Following the coronavirus pandemic outbreak and government guidance, we have closed Friends House temporarily. This was to protect our staff and customers. Two months into lockdown, the government is now talking about reopening businesses on a phased approach. However, this will be a real challenge for the hospitality industry and venues in general. How will people be able to meet safely?
Nicola Purdy, Head of Service Delivery at Friends House, tells us how the team is planning to reopen the venue. From social distancing to cleaning, catering, and safety, find out how Friends House is being proactive and thinking about the solutions needed to welcome customers back.
What do you think will be the biggest challenges to Friends House adapting to new ways of meeting?
We are renowned for our friendly and welcoming service, so adjusting to social distancing will be a challenge for our teams. But we also know this will be a challenge for our customers and they will want to be confident that we are providing a safe place to meet. This is why we are working on a new 'Meeting together, apart' day delegate package, which will help our staff and customers interact safely.
We are considering the following;
- Examples of what spaces might look like (based on government guidance) and what measures will be in place,
- Possible offering of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for delegates that could be purchased prior to arrival,
- Working with our AV professionals to find tailored solutions that will enable social distancing,
- Simplify registration that will reduce the need for contact,
- Create individually packaged catering for delegates, such as Bento boxes.
Friends House has already won an award for its cleaning processes (2019 Loo of the Year Award) but which extra cleaning processes do you plan to introduce?
We are going to ensure Friends House is fully deep cleaned prior to reopening. We will also be putting extra processes in place to ensure that we are even cleaner than usual. On top of our regular cleaning regime, we are considering;
- Regular sanitisation of handrails, door handles, tables, hard surfaces and lift panels,
- All restrooms to be cleaned hourly.
Will you switch to a different type of cleaning product?
We are researching new products now, and there are many entering the market at this time. The products we will choose will meet these three criteria:
- Effectiveness in relation to COVID-19 and government guidance,
- Respect of the environment,
- Reflection of our values in relation to the supply chain.
Will you provide delegates with some PPE equipment?
Hand sanitising gel will be readily available at reception, in the toilets, and meeting rooms. As part of our ‘Meeting together, apart’ day delegate package, we are working on a PPE option for clients to add to their booking. I am also keen to know what you would like us to provide to help yourself and your delegates feel safe when meeting. If you would like to share your thoughts, please send an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And what about staff, how will they be protected?
Our staff's wellbeing is at the heart of everything we do. We will continue to put their safety first and will only allow them to return to work when it is safe to do so. When they do return to work, we will ensure that they have the appropriate PPE (face masks, gloves, and aprons as a minimum). For those in public-facing areas, we will install plexiglass barriers and will only be accepting cash at one till point. We are planning to check the staff's temperature on arrival and if for any reason they are unwell, they will be sent home on full pay.
Many organisers like to visit a venue before making a booking. As it is not possible anymore, how will you help them?
We offer a virtual tour of the rooms on our website. We can also arrange show rounds video calls. We talk you through the virtual tour so we can plan the space together.
How will you implement social distancing in the venue?
It is important that everyone coming to the venue feels safe and knows what to expect. We are going to be installing clear signage specifying social distancing measures. We are also planning to send all organisers an information pack before arrival so that they, and their delegates, know what to expect and how to navigate the venue with ease.
And what about breaks, and catering in general. How will you make sure people stay apart?
We are working on a new menu which will allow you to experience the same high-quality food that you are used to from us. Food items would be individually packaged, in bento boxes for example. As you would expect from us, we will be sourcing the most sustainable packaging available on the market.
Is that not going to create more waste?
We will make sure that we are using eco-friendly packaging that has been made from recycled material and is recyclable or fully compostable. We will refrain from using single-use plastic. You can book in confidence knowing that your event will have the least possible environmental impact.
So, why should organisers continue to come to Friends House?
Organisers know that we are a welcoming, sustainable and responsible venue, which can be trusted to place safety before profit. Our team will do everything they can to ensure we offer the same excellent service you have always received. Organisers will be able to tell their delegates that the venue will be clean, with measures in place that will keep them safe.
One last thought for our customers?
I cannot wait to get back to some sense of normality. I do miss my team and I know they miss each other. We all miss our customers too.
I hope we can open our doors and welcome everyone back to Friends House very soon.