Blog Overview

A hospitality business guide to surviving COVID-19

Staff member standing and holding documents
Brett Smith
5 min read

A hospitality business guide to surviving COVID-19

If you write the word “crisis” in Chinese, there are two characters. One means danger and the other opportunity. 

For hospitality businesses around the world, now is a pretty scary and uncertain time. The challenges of the next few weeks and months are among some of the biggest many will face in their careers, and there is not a business or worker who is unaffected by the knock-on effects of COVID-19.

While safeguarding yourself and your people should be priority number one, smart businesses are already looking for opportunities to better prepare themselves to bounce back stronger, including by investing in better tech to make better decisions.

So, in talking with some of our customers and leaders in the hospitality industry across the globe, we have compiled a list of digital tools, advice and information on Government assistance which can help you get through.

No matter what you do for business, this is an extraordinary and difficult time and while we advise you to consider official websites and information and get personal, professional advice before making any business decisions, we hope this information can help you make sense of the changing situation.

Before we start

In this unpredictable time there are only two certainties which we encourage everyone to follow: listen to the advice of the experts and authorities and protect yourself with good health and hygiene habits. Together, this can help stop the spread of COVID-19 and can help those who are most vulnerable get through and millions of businesses around the world bounce back. 

We are proud of the work you’re doing

The worst in this virus is bringing out the best in the people who work in industries like yours, changing the way you do business overnight sometimes and investing in the people who matter — your employees and your customers — to save as many jobs and offer as many services as possible. We want to support you and your business to come back from this crisis even stronger.

More than ever, businesses like yours need a communications tool to help you and your people stay in touch and informed and we have a few ideas to help.

We celebrate those on the frontline

With the sad and distressing news about vulnerable people coming out of countries across Europe and around the world every day, we are proud of the thousands of healthcare workers who are still doing such an extraordinary job in such unbelievable times. We are proud to support thousands of care home and healthcare workers across the UK and other parts of the world as they take on one of the most important roles during this crisis — caring for the vulnerable.

So remember three things. Stay safe. Stay in touch. Stay calm.

We wish you, your colleagues and families safety, wellness and positivity during these challenging times and we hope you find this ebook useful as you deal with COVID-19.

Get the full guide emailed to you now


Government assistance for hospitality businesses during COVID-19

Amidst these challenges, there is a lot of support for businesses and workers like yours at the moment, so make use of all the help you can get, to get through this challenging period. 

We encourage you to consider some of these options and see if they can help you and your business in the next few weeks and months.

COVID-19 job retention scheme

The UK Government has announced it will pay 80% of people’s wages if their employment is affected by COVID-19, up to £2,500 a month. This is so people who would otherwise have been laid off during this crisis can continue to get the support they need to get through. 

Business rates holiday for hospitality companies

For businesses that are in hospitality, retail and the leisure and entertainment industries, there is a rates holiday available for the 2020-2021 tax year for businesses in England. If your business received a retail discount in the 2019-2020 tax year, that will be reimbursed by your local authority as soon as possible. 

If you run a business in the UK but outside England, we advise you to get in touch with your local authority and see what eligibility criteria apply for you. 


You are eligible for the business rates holiday if:

  • your business is based in England
  • your business is in the retail, hospitality and/or leisure sector

And your business is mainly using your premises:

  • as shops, restaurants, cafes, drinking establishments, cinemas and live music venues
  • for assembly and leisure
  • as hotels, guest and boarding premises and self-catering accommodation

How to access the scheme

There is no action for you right now. This will be applied to your next council tax bill in April 2020. However, local authorities may have to reissue your bill automatically to exclude the business rate charge. They will do this as soon as possible.

Cash grants for hospitality businesses

A series of cash grants are available for retail, leisure and entertainment and hospitality businesses under the UK Government’s Retail and Hospitality Grant Scheme. It gives some of those businesses in those sectors affected by the COVID-19 crisis a cash grant of up to £25,000 per property.*


There are similar criteria for this as there is above, but as always you should check official websites and check in with your local authority to make sure you’re getting the most up-to-date information.

