There will surely be many articles reflecting upon the two-year anniversary of the global pandemic. Many will recount the data—the financial impact, case counts, and the human loss, while other articles are sure to debate the policies and choices made over the last two years under two different administrations.
I hope we can agree upon this one unifying insight—industries that were deemed as “non-essential” we’ve discovered are indeed essential. The opening lyrics to the classic song “American Pie” today sound oddly relatable. It was the day the music died.
In March of 2020, our communities that were once filled with vibrancy and energy were eerily silent, and to this day still struggle to regain what was lost. In an effort to flatten the curve, we unintentionally flat-lined our communities. The millions of hospitality frontline workers that were the heartbeat of the community were sent home. And when the doors closed across the country, so did the places that provided the emotional nourishment for our souls.
Yet, when the doors finally reopened, why have so many been slow to walk back into the places that provided so much joy?
The fear and uncertainty, fueled by a new language of COVID, mesmerized us but also paralyzed us. It drew us in like moths to a light. Looking back, it was wartime language—quarantined, isolation, lockdowns, and shutdowns. Did anyone else google what “shelter in place” meant? Instead of being united against a common enemy, COVID made us more divided with well-intended differences on closures, masking, and vaccines. The science, which typically is clear and definitive was suddenly blurry, uncertain, and unsettling. Every day seemed to become gloomier, and every day became quieter and stiller.
And we wonder why so many people were too scared to leave their homes back then ….
Finally, guests began to venture out, they showed up angrier as expectations were high and patience was low, and at times tempers flared. The experiences they’ve come back to aren’t the same and quite frankly, many are just not joyful anymore.
And now we wonder why they don’t come back again?
Fast forward to the present, March 2022. There’s a graveyard of businesses that didn’t make it, those that barely survived, and the few lucky ones that thrived. As operators, COVID feels like a thing of past, ancient history in the rearview mirror. In some regards, that’s a really good thing. While we don’t want to lose perspective of how far we’ve come, the journey is far from over when it comes to rekindling and delivering the lost joy that guests are craving beyond the food on the menus.
Ask yourself, are you delivering an experience that is worth it? The importance of brand is a concept that with all of the focus on performance marketing world, we’ve sort of left behind. With inflationary times and less money in peoples’ pockets, consumers will have to make choices about where to spend their money. Delivering that reliable and joyful experience will be the difference in whether you are chosen or not. It’s just that simple.