10 Top Tips for restaurants and takeaways to prepare for the new normal after the Covid-19 lockdown

Paul Dobson, Senior Lecturer, Staffordshire Business School


At Staffordshire Business School we support businesses as part of our courses and I’m aware that some takeaways are doing really well, especially as their customers do not want to go to the shops, queue up, be too close to other people, etc.  But we’ve been told to expect a recession, possible depression, plus we have Brexit and there are concerned about the environment, so the way ahead is going to be tough.  My last blog to help hotels and bed & breakfasts post lockdown received a lot of positive feedback but the restaurants and takeaways I support requested that I could do a blog for them so, I’ve written some top tips.

1. Reduce costs

Look throughout your organisation where you can reduce running costs, for example I’ve helped takeaways reduce their online ordering costs by over 50% by looking around for better and cheaper systems, enabling ordering direct and not through other platforms, Facebook now has a free online ordering system, other e-commerce systems including a website has substantially reduce their cost and are now just a small one-off price. See if you can reduce your supply costs for example: a local restaurant and takeaway to me has reduced their electricity costs by 15%.

2. Watch and learn what’s happening abroad and in retail

Keep an eye on what is happening with restaurants in countries ahead of the curve and how they are adapting.  Retail shops are opening but in a post-Covid-19 more spaced and structured way. There are some good learning points being shown but also what issues/blockages they have and how they’ve got over it.  Look at how the best are using their social media such as YouTube to raise their profile and showing how they’re safe.  Trust is becoming a key area of importance in many areas ahead of this pandemic curve, use your social media to help gain this trust.

Image source: Insider.com

3. Transition to online

If you haven’t already; go online properly.  Don’t rely on third-party platforms who take a percentage of your money and don’t think that a PDF document showing your menu is enough.  It’s going to get even more competitive.  There are some I’ve already seen that are burying their head in the sand…don’t do this or you could be one of those closing.

4. Do not suddenly re-appear post lockdown

There are great examples out there how restaurants and takeaways are continuing to market their restaurant on social media in areas that are important to customers, for example takeaways showing disinfecting their insulated food delivery bags, extensive cleaning in their kitchens, personal protection equipment, how they’re developing their customer protection and so on. Social media videos are working really well at the moment so you need to enhance your marketing.

5. Mobile is king

One of the takeaways I support has over 70% of their orders via smartphones.  It is no longer the case their customers look on their mobile and order via a laptop or computer, they do the whole lot on their mobile.  If your website isn’t mobile friendly, you can lose at least 53% of your online clients and your website needs to load in less than 3 seconds because around an additional 27% drop off if it’s too slow. Your website speed can be easily tested at http://testmysite.withgoogle.com/

6. Try and develop your entrepreneurial spirit

Look to develop other products and services.  Some restaurants I work with have:

  • setup subscription boxes where they include cooking instructions or paid membership sites with videos and food deliveries
  • some have developed frozen versions to be cooked at home
  • a pizza takeaway has developed a separate salad takeaway business
  • some have developed drop off points for their meals

I’m working with one restaurant to develop and sell aprons, baseball caps and t-shirts with their brand on. What can you do?

7. Learn from the best

Domino’s marketing is really good, they know my last order, they email me a prompt at the same day and time as my ordering time from the previous week offering me an easy click option to re-order plus they have what looks like great offers for my customer type (family with adult kids). They don’t make the best pizzas in my area, but they do a good prompt at the right time and make it very easy to order.  Other local takeaways know my details and order preferences as I’ve signed into their website giving my contact details…and yet they don’t prompt me.  I don’t even get emails or offers from most of them.  Have a look around at what others are doing and learn from the best. As a minimum you should be capturing your customer contact details and keeping in touch.

In addition, look to develop and improve your marketing in all areas not just online, the graphics, the text, the menus, what your offering, and so on.  Look for what the best organisations are doing, for example in the US and how can you adapt this to improve your marketing.

Image Source: Braze Magazine

8. Go paper and contact free

Your customers are concerned about hygiene and avoiding contact, use technology to be better and cheaper. Your customers should not have to touch a pen or receipts or have their card taken away to be put in a card machine.  Everything should be contact free.  They should be able to go totally contactless using their mobile phone and their receipts should be emailed to them.

