As part of our 'Spotlight on...' series, we caught up with Kevin Charity, Chief Executive Officer at The Coaching Inn Group to learn about how he has led his team during the Covid-19 pandemic, and what new procedures he has implemented to protect his people.

How are you preparing your team to bounce back to work post lockdown?

Preparations have been given a great deal of consideration. After a 15 week period of absence, good work practices can soon start to be forgotten.  Firstly, we invited each member of our teams to a “return to work interview”, this has been on a one-to-one basis and covers many areas including what their personal position is on returning. We have also carried out new Covid19 specific training on our new practices, plus a re-cap training on service standards, health & hygiene and legislation. Mental health has always been important to us and everyone has access to our inhouse wellbeing person and can get professional advice through “Hospitality Action” for which we subscribe every member of our team to.

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What measures have you put in place to ensure the safety of your team while they are at work?

Each member of the team is temperature checked on arrival, before starting work.  If there is any sign of a high temperature then we will ask them to self-isolate until future investigation or testing is carried out, this is on full pay. Full PPE is supplied for them to use; however, we have not insisted on its use, It’s very much down to the individual. Work rotas are planned to allow the same team to work the same shifts, reducing cross over of people. Lots of signage is in place to help guide distancing at workstations. This allows everyone to keep focussed. Transparent screens have been installed to desks and counters to help reduce direct face to face contact, and regular cleaning schedules undertaken. We have had to totally rethink how we clean and sanitise a guest bedroom

How important is community to your business? Will you implement any new initiatives to help drive community engagement post-lockdown?

We have always considered ourselves as the heart of the community. Our sites have many functions facilities which tend to work well for family and community events. Now that our teams are back to work, they wanted to thank front line workers for having our backs whilst in lockdown. They have, therefore, offered our staff discount rates to be extended to all NHS, care/nursing home workers and blue lighters. This is on all food and overnight stays. We want to give back to our local communities if we can.

Reports have shown that customers will be looking to feel safe and protected in hospitality establishments. What measures have you taken to deliver these expectations without hindering the charm of the environment and experience?

One way systems, screens between tables, screens over desks and counters, hand sanitiser at all key points, card payment only to take always the handling of cash, and an order and pay App to cut down on unnecessary interaction, the list goes on. Unfortunately, this does have an impact on the charm and atmosphere, but we have instructed everyone to show the best customer service they can whenever they can, just a simple welcoming smile often works. We have received lots of positive feedback from customers saying they have felt safe whilst visiting our venues. They especially like our Covid Safe Champions whose constant jobs is to sanitise every possible touch point and surfaces. We have had many comments on the simple fact they can see door handles etc being cleaned and sanitised up to three or four times during their visit.

Are there any suppliers, individuals, or organisations which you feel have gone above and beyond to help you and your staff during lockdown and/or to prepare for re-opening?

Our suppliers have all been terrific, going out of their way to help us re-stock and get fully prepared. Matthew Clarke have been faultless, Ashleigh signs have gone above and beyond helping produce our new safety signage and screens, Chefs Table Company have given us personal service which was outstanding. The organisation that has really impressed me is UK-Hospitality, of whom we are members. Kate Nicholls has never stopped fighting our industry’s corner with various government departments. She has managed to get the government to take hospitality very seriously and give it the consideration it needed; I am not sure how things would have turned out without her.

 For more support and advice surrounding one of the most important resources in hospitality, people, visit our 'Spotlight on... People' page.