October Webinar: Summer Season Review 

In this months webinar, we reviewed the track and trace Wedding Pilot conducted on behalf of the Welsh Government by Iscoyd Park. The pilot was a success with 100% of guests happy to submit test results before and after the event, and 0 cases of COVID.

We also discussed the current problems with staffing and ways to reduce staff turnover including, staff events and perks. We caught up with some members of the Wedding Task Force and WVSG to talk about insurance.

Watch here to get the full scoop! 

 

Hostology’s Emma Hardcastle in Conversation with Dewsall Court and Iscoyd Park

After a busy wedding season, Hostology’s Emma Hardcastle caught up with Samantha Vaughan from Dewsall Court and Phil Godsal from Iscoyd Park to discuss the challenges they are currently facing and if they had any advice for other venues. 

Emma Hardcastle: Firstly, congratulations to you both on such a successful wedding season. Although we know it’s not been the easiest to manage, what would you say has been the number one challenge for your business right now? 

Phil (Iscoyd Park): I would definitely say that Staffing is the main challenge right now, particularly waiting, bar, housekeeping.  We have been lucky with our chefs but I know many places are struggling with finding decent ones and our managers have largely remained the same.

Sam (Dewsall Court): The number one challenge for the business is recruitment. People are not turning up to their interviews. The wage expectation has skyrocketed.

Emma Hardcastle: And why do you think that is? 

Phil (Iscoyd Park): There are less people applying for the jobs generally, those who do apply tend to be very young so they require much more training, looking after general managing and time. This at a time when we have many more weddings so need greater staff than previously. Hospitality has opened up all at once and everyone needs staff at the same time so the hospitality sector is competing against itself for staff. Brexit has had a big impact and hospitality is seen by many as a risky bet for a career so potential applicants may be looking at other sectors instead.  We have also suffered with staff being off with COVID or being pinged and having to miss days of work.

The younger staff helped us get through the summer but have now returned to school.  This all puts more stress and demands on an already overstretched team, everyone having to work very long hours and all levels in the team are having to help out and work in whatever area is needed – this includes the owners, senior events team, even the chefs…

Sam (Dewsall Court): You have two pools of people, one pool of people that aren’t keen to go back into the workplace at all so the demand for the job is down but those who are willing to go back into the workplace are expecting a lot more from their wage.

Emma Hardcastle: Is there anything you are focussing on to try and encourage people to come and work for you in the Hospitality sector? 

Phil (Iscoyd Park): Staff retention has never been so important, we have some very nice treats lined up for them, we have started having weekly lunches together as a team, brainstorming sessions that involve everyone – it is really important to make the team feel they have real creative input into the venue.  It is vital to make it a really enjoyable place to work and that the hard work is rewarded and they feel appreciated.  We are planning on talking at the local universities and schools where people are studying hospitality and encouraging them to come and work to gain experience.

Strangely this has been quite good for morale  – contrary to what I was expecting it has brought most people together as a team- quite good for the team to see everyone getting stuck in – good for owners to be getting their hands dirty and working alongside the team too.

Sam (Dewsall Court):  Also, you have to think about other attractions around the job and wage, for example, other benefits, we do staff meals, staff events, perks with other business that they can get discounts, restaurant visits, bespoke gifts – just to keep everyone happy and feeling appreciated.

Emma Hardcastle: Has there been any benefits from operating with a smaller team? 

Phil (Iscoyd Park): The business has undergone a reset and getting stuck in it has helped us all see areas we can improve and change.  It has also meant that we have learnt to cope with fewer staff, adapted our systems and have had to become more organised.  Hostology has been very helpful as it reduces the amount of admin and different staff members repeating the same tasks.  Because we have all had less office time it has meant that we have been able to communicate with couples in a more efficient way.  It has also meant that couples have taken on more of the admin themselves so even when we are out of the office doing weddings we can keep pushing the organisation of future weddings forward yet at the same time it feels like the communication is better between clients and venue because of Hostology.  The messaging system has saved time on emails etc.

Emma Hardcastle: That’s great news. What would you say the main benefits of Hostology have been during this busy period? 

 Phil (Iscoyd Park): The communication between the events team and the kitchen has greatly improved and there are more checks in place which means fewer mistakes occur even in the busiest times.