9. Look at the numbers

If you have a website, you should be getting weekly statistics including what your customers are doing and where the blockages are.  This is important information, in just 10 minutes I enabled a 100% increase in takeaway orders just by pointing out where the barriers are for customers and how to get over them.

Do a user test, find someone who’s not seen your website before, give them a task, for example buy a vegetarian or meat feast pizza for delivery, and watch how they use your site.  Do not prompt or guide them and see if you can learn from this to improve the customer journey to increase sales.

The websites analytics should also give you the keywords customers are using to find your website.  Are they looking for meals or services that you don’t currently provide, and you could? – If customers are looking for these meals you know your onto a winner.

10. Create a Wow factor

As a family of four we take turns to order one takeaway per week so we like to try different meals. In our town the pizzerias all offer the same types of pizzas, there’s virtually no difference between them and none of them have tried to educate and sell Roman, Sicilian or Detroit style pizzas.   None have talked about milling their own flour onsite or getting their flour from a local stone mill and therefore they have a low carbon footprint.  I’m not aware of any of them demonstrating their special techniques or trying to raise their personal brand.  Have a look around and see what you can use to develop a wow factor in your restaurant and takeaway.

Thoughts on happiness

Angela Lawrence, Associate Dean, Staffordshire Business School


There are lots of things that make me happy, but not many of them are material things. My “thing” is more profound, more enduring and gives me a far greater sense of purpose and contentment. Over the years, my thing has changed, adapted and moved in different directions, but it comes down to this – seeing things grow and develop into beautiful entities that I appreciate and am proud of yields more happiness than anything tactile you could gift to me.

So, watching my children grow into independent, hard-working adults that I am so proud of makes me happy. Seeing them enjoy the delights of parenthood themselves brings me great delight. Watching their children, my grandchildren, blossom and thrive in a world full of confusion and mixed messages, knowing that they love me unconditionally, is priceless.

Greeting students on their first day at university, nurturing them through the highs and lows of academic life, watching them mature and grow over years of study, applauding proudly at their graduation and then following the development of their careers on LinkedIn or Twitter gives me a huge sense of pride and hope for the future. Over my career, few jobs have ever made me as happy as I feel on graduation day.

I must make mention of the gift of nature and the delights of watching seedlings emerge from warm soil in the springtime, cultivating and raising those seedlings at my allotment to be strong independent plants that delight me and provide sustenance, both for my dinner table and to share with others – never forget the delights of sharing. The pleasures I gain from growing at the allotment are more profound and not only make me happy but provide head space for me to escape from the complications of modern life. I am in my absolute element when rummaging in the soil and watering my crops. Thinking time is so good and fresh air so invigorating.

I never would have thought 40 years ago that I would say studying makes me happy, but it does. Who would have known that I would still be studying? Yet here I am, halfway through my Doctorate in Education and thriving on it. Pondering why this should be so, I believe it is about being able to express myself, able to share with others what fascinates and challenges me, in the knowledge that I will bring something fresh and new to my field of study. At times I forget how much this matters to me, when deadlines are looming and time is precious, but it is always worth the effort and undoubtedly will be so when I cross that platform to receive the title of Doctor.

In all of this there is a theme of nurturing, be it people, plants, thoughts or words. Incredibly we don’t need money or objects to nurture, we just need to be ourselves and to learn to derive happiness from the small things that we can control in our lives. It’s true what they say – all the money in the world cannot buy you happiness. Find your “thing” and create your own – smile and be happy!

International Day of Happiness – March 20th

Preparing for the New Normal – How accommodation providers in France are rethinking and adapting their services and what can we learn from this?

Paul Dobson, Senior LEcturer,Staffordshire Business School


It’s been a challenging, confusing and worrying time for most industries during this current Coronavirus Crisis. But the hospitality sector in particular stands to be one of the hardest hit as it struggles to contemplate how it can continue to trade successfully keeping social distancing in mind, coupled with a rapidly shrinking economy.  As part of Staffordshire Business School’s support to organisations I’ve been supporting the local and international hospitality sector and as the French businesses are ahead of us in coming out of lockdown I’ve noted some points to help prepare UK organisations.

