heightened restrictions?”

Whether you own a counter-service burger bar, or a five-star restaurant, there are ways to deviate from your traditional business model to introduce new, exciting options that provide value to your customers and create a more reliable cash-flow to support you, your business and your staff. From offering curbside takeout and delivery, to creating package deals and rewards systems, we have been creative in our ability to incentivize customers to support our restaurants.

As for hotel operators, while travel bans are disruptive to occupancy numbers, targeting residents of states that are not on the travel ban list, promoting the idea of a “staycation” to locals, and promoting your hotel as a safe, clean and convenient option for overnight accommodations are all ways to keep your business viable.

This year has taken an enormous emotional toll on those tied to our industry, and unfortunately, it seems we are not quite out of the woods yet. We are likely going to see more hospitality businesses close down permanently, more jobs lost and revenue numbers continue to drop across the board. The things we do now to mitigate those losses, while seemingly insignificant at times, are our industry’s lifeline for the foreseeable future. If you have the bandwidth to support your peers, please do so…at this point, our top priorities are the stabilization and survival of our industry, and protecting the livelihood of the thousands of workers who depend on it to provide for themselves and their families.

The RI Hospitality Association remains steadfast in its commitment to advocating on behalf of our industry and its workers. From offering workforce education and training opportunities through the RI Hospitality Education Foundation, to maintaining the RI Hospitality Employee Relief Fund and promoting the #BYOBlanket Campaign, we continue to provide the resources that our community needs now more than ever.

Stay strong, we will get through this together.