 It is a great comfort to me and the senior management team to know that all the information about each wedding is in one place and very clear and easy to read. This is very helpful when bringing on a new member of staff.  Previously it took a long time for a new starter to get up to speed, now thanks to Hostology this can be done very quickly.

Hostology has helped us keep the standards and attention to detail up even though we are under more pressure of time than ever before.  Future Weddings are happy because they can see their weddings come together through their side of Hostology which helps when the time for communication with them is less available than before.

 When staff are suddenly off sick with no warning, another member of staff can immediately see all the notes and details of the wedding and take over and continue the running of the day.

Emma Hardcastle: Are there any other challenges, you have faced this summer?

Phil (Iscoyd Park): Other challenges include finding the time to show new potential coupes around, giving the confidence to book without adequate insurance cover, keeping up with maintenance when the house is being hammered so hard.

What advice would you give to other venues facing the same issues?

Sam (Dewsall Court): We have lots of relations and friends of the current team members that want to work at Dewsall, we have also changed the wage structure and encouraged people to go to friends and family to get them to work for us. We are going to start rewarding loyalty – for example, all the events staff who are going to uni, if they come back in the summers etc they will get a cash reward, nothing major but something to honour and reward loyalty. Then we don’t have to retrain.

Phil (Iscoyd Park): We found that we could successfully continue to run weddings and keep the standard levels up even with staff shortages. We have become more efficient and better organised out of necessity – this will save us money and time in the longer term.  Get Hostology – it is great and really helps with organisation and communication, it saves a lot of time and ultimately money.

Wedding pilot event conducted on behalf of Welsh Government by Iscoyd Park

Date of wedding:  Saturday July 24th, 2021

 Pilot description:

A scheduled wedding with 95 guests and 45 staff and suppliers to be allowed to take place with no social distancing requirements, no masks from guests, no limited table numbers, dancing permitted.

Mitigating measures:

All guests, suppliers and staff had to provide proof of a negative Lateral Flow test that was taken not less than 24 hours before the wedding.

All guests suppliers and staff had to provide evidence of a negative lateral flow test 48 hours after the wedding.

The aim of the Pilot: 

The aim of the pilot was to show that by putting in mitigations around testing rather than restrictions to normal wedding practice, wedding venues could run a safe event, despite friends and family mingling, dancing, and celebrating.

Background

Iscoyd and a group of 5 Welsh wedding venues have held regular meetings with Welsh Government throughout the pandemic.  There was a strong perception by Government that weddings are dangerous, potentially “super spreader” events for the transmission of Covid.  Because friends and family are coming together to celebrate it is harder to instill social distancing rules and general COVID mitigations.

Our point that be addressing the areas of concern weddings are a safer environment and easier to control than other events and settings that involved larger groups of people.  These life-affirming and celebratory events create a level of compliance with guests that are unique to weddings.  Friends and family coming together have a vested interest to protect one another.  Because a wedding is such an important day for people, family and guests are generally more willing to get involved in testing before and after weddings if it helps protect the other guests themselves and if it allows them the freedom to celebrate without restrictions in place which are hard to police.

By testing beforehand, it is possible substantially to decrease the risk of someone attending the wedding who has COVID and would then cause further spread.  By testing 48 hours after it is possible to double-check that no cases resulted from the wedding.  If cases did occur it is possible immediately to contact all the guests and control and monitor the spread.

The lead-up 

Once Iscoyd had been chosen for the event we had to present a risk assessment for the event to Welsh Government, the Safety Advisory Group (SAG) for Wrexham Borough.  The SAG was made up of representatives from North Wales police, the Fire Brigade, the ambulance service, environmental health, and the Registrar’s office. The risk assessment was discussed and tweaked and then signed off once the SAG and Public Health Wales were happy to proceed.

Data collection

We used software that had been developed for the wedding industry called Trusted Trace.  This allowed us to communicate with all guests in line with GDPR, collect evidence of their negative test results,s and check them into the venue with their unique QR code which they received once they had submitted their results. It meant we could identify anyone who had not submitted their result or anyone who had problems uploading it and sort this out before they entered the venue.  We used this system to contact everyone again and remind them to upload their post-wedding results.  We were able to separate guests and staff and suppliers.   Iscoyd presented Trusted Trace to Welsh Government, Public Health Wales and SAG and it had to be approved before use.

