Tamweel… locked down, but not out

They say “life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans”. And boy were they right.

One minute you have an eye on the future. Planning for the next chapter. Running from meeting to meeting. Jumping from call to call. And the next minute… BANG!

It was only a few weeks ago we were looking forward to an exciting year ahead. Fired up to be working alongside some of the UK’s most vibrant leisure and hospitality businesses and challenger brands. Preparing founders for life changing deals. Advising them on their strategic options. Helping them fulfil their vision.

Unfortunately, things haven’t quite turned out as planned. To call it a curveball would be an understatement.

‘Social distancing’, ‘furloughing’, ‘CBILS’, ‘flattening the curve’, ‘herd immunity’, ‘Captain Tom’ (Donate here)… have all become part of everyday conversation. Face masks, rubber gloves, sanitiser gels are no longer reserved for the germophobe. The goalposts haven’t just moved, they’ve been chopped up into little pieces and scattered over the log fire. It makes Brexit and the uncertainty of last year seem like a walk in the park. Never thought I would say it… but I miss 2019!

This is a truly testing time for our friends across leisure and hospitality. Many of whom have been fighting tooth and nail to keep their businesses afloat. Businesses they have shed blood, sweat and tears building. Often over many years, often with huge emotional and financial sacrifice. We’ve been witness to their hard graft, their grit and their courage. It is impossible not to be inspired. The sector is full of resilient, hardworking and talented people. People that have cast rivalry aside to come together. With extraordinary efficiency and effectiveness. Lobbying the Government. Supporting their teams, the NHS and the wider economy. It gives me confidence that together, we will find a way through this. It may be painful. It may be prolonged. And it may be a sad outcome for some. But leisure and hospitality will live on; and like a phoenix it will rise from the ashes.

Right now, the name of the game is to simply… STAY IN THE GAME. Easier said than done. But for those that do, the opportunities coming out the other side will be many. People are desperate to break free of this lockdown. They yearn to go out. To eat, to drink and to play… with family, with friends and with work colleagues. To enjoy the hustle and bustle of a busy restaurant and bar. The sights, sounds and smells of an open kitchen. The theatre of a mixologist crafting a cocktail. The dimming of the cinema lights, the raising of the curtain and the roaring MGM lion. The energy of group exercise and the high fives that follow a workout. Or the peace and serenity of a yoga class far away from the distractions at home. Now, more than ever, we crave experience. Experience is inimitable. It’s priceless. We long for it. And we will never again take it for granted.

Yes, at first things are likely to be strange and different. Social distancing will come into play. Consumer confidence will be low. We will be in recession. Business models will have to adapt to changing behaviours, purchasing patterns and fears. But fundamentally we are a species that longs for human contact. We are hardwired to want to be amongst others. No virus, no matter how nasty, no matter how infectious is going to change that. We are a nation that eats out almost as much as we eat in. We increasingly see health and fitness not as a chore but as a lifestyle. We crave the escapism that comes from a good night out. And whilst the world of delivery and online is an important part of the ecosystem (and growing) it will never be a substitute for an in person experience. It can’t be. Eating steak at home is not the same as being served at Hawksmoor. Exercising in your living room is not the same as the endorphine rush from a class at Gymbox. Knocking up a cocktail in your kitchen is not the same as drinking in the beautiful surroundings of a Mr Fogg’s. And Netflix is no replacement for sinking into an Everyman Cinema sofa with the smell of popcorn in the air ready to watch the latest release of Star Wars.

In time, a vaccine will be developed. We will all have the shot. Things will slowly get back to normal. And we will look back on these days mourning those we have lost. Congratulating those that have made it. And being there to support those that haven’t. Coming out of this we will have an increased appreciation for our NHS. Key workers will be revered. Next time we will be better prepared. We will know what to do. Lessons will be learned. They must. So that the loss of life won’t have been in vain.

Like many of you, we love what we do. And what we do isn’t going to change. We love this sector. And the people in it. They provide us all with experiences that bring us together. Allowing us to make human connections, to have those special moments, to feel better about ourselves… mentally, physically and socially. Rest assured, that in time, things WILL normalise. And we look forward to witnessing the world in all of its chaotic beauty, start to come alive again.

Our future is a positive future. It has to be. Because the alternative isn’t worth thinking about. And for those that are struggling with the lockdown, just remember… our grandparents were called to fight in world wars. We’re being called to wash our hands and sit on the couch. Don’t let the side down.

Until we all meet again, take care, stay safe, be strong. And if you’ve read this far, thank you.