After 2 months enduring some of the strictest lockdown controls in Europe, France is slowly opening up its economy and society. And the vast, hugely varied accommodation sector, which historically welcomes visitors across the world, is undergoing a rapid and radical revolution to ensure it can continue to attract customers in these unprecedented times.

The newly forced need to keep distance and natural sense of personal safety has fallen well into the hands of some of the self-catering sector. Private homes and villas, especially those that can offer generous outside space as well as little or no contact with others, have seen a huge demand since the 11th of May when the French Prime Minister officially declared that travel up to 100km was now permitted. The public, who have been largely “imprisoned” with massively limited scope to be outside their own homes since the middle of March inevitably have an overwhelming desire for a change of scenery. However, this is not a universal permission and policy, and restricted zones still exist across France, and indeed many local governments, even in the less-infected “green regions” are enforcing the continuation of heavy trading restrictions and forced closures of accommodation providers. But where these rules do not apply, the flood gates have opened and demand, all from customers within the 100km radius, has been significant. Also worthy of note is that the average length of stay has seen a dramatic increase for this time of year.

That’s not to say that this is return to normal times for these accommodation owners. French hospitality organisations have had a massive increase in questions about sanitation, personal responsibility and uniform industry standards on cleanliness and contact that the UK accommodation businesses will need to be prepared for when lockdown restrictions are relaxed. As of today, these restrictions haven’t been totally clarified in France, and only “best practice” guides from local tourism authorities exist online. Some of the leading booking platforms and websites for this sub sector are advising “safety gaps” between customers of, for example, 24 hours to allow any surfaces to become less likely to cross contaminate in the future. What is apparent from discussions with French hospitality businesses is that there is an increased desire for customers to have  “direct online contact” with the service rather than through  online booking platforms.  This could be a welcome shift in attitude as this not only allows peace of mind for the customer, but also less commissions for the business owner to pay to the booking platforms which have come under much public criticism and scrutiny of late because of their high charges. One of the French businesses I’ve talked to has had an 800% increase in Facebook messages, their analytics has shown an increase in both mobile and desktop visitors to their website and the number of emails has increased by over 200% compared to last year.

The B&B (Chambres d’hote) and Hotel sector have reported an uphill challenge. With a mix of different guests under their roofs, all with potentially varying attitudes to respecting the new government guidelines, this poses a significant threat to their short- and medium-term existence. However, those that can offer genuine space, especially outside, have a clear advantage over those that cannot. Going from one restrictive box to another isn’t likely to be a great draw for the new discerning needs of the Covid-19 era traveller.  Forced confinement has brought about a new desire to be out and about in nature, and burn off all those excessive calories consumed since March.

But with the high season fast approaching during which these businesses would traditionally run at maximum occupancy, the reality is that these organisations will be forced to not only give “buffers” in between guests checking out and the next ones checking in, but also run at a lower occupancy to ensure that interaction between different customers is minimized. Therefore “Making Hay whilst the sun shines” will this year inevitably bring about a lower yield, and reduce the vital cashflow which sustains many of these businesses during the quieter months. 

An example of changes implemented is the hotelier Tim Bell and Ingrid Boyer in the Auvergne region of Central France. Tim has developed their website to include a link to their Covid-19 guidance on their home page (see https://chabanettes.com/). This is updated on a regular basis and outlines their commitment to client’s safety.  He implements rapid alterations to its usual offerings and has created the foundations for business continuity and customer confidence.  He has also set up a Facebook forum for like minded accommodation owners in Europe seeking support and advice. Tim collates industry data, statistics and best practice ideas from all over the accommodation sector and share his opinions and advice with the group.

The sector in which he operates is having to rethink more radically about its traditional services to ensure competitivity and customer confidence. This ranges from the provision of catering which is leaning initially more towards a “Room Service” culture to a complete overhaul of the check-in/check-out customer touch points, looking to technology and globally recognised physical safety barriers to reduce risk of viral spread. For an industry which relies heavily on close, personal contact for their reputation and overall experience, keeping a balance between customer satisfaction and safety is proving challenging, but not impossible. Clients now expect a more sterile and distanced world, with supermarkets leading the way in some innovation and rethinking of the customer journey that the hotels are learning from, such as one-way corridors.