 The results

100% compliance with pre-wedding testing from guests, suppliers and staff and submitting photographic evidence

100% guests reporting back 48 hours after, 90% submitting photographic evidence

1 guest tested positive before the wedding and did not come.

No cases of COVID 19 48 hours after the wedding.

Conclusions:

The Pilot Wedding showed very high levels of compliance and willingness to test by wedding guests in order for the wedding to proceed without restrictions.

The value of being allowed to come together and being able to celebrate without onerous restrictions in return or testing is perceived by guests to be a “good deal” and increases the willingness to comply.

The majority of guests are happy to help keep their family and friends safe.

Policing social distancing and all the previous restrictions is difficult for a venue whereas testing before and after is relatively simple

By testing before and after a safe environment was created. The extra measure of being able to quickly trace all attendees in case of any infection means it would be possible to control and stop any spread to the wider community should a positive case get past the initial testing.

Testing before and after can be advised to all clients as a matter of course.

If there was a future need for restrictions the pilot shows that the testing to create a safe environment rather than other mitigations that can ruin a wedding could be used as a way of keeping the wedding sector running.

Platform Status

Known Issues: 


The following issues may be affecting some of our users. We are working as fast as we can to resolve these as quickly as possible. We are working to resolve these issues as quickly as possible.

Investigating

Platform not loading on Internet Explorer

Fix in progress

‘To do’ not displaying in calendar view

Incorrect message counts displayed

Fix completed

Unable to cancel newly booked rooms

Customers/Hosts not showing when added

Event days not pulling into itinerary template

Updates and Releases:


We are always looking to improve Hostology and add new features to the platform. All updates are performed out of office hours to ensure to avoid any interruption of service. See below for the latest product updates and release details here.

 

 

Summary of The Prime Minister’s Announcement and APPG

Yesterday, we were happy to hear that the plan to remove restrictions and open up the economy will go ahead as of 19th July. This means that weddings can go ahead without mandatory restrictions on social distancing, face masks, no dancing, and table service. However, there are still some issues that the industry which was covered by the APPG yesterday: 

Track and Trace

Track and trace resulting in the isolation of staff members have been really big issues for venues. This is heightened by a lack of staff in the first place due to recruitment problems within the industry. Paul Scully MP clarified that if you are pinged by the app, isolation is only advised, however, if contacted by email the person will be required to isolate.

The new Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, has hit the ground running with hopes that by 16th August there will be a new approach to track and trace which will be less problematic for the industry. Siobhan Bailie has highlighted that this may be too late for a lot of couples who are due to get married in the busy season and has asked ministers to look again and see if there will be any workaround in the meantime.

For now, the best way to tackle this issue is to have an A and B team so that if the A team is forced to isolate, the B team is on hand. We know that this is problematic for many of you and we will keep you updated as and when the situation changes.

Research

Penny Mordaunt is pushing for the collection of data backing weddings in case the industry needs it in the case of further restrictions. With Siobhan Bailie emphasising that we can’t have the industry penalised because of a lack of understanding in government. They have not yet had access to the research from sporting matches or other events.

Penny is creating a matrix on what businesses, councils, and government can do to protect weddings if we go back into restrictions and lockdown. The matrix will consist of guidance on what you can do to keep your business safe.

Finance

Getting access to ARG has been difficult for many businesses and there has been a large disparity between councils. The Government messaging has been that the ARG is there for councils to spend and they have to spend it to get the next amount due. The APPG has written to councils explaining that this money should be used for wedding businesses. However, this letter has not been effective everywhere. If you are having trouble, the APPG recommends you write to your MP using this template letter. 

GRO 

The industry is still facing some issues with ceremonies and registrars with a disparity across different registrars. The APPG wrote a letter to the GRO, which you can refer to if you are experiencing problems. The registrars themselves are having trouble with the GRO, so Siobhan pleads we are respectful with the registrars.

The Government guidance for July 19th is due to be released today. We will post the guidance and breakdown to it into The Collective when it is released. 


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