The lockdown announcement on 23 March was met with shock, uncertainty and panic which gradually morphed into a general acceptance of our new normal. The impact and fallout from the coronavirus pandemic on the restaurant and hospitality industries have been profound, but we are confident that we have been a reliable partner to our clients through the pandemic.

The importance of partnerships

Taking our cue from hospitality forums, restaurant leadership groups, and reflecting on our experience as a supplier, the golden thread of frustration and hope during the pandemic has been the partnerships that exist in this trade. Having the right partnerships in place benefited some businesses and absolutely ruined others.

This crisis experience has had such a dramatic impact on the industry that it will doubtlessly determine how future deals will be negotiated, subscriptions will be considered and trade agreements will be bedded down. And the most important consideration for evaluating future partnerships will be how businesses treated their clients during the Covid-19 crisis.

How we treated our clients

As a Point of Sale software provider, Pilot was as unprepared as other businesses for this unprecedented crisis. But we regrouped, assessed the situation and decided to adhere to the culture and ethos that we apply to any issue in our business by asking: “How will this affect our clients?”

  • After the first confirmed cases of the virus, panic and uncertainty gave way to a major slump in store turnovers across all our sectors from small to large. We immediately started negotiating dormancy of licensing terms, deferred licensing payments through payment holidays and in more severe cases, managing immediate closures at sites.
  • In making considerations from our users’ perspectives, we questioned whether this was the time to strong-arm loyal users. That’s why we didn’t enforce settlement penalties, arrears claims and system shutdowns.
  • In line with that, Pilot paused all licence fee increases due in April to afford its users the opportunity to catch their breath commercially during and after lockdown.
  • We didn’t apply cancellation penalties to sites that needed to scale back operations and which were renting equipment and services from us. But we allowed clients to forgo the 90-day notice period if they wanted to return some or all of the equipment.
  • When the lockdown was relaxed to Level 4, we took the decision to only invoice licence fees to those sites that resumed trading. We decided to suspend payments for an agreed period while sites were closed during the initial lockdown and we only invoiced sites that resumed trading for licence fees. 

Our actions during the pandemic are a reflection of our ethos. And we remain committed and agile enough to manage government safety decrees, support our users during these times and ensure we all come out on the other side. We are all in this together and need each other for survival in the long run. 

Watch this space for a revolutionary turnover-based rental solution with a low/no upfront POS offering and costs linked to actual turnover and meal sales. But for now, we survive. So as we return to a sense of normality and when the benefit of hindsight allows, ask yourself again who would you want to partner with during the next pandemic?  

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Author : Rudi Badenhorst