Verandah Bar is just one of 10 venues led by Mr Wills and director Simon Tilley under their hospitality group Tilley & Wills Hotels.
The patron’s experience
Speaking exclusively to MyBusiness, Mr Wills laid out the safety processes each patron goes through to ensure their safety in any of their venues.
On top of the required tracking and tracing at the front door, he said there are sanitiser sheriffs in all hotels of which their main responsibility is looking after high-touchpoint areas.
“Actually, before you get head in the front door, we’ve got areas where people can queue up with the 1.5-metre distance between them... We’ve got hand sanitiser stations at the front door and at all key areas of the hotel,” he said.
“When you walk in the front door, you don’t use a pen and paper. You use a QR code, which scans straight into your own phone so you’re not touching anything else apart from your own phone.
“When you sit down, there’s obviously 1.5 metres between chairs and tables are spread out — social distancing. All tables again have got a digital menu on them with a QR code that goes to the menu for the hotel.
“Your waiter stations have no longer got knives and forks, and salts and peppers and all that sort of stuff. Everything is already pre-wrapped.
“All your sauces have gone from being big communal bottles to individual packets, sachets. Same with salt and peppers.”
Mr Wills said a lot of these measures, particularly the waiter stations and social distancing, were done prior to 23 March when bars got compulsorily shut down as part of the national lockdown.
Now that lockdown is easing, Mr Wills said he’s just added a whole bunch of new layers and then based it on the new guidelines as well as their own learnings and experiences.
Due to the strict health and safety protocols undertaken, he hasn’t applied for the NSW government’s COVID Safe Badge.
“Most of our customers in the city, they know how we operate. I don’t see what difference a sticker in the door is going to make. People can see from walking past the hotel that you’ve got sanitiser stations. You’ve got people queueing up at a social distance. You’ve got sanitiser sheriffs wiping and cleaning our high-touchpoint areas,” Mr Wills said.
“I think they can see straight away how much detail and how seriously we take it. I don’t think a sticker is going to make a difference one iota one way or another.”
Assessing the government response
But overall, Mr Wills said the state government — as well as the federal government and the banks — have done a great job in helping businesses navigate the disruptive effects of COVID-19 on businesses.
“I think everyone’s really gotten right behind it and worked together really well,” he said. “They’ve cut a whole bunch of red tape. I think everyone’s been working a lot smarter and obviously working hard, but I think it’s a credit to everyone involved that we’ve turned this around so quickly and we’ve come out the other end in a lot better shape than most other countries.
“I’d like to have [the eased restrictions] be a bit quicker. I think we’re ready to move quicker. I mean the one per 4 square metres without caps is good, but we’re a highly regulated industry as it is — the hotel industry. We have lots of checks and balances in place to run pretty efficiently and effectively. The sooner the better for us, but otherwise all good.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic ends, while Mr Wills said he won’t keep all of the current safety measures in place, he said his hotel group has prided themselves on cleanliness and presentation even before COVID.
“We’re a highly regulated industry as it is,” he said. “We’re pretty good at that anyway.
“We’re looking at ways post-COVID, and there’s a couple of apps and a few new systems out where you can order directly from the table, your food and drinks, so we’re looking at some of those.
“But we have some pretty strict protocols in place regardless.”