Until the world is safely vaccinated against the virus, the accommodation industry will have to adapt quickly and radically to guidelines, legislation and customer fears. History has told us that businesses that do this will have the best chance of survival, and those that don’t not only fear a downturn in business, but also a very visible online reputation for ignoring what is now the number one priority for the 2020 traveller – Safety.

Top tips on how to be an influencer

Paul Dobson, Senior Lecturer, Staffordshire Business School


Over the past three years, as part of our Digital Marketing courses, we’ve worked with one person per year and enabled them to be influencers earning over £3,000 per month working part-time so I know that there is a proven and systematic way of doing this. See our undergraduate BA (Hons) Marketing Management and Post Graduate MSc Customer and Data Analytics. As part of this, there are some top tips that I’ve learnt.

  • It doesn’t matter if you’re shy and not out-going.

Some of the best people in my area of Digital Marketing, such as Michael Stelzner and Pat Flynn, have admitted that they’re not extroverts.  This helps make them more authentic and real in-front of the mic and camera.  Remember as well that when you record your audio or video that no one is listening / watching, you have control and people only see this when you post on social media etc. So you can do this, even if you have uncertainty and fear.

  • It doesn’t matter if there is competition.

This helps prove that there is a market for your area and they have already set the ground work. You can also be different from them or even compliment them, so that you become partners with them.

  • Right now, is the best time to start.

When people are in lockdown and a potential recession may be around the corner this isn’t a barrier. Some of the best businesses out there such as Disney, Google, Facebook and FedEx started during a recession.  The start-up costs are very low and the potential is high… There is no reason to delay.

  • Choose a niche that you love.

You need to treat this as a part-time business that you need to develop to earn money. It needs working on, so choose a hobby, past-time, area that you can learn (yes, you can learn a new area and do this) that you enjoy… I hear people all the time saying I don’t have a hobby or I don’t do anything and every single person after a chat has had a good potential area.  There are interesting ways in all areas for example there is someone with over 1.5M subscribers who cooks with their dog watching (see https://www.youtube.com/cookingwithdog ), so the world really is your oyster.

  • You do not need complicated equipment.

Some of the influencers we’ve worked with just use their mobile phone but ensured that the sound and video looked OK, e.g. enough light and not a lot of background noise.  You can get cheap mobile stands or stands with light fairly cheap online, for example one of the influencers we’re working with at the moment has bought a basic one for less than £4, and a more comprehensive one with a stand etc for less that £13.

  • Yes, you do need to make time.

As noted above this does need treating like a job, i.e. don’t put it off, and you do need discipline to keep developing your materials etc for your niche on a timely regular basis that your audience can listen to / watch. You will need to develop and post this material at least once per week but the potential reward is fantastic.

  • It will need research and keeping an eye on.

You will need to research and consider your audience and competitors. What areas are people interesting in, need help with, want to learn, have problems or issues with that you can discuss?  What areas are the competitors covering, how and can you be different or complimentary?

When you start your journey what areas work, what doesn’t and why?  Use these as learning points to develop your podcasts and videos etc.   Always keep an eye on what your audience is saying, sharing, and listening to / watching for a long time, so that you can use to improve what you do.

Stay Safe


Paul Dobson MSc, MA, MBA, PGCHPE, Senior Fellow HEA, MIPM, FCMI, MAM
Senior Lecturer in Digital and Strategic Marketing
uk.linkedin.com/in/paulmddobson/

Work-related stress: Tips for businesses

Vanessa Oakes, Lecturer, Staffordshire Business school


Stress is no longer a mental health condition that organisations can afford to ignore. In 2018/2019 12.8 million working days were lost due to stress, depression and anxiety (HSE, 2019) at a cost to the economy of £34.9bn. This cost is related to temporarily replacing absent staff, the cost of disruption to the organisation and lost opportunity costs, the cost of paid sick leave and the time required to manage employees who are off work, with an average number of days lost per case at 25.8 (HSE, 2019).

These numbers make for sobering reading, particularly if you are a business owner or a manager who has seen sickness absence related to stress, increase in your team. However, there is more than just a financial cost to the organisation. Your organisation’s reputation as an employer diminishes with high rates of absence due to stress, the engagement levels of your staff drop and in response, so does productivity and all of this happens because you are sending the message to your staff that their mental health isn’t as important as the performance of the organisation.

