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Hospitality – the secret to success

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The lockdown imposed on the hospitality sector (restaurants/ bars/ cafes) will be lifted partially lifted on 16 March; it is time for these owners to reconsider many issues.

The situation will not be as easy as it was before the pandemic and lockdowns. The operators require added care and increased managerial skills.

With the summer holidays approaching and for those of us who still have some money to spend, it is the time of year when we tend to go out more often.

Due to the difficult and unknown financial times we are going through, all sorts of businesses are trying to adjust to grabbing a part of this limited spending power.

I thought it would be well worth the exercise to examine the reason behind businesses’ success or failures like bars and restaurants.

The reasons are many, and of course, each business has its own causes of success versus failure.

Putting aside the many theories by economists, academics and of course our know-it-all MPs, it boils down to the following:

  • Prices should be compared with quality and service.  There is an attitude of “since I offer low prices, I can behave as I like”. Success brings out this sort of attitude, especially in the service industry. However, experience has shown that although the price is important, it is not the end of the story. There is the example of Platres where a hotel restaurant charged €70 p.p. for a meal, whereas the others €20 p.p. Yet the expensive one has a queue of waiting customers and the cheaper ones are struggling.
  • Dedicated staff who know the particular business and have the right character for the job is a major plus. Notwithstanding the owner’s directions, the staff have a mind of their own. I compare some waiters at Paphos harbour, not speaking Greek, smoking, and chatting amongst themselves, with another restaurant at Pissouri. The owner and his three children are all over you and offer complimentary drinks and sweets. It is not a matter of getting something for free, but more of having a most responsible and “family” spirited team. Similarly, I know of a Sotira restaurant in the Famagusta district, which is family-run and has a long queue to book.
  • Cash is king, especially nowadays, so those developers/property owners who promptly deal with customers’ and buyers’ comments have a good chance of success, bearing in mind that existing residents and clients introduce a good percentage of new buyers (approximately 10-15%).
  • After-sales service is crucial in small countries such as ours, where “word of mouth” can work for or against you. Saying that not-so-proper customers may exploit a “proper” entrepreneur. Upon delivery of his house, one client of ours fiddled with the pressure system and promptly reported that it was broken. “Playing the Fool”, as we say in Greek, we replaced the pump, as we did with the sewage system, which was blocked by the buyer’s tenants who had thrown all sort of items down the toilet, including towels.
  • Price is not everything, although it is understandable at this time where every cent counts. But no one works at a loss. Trying to get what appears to be an “opportunity” may not be so in the end.
  • What is of primary importance is knowing one’s job. There is no need to copy another successful business just because you think you can do the same. It does not always work the same for everyone. Personality, hard work and a happy face (notwithstanding one’s problems) is part of the game.
  • A friend of our office (an operator) told us, “if someone asks you how you are doing, you reply, thank God we are okay”.  Do not show off by replying that we are doing excellent and “I have bought many properties”; that may sound a bit provocative. Nor should you say that you are “suffering”, without reason – pity is the last reason to attract clients which you need.
  • Honesty is the beginning and the end of everything, but don’t think that honesty is a simple word. Being honest and having no money to feed oneself or family is one thing and being a person without such a problem in terms of honesty is another.  If one is to examine the increase in the number of thefts, it explains how things are. “Being honest is at times a luxury that few can afford,” said Nelson Mandela.