The Pizza Proposition and the Big Lebowski’s Rug

New concepts for the reopening front lines

Every once in a while, something hits you.

Trying to make sense of COVID-19’s effect on the casino business, I saw this quote one morning on CNBC.

“We’ve taken 60 years of standard operating procedures and rewritten them in six weeks,” said Richard Allison, the CEO of Domino’s Pizza.

Like the Big Lebowski’s rug, that quote tied the room together for the COVID-19 effect.
A pizza company is not a casino. However, all service businesses are doing the same thing … changing our entire operations in a matter of weeks.

We are all living through the biggest change in the history of the casino industry.
It’s time to adapt. The story is just beginning to rewrite itself.

The changes are not small. Casinos are trying to figure out how to remain open safely and efficiently to protect the health of guests and team members. From table games, food and beverage, hotel operations and temperature taking at the front door; the vast complexity of casino resort operations becomes a cacophony of never anticipated safety rules.

While you are staying awake these nights trying to make your operation safe from the invisible threat, consider these concepts.

The financial effect of COVID-19 on your guest base

Welcome to the return of the value proposition! The financial impact from loss of jobs and the impact on the “wealth effect” as older demographics lose savings due to market downturn will lessen available discretionary. In another world, just a few weeks ago, casinos were enjoying the fruits of a strong economy. Now your casino is trying to figure out how to reduce casino occupancy, cut costs and bring in challenged loyal guests. Working value back into your strategies seems to be on the horizon.

Committed and transparent?

The fear factor has set in. The effects of fear will drive how your guests decide which large-volume facilities they will choose. Until medical resolutions are discovered and deployed, casinos and resorts will be dedicated to the transparent execution and communication of sanitation procedures. If your sanitation is lackluster and phoned in, your guests will vote with their feet and move to a competitor who gets the sanitation job done. Guests are watching. Guests are on social media ready to judge.

The most successful casinos will be the operations that earnestly complete highly visible sanitation and safety steps along with the best guest service.

How separate demographics will react to reopened casinos

This is the most important concept to grasp.

Early adaptor casinos are seeing younger demographics coming through the doors. Companies that understand this sea change will be the first to develop winning strategies.

Baby Boomers are the vanguard of casino industry demographics. With strong discretionary spending and a love for the casino resort experience, Baby Boomers are responsible for the lion’s share of casino resort spending. Enter COVID-19 and things will change. Baby Boomers are the protected class susceptible to the worst of the virus. Baby Boomers’ finances are tied to 401(k)s that took a hit. Boomers are now afraid on the medical side and the financial side. Habits our industry traditionally takes for granted will change.

Generation X is less susceptible to COVID-19 and looking for escape from lockdown.

Younger demographics are eager to escape through bars, nightclubs and restaurants. For the time being, restaurants and bars will be restricted operations and the mass body slam that Millennials and Generation Z are looking for will be cut back and restrained.

Ready for change?

Change is inevitable. Get ready to plan until your eyes bleed and your Zoom patience is down to 3% battery life. When the big day comes and the guests are at the door, be ready to throw plans out the window that you worked on like a sled dog. Change is good in this case, and you will be revising and revamping.

Expect it. Prepare for it. Tell your team it’s coming. Cut the plan without hesitation and move on.

Your communication plan at DEFCON 1

Communication. I know. It’s cliché and old and worn-out advice. But getting ready to reopen has never been more vital. You will find that the most important thing you can do is arrange simple communication that your entire team responds to in real time. Whatever you have in your communication arsenal, power it up and make sure that your team is committed and responsive.

Commit to training

Training. Your old way of operating is gone. You will be dealing with a head-swimming set of new rules. Now think about your returning team. Your team members may have gotten a taste of the sanitizing, no-touching, facemask-wearing protocols before the Big SHUTDOWN. When your team returns, they will be confused and just as concerned about their own safety as your guests.

Bring your teams back with enough time to learn an entire new way of operating. Your new set of rules will take up enough pages to make a Smart TV manual insecure. Take the time to train. Break your departments into smaller groups. Rehearse and role play. Conduct mock openings and situations. Your teams will feel safer and your new protocols will change from confusing to routine.

Making the new routine

Successful companies will realize that the financial landscape has changed. Companies that are committed to sanitation will win. Your ability to be nimble with demographic strategies will set your company apart. The ability to adapt to changes, communicate and retrain will be more important than ever before.

When our industry returns from lights out, the new day will be filled with lightning changes and swamps. The best you can do is expect the unexpected and keep your strategies basic, inexpensive and resourceful.

Tom Osiecki
Tom Osiecki 11 Articles