When it comes to proactively managing stress in the workplace, there is a lot that can be done to reduce stress before sickness absence takes hold. The CIPD’s 2019 Health & Wellbeing at Work Survey reports that 61% of organisations are recognising this as a priority, at Board level. But what can you actually do to reduce stress for your workforce?

Determine if employees are suffering from work-related stress or stress in their personal lives.

If your employees are experiencing stress at home, this will also impact their productivity too, so help them to acknowledge it and provide as much support as you can. An EAP (Employee Assistance Programme) can help you to offer support to staff without having to pry into their personal lives and will show your employees that you are concerned about them.

If your employee is suffering from work-related stress, then there is a lot that can be done to improve their environment. Firstly, take a look at your expectations of them.  Are they achievable and realistic? Do they have the support and authority needed to do their job? Are they under excess pressure to deliver? Can their responsibilities be shared by others or delegated?

Look at your absence management process – is it too harsh or too lenient? Can you build flexibility into your process to ensure you are able to support staff who are suffering with stress?

If too harsh, it may be forcing staff back to work before they are ready because there is a financial impact, or they may be afraid for their job security. These staff don’t get the time to deal with their stress before they are plunged back into it, and so may get worse over time. Are you conducting return to work interviews consistently for all staff? This is the best opportunity to determine if you employee is ready to be back at work.

Where your absence management process is too lenient, or you don’t have one, do you know why your staff are off sick? If you don’t know then you can’t help. Maybe your line managers don’t feel that they can ask such personal questions? If so, provide training to boost their confidence.

Focus on health and well-being

Communicate regularly with staff about the importance of their health and wellbeing and ask them about initiatives they think would improve health and wellbeing for all. It might be that water coolers within easy reach of desks will mean they are better hydrated; encouraging walks at lunchtime could improve the mental health in many different ways; having a space for staff to eat lunch, away from their desks means that their focus will be away from their work for at least a short time during the day. Most importantly though, ask them what they think and follow up on it! They will often have the best ideas about what would improve things for them.

Make sure that you react proactively when you suspect an employee is under stress, don’t wait for them to go off sick. This requires your managers to be more alert to possible changes in behaviour, timekeeping and work productivity and quality. Ensure that they receive training in how to start conversations about stress and mental health, and that they can signpost employees to other services if they are unable to help.

Finally, it may seem like managing stress and the related absence is time consuming, costly and unnecessary, but it has been proven to pay off. The CIPD’s survey found that three quarters of organisations who implemented proactive health and wellbeing strategies, however informal, saw a positive improvement in metrics such as morale and engagement, lower sickness absence, improved employer reputation, better retention of staff, a reduction in reported work-related stress, improved productivity and better customer service levels. Supporting your staff through difficult periods in their personal and working lives pays dividends when it comes to the success of your organisation. Now is not the time to delay!

Currently, it is even more important than ever to consider the health and wellbeing of staff as they endure lockdown and furlough leave. One thing which no organisation can offer, is certainty but there are ways of encouraging staff to maintain their health and wellbeing whether they are on furlough leave, working from home and trying to juggle childcare and other caring responsibilities. Here are a few tips:

  1. Communicate with them as regularly as you can – you may not be able to reassure them that their jobs are safe, or that things will return to normal quickly, but at least they will know that someone is still looking out for them.
  2. For staff on furlough leave, ensure that you have given them written details of their remuneration – try to avoid uncertainly building about how much they will be paid and when.
  3. Ensure that managers are in touch with their teams to ensure that each gets individual support – some employees might be coping well; others might be feeling higher levels of stress and may need more support.
  4. Remind your staff about their importance to your business, what their strengths are, how much they are valued and their latest achievements. They need to hear this now more than ever.

These steps should help you to maintain an engaged and productive (if they are homeworking) workforce during this challenging time and beyond.

Covid-19 and the Stay-at-Home Economy

Fang Zhao, Professor of Innovation and Strategy & Associate Dean Research and Enterprise, Staffordshire Business School


Covid-19 outbreak is not only a global health crisis but also an imminent economic shock. According to the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), the UK economy could shrink by a record 35% by June 2020 with over 2 million job losses. The International Monetary Fund warned Covid-19 would push the UK into its deepest recession for a century.