Deferring VAT payments

All businesses will have VAT deferred for three months, running from 20 March 2020 to 30 June 2020. The Government’s advice is that this is automatically applied to all businesses so you won’t have to make an application to access this. If you’re a business which pays its VAT or income tax via direct debit, you should make sure you cancel it.


Help with paying your people while they’re sick

It can be tough covering things when you have sick staff at the best of times, but it’s even more stressful these days. Businesses with fewer than 250 people working there will be able to claim two weeks’ worth of sick pay back from the Government if they have been off work because of COVID-19.

Support for self-employed businesses

For the many business owners who are self-employed, you can apply for assistance to get a cash grant of 80 per cent of your average monthly trading profit over the past three months, capped at £2,500. While this will help businesses such as small restaurant or bar owners, who will often have several people in your team, if your taxable profit above £50,000, you will be excluded from the scheme.


As well as the limits on the number of staff, there are a number of other things to consider:

  • the size of an business is defined as the number of people they employed on 28 February 2020
  • you should maintain records of staff absences and payments, but employees will not need to provide a GP fit note

Loans and finance for businesses affected by COVID-19

There is a loans and finance scheme in place for businesses whose trade has been interrupted by COVID-19. Up to 40 lenders will be able to administer the scheme to businesses like yours, including all the major banks. 

This means businesses like yours could be eligible for access to loans, overdrafts, invoice finance and asset finance of up to £5 million and for up to six years. The Government will cover the interest payments for the first year and any fees levied by your lender, as well as offering a guarantee of 80% (subject to pre-lender cap on claims) to give lenders the confidence to assist you in getting access to finance should you need it. 


How to set your hospitality business up to bounce back

There’s not a business or a person in the world unaffected by COVID-19. While advice from authorities and experts must be followed at all times, we understand many hospitality businesses are struggling and many have had to make incredibly difficult decisions. 

But beyond that, there are opportunities to make a few smarter decisions now to put yourself in a better position to bounce back when normal business trade resumes.

Look after your people

We know this is a really stressful time for everybody working in and around the hospitality sector, especially those who are shift-based workers in your business and face lengthy periods without regular income. While we urge and support Governments helping those affected with survival payments as soon as possible, we also urge you to look after them.

Check in on their mental health, make sure you’re as clear and regular in your communication as you can be. And make sure they know about the abundance of support measures from Governments, charities and other organisations for payments, mental health and other information when they need it the most. 

Your people are the best asset in your business. When you need to bounce back after this crisis, discerning consumers will look for good people and good experiences in your business to spend their money. Remember that while outstanding experiences like meals, accomodation and entertainment is what makes your business work, it’s outstanding people — the ones already working for you — who make that all possible.

We believe the way you treat your people will make or break your business. For our guide in treating people right and making better business decisions, head over to our new blog post here.

Update your employee handbook

The next few weeks could be a great time to review your current policies and procedures to make sure your people are informed of the way you run your business, your expectations of them and how to keep themselves safe while they’re at work.

For tips on how to write a better employee handbook, have a look at our exclusive guide for the hospitality sector here

Free employee handbook

Keep your social media active

A vibrant and active social media channel is a vital part of any employer branding or good hospitality business marketing, but in the challenging times of COVID-19 it is even more important. 

A significant number of the world’s office workers are now working from home and spending even more time online than they normally would, so this is a chance to increase your content output, share information about changes to your business and connect with those who are looking for something to stop them scrolling right now.

If you’ve got a good news story — whatever that might be — share it. Like the vision of Italians singing with each other on their balconies amid social isolation, good stories is what the world desperately needs right now.

For your tips to maximise social media for your restaurant, download our exclusive guide here.

Phone in hand

Get your menu back to basics

If you are having to make do with fewer hours and fewer people for the next little while, think about reducing your menu options to a few basics and do them well. Perhaps you’ve got a signature dish or special that none of your competitors can master or maybe you have to get creative with ingredients until the shops are restocked. 

