Future Learnings from Hope & Sesame
Faced with closing their bar Hope & Sesame in south China in January 2020, owners Andrew and Bastien share useful tips on how they implemented a successful strategy that enabled them to keep their business afloat during difficult times.
Faced with issues of rent, salary, perishable goods, tax and more, we were despairing at the dire situation. To combat this challenge, we carefully planned out a strategy allowing us to both pay our full rent, and most importantly, pay our staff their full salary. Now, as the situation improves in China and number of new cases drop, we reflect on our journey and how we hope to come out the other end, stronger than ever.
Full Lockdown – What Next?
Around 6 weeks into full lockdown, confirmed cases began to plateau and drop significantly. Restaurants and cafes were slowly allowed to open with 50% of the usual capacity, with strict measures of temperature and travelling history checks at the door implemented. However, other venues, including nightclubs and bars, were not considered “daily essential activities” and therefore, we remained closed.
Thanks to our precisely executed plan, we remained in a financially stable position. We took several actions and set out strategies for revenue, marketing, and cost-saving initiatives.
This included a few steps:
- Production of new merchandise such as t-shirts, caps and bartending tools;
- Delivery of our tinned cocktails with a personal handwritten postcard from us. We worked with freelance designers on the packaging which was a good way to set the product apart;
- Partnering with restaurants, alcohol brands, delivery services and influencers more closely;
- Lowering our prices as people will expect cheaper options via delivery service;
- Easing the pressure on cash flow by implementing a split staff salary;
- Introducing consultancy, where possible;
- Investigating business loans and subsidiaries that our business was eligible for. After all, nobody will let you know this, you must take the initiative to find out;
- Trying to do something for the community at this time as it’s not all about the money. For instance, we live streaming cocktail classes and enhanced our internal training.
Our takeaway cocktail sales accounted for around 20-30% of our regular income, with 5% additional income coming from merchandise sales. We managed to pay all of our employees in full, pay our entire rent and our suppliers. However, we as owners have forgone all profits.
A New Beginning
Hope & Sesame did reopen recently, eight weeks since lockdown began, along with nightclubs and other entertainment venues aside from cinemas. At this point, we’re focused on bringing our customers back through the door, making up for lost time. We are also reflecting on how our business should be run moving forward. As small business owners, although we are starting to see light at the end of the tunnel, there is another battle looming over us - consumer confidence.
Currently, most venues are allowed to reopen with strict temperature and travelling history checks on customers, and lives will be returning to normal, including work schedules and weekend activities. However, people are cautious about returning to bars and nightclubs.
Going forward we will be taking a range of actions which will include revenue driven initiatives, marketing initiatives, and importantly, safety precautions.
- Launching a new brunch and dinner menu
- Adding non-alcoholic drinks to our new menu
- Maintaining takeaway cocktail revenue stream
- Creating a special in-bar experience which can be captured by customers and create a major talking point
- Inviting influencers and media to cover the relaunch
- Continuing to create live video content as this becomes the new norm for us.
- To not over promote when we reopen, we must remain compassionate and respectful of those who have suffered during this time.
We’re also introducing safety precautions, which include:
- Spatial separation between tables
- Suspension of shared products
- Customer checks at door
- Wearing masks and protective equipment
- Ensuring good sanitation is practiced
- Begin at 50% of usual occupancy
A Thank You to All
We want to thank our loyal customers and brands who have supported us during this unusual time. Also not to mention our team who have been our rock and were exceptionally flexible and understanding amidst the uncertainties.
Stay safe and stay strong!
Hope & Sesame
(Amethy, Marcia, Andrew & Bastien)
- Now is a good time to revisit the structure of the company: streamline tasks and positions, keeping only what is necessary.
- Show gratitude to brands and customers who have supported you during this time.
- Look to support those in your community, whether its supporting medical staff or your neighbor (keeping in mind social distancing regulations)
- Work towards building up a two-month cash flow reserve (calculated by: 80% of your labour cost + 80% of rent + 60% of total supplier cost. Then multiply this total number by 2).
- If reopening, be nimble by creating smaller concepts in smaller venues with low overhead cost.
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