Image: BBC – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-52279871

For businesses, it is estimated that the government’s lockdowns may cost 800,000 to 1 million business closures in the UK. The sector that is affected the most and is also the most vulnerable is small businesses which account for 96% of all businesses in the UK (Business Statistics, 2019). To prevent the catastrophic structural economic damage and mitigate the huge spike in unemployment, sound economic policy responses are urgently needed, which goes far beyond government handouts.

Image: BBC – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-52279871

Economic restructuring is already happening. Cloud computing, e-commerce, online entertainment and delivery business are booming, being inflated by a huge surge in demand while retail (e.g. shops, pubs and restaurants) and entertainment industries (e.g. cinemas, theatres, and theme parks) and many others are suffering from heavy losses. Policy makers are confronting with the unprecedented daunting tasks to make strategic decisions on how to deal with the pandemic economic restructuring and crisis.

The pandemic outbreak has fuelled disproportionately the so-called ‘stay-at-home economy’. Working from home is becoming a new norm. For many this is the beginning of a new life and a new way of work for years to come. The implication for business is that it is time to rethink and reposition existing business models, processes, and target markets because consumer behaviours are changing fast and life will never be the same again.

Although small businesses are the hardest hit, they are also the most agile ones.  Some small businesses have already responded and adapted quickly to market changes. For examples, some have moved their businesses entirely online and some shifted their target market from restaurants and hotels to individual consumers or new markets. New businesses are also emerging surrounding the stay-at-home economy, such as virtual hair salons and online gym classes. Over the longer term, Covid-19 has irrevocably changed the way businesses will run and compete over the next decade.

Researchers at Staffordshire Business School are working hard to help better understand the impacts of Covid-19 on the economy and society and help policy makers develop strategies to tackle the economic fallout and revive the economy. Our staff are also conducting research on the changing behaviours of consumers due to Covid-19. For more information on our research and partnerships, please contact Professor Fang Zhao, Associate Dean – Research and Enterprise at fang.zhao@staffs.ac.uk.

Budgeting as a student can be hard! Learn from our students top mistakes.

Karl McCormack, Lecturer, Staffordshire Business School


Being a student is a great time in your life, but living off a budget can create stress and anxiety. We start university often with limited skill in budgeting and managing our finances. Students frequently mention spending mistakes that eat up chunks of their bank balances.

The key is to develop good spending habits starts with budgeting. Yes, it is time consuming and a real pain, but it enables us to track money coming in and going out.

By learning to budget well, you will be able to:

  • Understand your spending and adjust bad spending habits
  • Spend less on useless items
  • Save more money
  • Keep out of debt
  • Have money for emergencies or important future expenses
  • Learn and prevent future spending mistakes

Learning how to budget will save you a lot of hassle and you will be learning skills for life.

Biggest mistakes:

Not having a budget!

Sounds crazy doesn’t it? But failing to have a visual budget instead relying on memory for what you have to spend and what you have spent, often leads to thinking you have more money than you really do. It becomes difficult to gauge if something is over your budget and impossible to not overspend as you start to socialise more.

Using your debit card when you pay for something.

Everyone uses their card right? Using cash is old fashioned? But there are many more pros than cons in using cash rather than your card. Putting everything on a card creates the illusion of having more money than you think, that you aren’t actually spending. The realisation that you do not have unlimited funds, that you are a student living on a budget (now with no money) will soon kick in.

Students often say they have no idea what they were spending money on. Tapping a card  and not even registering the amount you are tapping for. This along with not looking at a  bank statements or just being confused by the names you see on it.

So stop using your card, use cash for daily expenses. Yes you still need a card (online purchases, transport, larger expenses) for necessities. But for fun expenses, things you don’t really need, pay by cash. You will notice as the cash disappears and this will give you greater knowledge of where you are spending your money.

Don’t buy textbooks before attending your first classes.

Every course has a list of recommended texts and required reading. There are certain benefits to being organised and preparing. But wait. Internet searching can often reveal the information you are after.

