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How the pandemic has taught us some vital lessons personally, professionally and as an industry

PUBLISHED: 14/12/2020

There’s no doubt that the last eight months have been the most challenging that almost every business owner will have ever experienced. With the initial lockdown, reopening of the hospitality industry, followed by the second wave (and just announced as I was completing this article – a second lockdown!) and ever-changing restrictions, it’s truly been a rollercoaster.

Whilst it’s important to look forward and focus on the future of the business, this crisis has been part of our history and some important lessons have been learnt. Not only by myself as managing director of Chiller Box, but as a business and for the wider industry. As a business owner, it is good to reflect back on this time and think about what we can do to adapt.

The hardest thing about running the business in the middle of this crisis was the unknown. At first, we didn’t know what lockdown meant, we were worried about the safety of our families, employees and clients and the uncertainty around how long this situation would last was extremely daunting. Getting our heads round all of this was quite a battle and I think we experienced every single emotion possible in those first few months.

Always learning to adapt

Learning to keep my team motivated in the darkest of times was another very important element for me. I don’t think I have ever worked as hard as I did those first few months. My time was spent reading all the latest national updates, industry press and tapping into the many webinars that were being run to inspire us, as well as keeping in contact with our clients to keep projects moving where we could. Not only did I keep in touch with staff on a one to one basis, we also had regular team updates via Zoom. I would update everyone on my learnings which I affectionately called ‘the view from the bridge’. For me, it was really important that I gave an honest and upfront view of how things looked for hospitality but I remained positive so that our team felt inspired by what they were hearing and not afraid.

When it comes to the wider hospitality industry, I’ve learnt how resilient and innovative this sector is here in the UK. People like Kate Nicholls at UK Hospitality have been so instrumental in driving the important messages forward. Hospitality has been brought to the forefront of the Government’s agenda more than ever and consumers have never valued the industry more.

There have been so many positive and heart-warming stories coming out from individual people and businesses and these should all be celebrated. Whilst I’ve always known hospitality was special, the pandemic has truly highlighted how lucky we are to support this industry and work with such inspiring people.

When it comes to the lessons we’ve learnt about our business, we have found that we are extremely resilient too. It would have been easier to sit with our heads in our hands and walk away from some of the difficulties. But we haven’t. We have adapted and taken onboard the challenges and faced each one head on. It’s strange but this crisis has given me a real fire in my belly to push the business forward, look at our overall strategy, mix things up and do things differently. This might never have happened without the pandemic so whilst I wish it had never happened, you’ve got to look at these challenges and work with them.

One thing I have discovered about myself is that I clearly like a challenge. There is no fun staying in calm waters. I’ve heard people say the phrase “We are all in the same boat” but I don’t believe this is true; I think we are all riding the same storm. Some businesses are riding the waves better than others but you have to face the choppy waters and high seas head on.

What’s next for Chiller Box?

The pandemic has given us the chance to pause our marketing strategy and then look at it again with fresh eyes. Over the last few months, we’ve worked hard to plan for the future and without COVID-19 we may not have explored this opportunity to change. This crisis isn’t going to beat us and we are going to be ready to take on this new world in a different way as hospitality bounces back stronger than ever. I am excited about the new opportunities it may bring us and the future of Chiller Box.

For anyone already running a business or considering starting, my advice for coping through challenging times is to look at your costs and keep them lean, keep talking to your staff so they remain motivated and always look after your customers.

Find out more about us

If you would like to talk to us about an upcoming project, then please use the contact us form. We are commercial kitchen designers, refrigeration and catering equipment specialists as well air conditioning installers for restaurants, bars, pubs, cafes, hotels, schools, offices and staff restaurants across the UK. Based in London, we provide a one-stop-shop business solution to our hospitality, education, public and cost sector clients.