What this hospitality group did to keep customer conversations open when the doors shut

Momento Hospitality group details the many ways it's kept customers engaged during the crisis and what it means for recovery

Bella Vista Hotel garden
Bella Vista Hotel garden

As Australian businesses begin to emerge from the COVID-19 lockdown, there’s a growing trend suggesting those best placed to recover quickly are the ones who stayed engaged with their customers throughout.

This certainly appears to be the case for Momento Hospitality group, operator of the Bella Vista Hotel and three other large-format multi-purpose venues in Sydney’s north-west, with a fifth under development. Chief operating officer, Leon Colosimo, says the company was hit hard in the early days of the crisis.

“When COVID came everyone was told to close down,” he tells CMO. “But we had a core group of people we turned to and we asked what we can we do to keep staff employed.”

Four new business ideas were generated as a result, including a contactless drive-through food truck service where customers could order using their mobile phones and then drive to the venue to collect their meals from the trucks. The company also found itself in possession of essential items including toilet paper and sanitizer due to its relationships with numerous suppliers, so began selling directly from its warehouse. And it created a delivery service offering hot food and cocktails.

“Obviously we couldn’t bring customers in, so we decided to take the food and drink to the customers,” Colosimo says. “We could deliver hot pizza, bottles of cocktails and fresh draught beer, plus essentials like sanitiser and toilet paper if they wanted.”

Critical to the success of these initiatives was company’s existing investment in social media, and particularly Facebook, as a means of engaging with its community.

“We are big on that,” says Colosimo. “That is how we do most of our engagement with our patrons, and the amount of community engagement we have had since COVID is quite impressive.”

When the company decided to host a virtual two-up tournament for ANZAC Day and promote it via Facebook ,it also caught the eye of 7NEWS.

“With Anzac Day nobody was allowed to go to the pub, so one of our managers came up with the idea of doing virtual two-up,” Colosimo says. “We hosted that on Facebook and did a live stream, and that got pretty popular, so Channel 7 came and did a live cross.”

The company was even able to find opportunity among the proliferation of video conferences and virtual events conducted by its business clients.

“What we did is supply them with cocktail kits, and then have our bartender talk them through how to make cocktails on Zoom,” Colosimo says. “We were trying to be as active as we could, so we started a lot of these new businesses and they were really well embraced. So in terms of making the most of a bad situation, that is what we did.

“It’s that ability to adapt that really sets you apart.”

Now as the company’s venues begin to emerge from lockdown, Colosimo and the team have been working to ensure they can build confidence amongst customers while also meeting the highest hygiene standards, with new entry procedures and new furniture layouts and sanitiser stations.

One critical step has been the adoption of an electronic menu and ordering system from Order Up.

“We don’t have any menus around anymore,” he says. “People just scan their phones, and we bring out their food to them with their cutlery.”

Colosimo says this and other investments will go a long way towards instilling in customers the sense they can head to the company’s venues for a safe dining experience.

“They are looking at us and thinking ‘these guys are doing the right thing, so we’ll go there rather than somebody else’,” he says. “I even see from the comments on social that it is definitely a big factor for a lot of people, especially if they have someone sick in their house or an elderly person who is at risk. So they are making their decisions based on safety.”

Colosimo believes the new ordering service will also increase profits by making it easier for patrons to order additional items.

“With the new system, you don’t have to leave your table and line up in a line to order your food,” Colosimo says. “And if you had your dinner and feel like a coffee or desert, you just scan it and order your coffee and it comes to you table. For those additional add-ons it is definitely going to be good.”

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