Either way, getting back to basics can save time and money and help you prepare to go back full scale once the crisis passes.

We’ve got a guide on how to optimise your time and better manage your restaurant’s costs — take a look at our recent blog here.

Use delivery partners

If you think about more of the world’s population staying from home for longer than they normally would — and stresses at supermarkets everywhere, people are likely to run out of inspiration for cooking. If medical advice allows it, make sure you’re registered with as many delivery partners as you can, especially the ones which are now practising safe social distancing by minimising contact with customers at their front door.

Dining in your restaurant, bar or cafe might be on hold for now but getting your goods to people in their homes is a way to keep things ticking over until you can bounce back.

We have some exclusive research about the changing habits of diners — and people’s use of delivery partners — take a look at the data here to see what it means for your business. 

Scooter illustration

Use a loyalty program

Look after the people who are using your business at the moment and reward their loyalty. Maybe it’s a discount code if they order using a delivery partner, or having their tenth order free. Package up a deal that acknowledges a customer’s loyalty now, rewards them for it and sets them up to be an ambassador for you later. Thanking people for supporting your business now will pay big dividends once the market bounces back after COVID-19, so look after your loyal fans!

Look at your staff growth/development plans

Your people are the best asset in your business. And a recent survey we conducted with our friends at the Hotel, Restaurant and Catering Show — the biggest UK hospitality survey — shows 50 per cent of hospitality workers think you should invest more in training and development for their careers. 

Get your copy of the UK hospitality survey

Over the next few weeks, use the opportunity to ensure you’re thinking about ways to keep your people up to date with the latest trends and innovations, that all safety requirements and qualifications are complied with (and up to date in Planday) and that everyone who works for you has a chance to grow and shape their career.

It’s an essential part of good employee engagement, it will help keep your best people for longer and will make a real and positive difference to your business in the long run.

You can download your how-to guide at best-practice employee engagement here.

Stay safe. Stay informed. Stay in touch.

These are the most important things you can do right now to help your business — and the people who work for you — to get through.

A woman

How we can help

Planday is a communications tool to help you and your people stay in touch and informed. As COVID-19 continues to challenge the way we work and the situation changes rapidly, here are a few key features we suggest you use in this period. 

Shift swaps, changes and flexibility

As the situation with COVID-19 changes rapidly, businesses like yours will need to be as quick and agile as possible, understanding that your staff’s availability can change in an instant. For our tips on managing this quickly and simply, read here.

The man is writing a message on the phone

Quick templates to manage unexpected changes

No two days will likely be the same in the coming days and weeks, but using templates will help you get a head-start on whatever changes are thrown your way. Have a look at how some of our templates can help you schedule smarter.

Trigger notifications to instantly alert your employees

When things change quickly, it is vital to keep your people informed. Planday lets you send notifications and updates to your staff quickly, with notifications to make sure everyone gets the message at the same time. See how here.

*Please note: SMS messages may incur additional fees

A phone

Communicate with everyone in one go

It is more important than ever to make sure everyone is informed and no one misses any message. Planday helps you communicate with all your employees in one go. You can read more about it here.

Optimised scheduling: get the right person in the right place

Now is more important than ever to make sure you have the right people in the right place at the right time. To see how Planday helps you schedule by position so you have the right person every time, see here.


We support you

Look after yourself. Look after your people. 

We know this is a really tough time for a lot of people and the challenge of living in the COVID-19 crisis changes every day. We are proud to help thousands of UK businesses as a communications tool that brings your team together in tough times like this.

We encourage you all to continue to monitor and follow the advice of medical and scientific experts - to stay safe and look after each other as we face this global crisis together. 

We wish you, your colleagues and families safety, wellness and positivity during these challenging times.

The woman is drinking coffee


This piece is general in nature and should not be taken as professional, legal or qualified advice. Before taking any action at this time, we urge you to read the terms and conditions of each of the relevant agencies and seek your own specific professional advice before making any business decision. All information has been sourced from Government agencies and websites and links are contained within. Information was sourced and up to date as at 27 March 2020 local time. 

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