But what if the book is compulsory? In some lectures the tutor may refer to a core book each week and the questions can only be found in them. You may need to get your hands on a specific book then. You could try:

  • The university library
  • Classmates and friends (may have copies they are happy to share)
  • Social media chats and groups (may get a battered old copy cheap)
  • Online marketplaces
  • Online, traditional and second-hand bookstores

Lazyness! Not packing your own lunch.

Ask any student they will say a lot of money is spent on buying lunch on the days you are in uni. Often prices are not too high, but they are higher than making your own. You may start with good intentions, but as time passes the laziness creeps in and you stop packing your own lunch. Purchasing a lunch can cost £7 or £8 then a drink etc… multiply this by the number of days you are in uni and the weeks and suddenly you are talking about a large sum of money.

By knowing what you spend your money on, learning from those mistakes means you can take steps to ix it. Develop good spending habits, don’t buy things that you do not need and learn from others.

What are your own spending mistakes? What are your tips?


Our Accounting and Finance courses at Staffordshire University will teach you how to guide every business decision from financial reporting, tax planning and business strategy.

What are the benefits of studying a business-related masters program?

Angela Lawrence, Associate dean, staffordshire business school


For March 2020, Postgrad.com asked Angela Lawrence to be their ‘expert of the month’. Here she explains what the benefits are of studying a business-related masters program…

Angela Lawrence

A business-related masters program is intended to develop a student’s thinking, skills and professionalism to an advanced and specialist level. Bachelor business degrees focus on giving students a broad range of knowledge around business operations, so that they understand the interactions between finance and marketing, operations and HR, and the important leadership and management skills required of a manager within a business environment. To support a more in-depth understanding of the complexities of the modern business environment, masters-level business degrees help students to develop strategic thinking skills that will drive a business forward in tune with fast emerging trends.

So, for me, postgraduate business study is about three things

1. Developing strategic leadership skills by learning how to bring together all elements of business performance, to drive an organisation forward to achieve positive outcomes. A good postgraduate business degree should challenge a student’s thinking and push them out of their comfort zone. It should demand research-based decision-making and equip them with the skills and confidence to drive those decisions through an organisation, harnessing the support of the management team along the way.

2. Gaining transferable skills at a high level. Postgraduate business programs teach transferable skills that are relevant for senior management positions whatever the industry sector. So, whilst there are a variety of masters-level subject-related degrees available, these could actually restrict employment outcomes to specific subject sectors. Studying for an MBA or similar postgraduate business qualification gives a graduate access to a multitude of senior positions that require a strategic thinker who can demonstrate a sound understanding of business environments. This experience is usually gained via project work that is built into the award program. Project modules provide an opportunity for students to demonstrate the full suite of management and leadership competencies that are derived from the program of study.

3. Proving yourself. Studying for a business-related masters program says something about an individual to me. It tells me that they have stamina and resilience in the business world, that they understand how to handle complex business challenges, that they have the confidence to make decisions that could change the direction of a business and that they are not afraid of that change. It tells me that they are a consummate professional and that they recognise the importance of evidence-based decision-making and the requirement to have their finger on the pulse of emerging business opportunities, which can only happen if an enquiring, inquisitive and entrepreneurial mindset is fostered.

In a post-Brexit business environment, more than ever before, businesses will need leaders who possess these attributes in order to survive and thrive.


Develop and master core competencies in support of your management and leadership ambitions. The Staffordshire University MBA is designed to accelerate your professional and personal development and to contribute to the journey of being the best you can be.

Empty Nest? Yes please!

Storm Barratt, Lecturer, Staffordshire Business School


The world has turned upside down but for any University, it isn’t too soon to be thinking about a return to “normal” (in whatever guise that may be) and the young students who are (hopefully) excited to leave home, albeit temporarily, and join us for the new academic year come September. Many of our thoughts are not only about the academic guidance we shall be giving but also the extra-curricular support to help these young people transition from school children to University student.

But what about the Mums (and Dads and others) who are left behind feeling bereft at their child moving on without them?

The dreaded “Empty Nest” Syndrome.

This is a very real occurrence for many and whilst I would not want to make light of it, the following is a slightly irreverent piece I wrote when my boys moved out. Was I worried and anxious? Of course. Upset and tearful? For a while. Then, over time, sanity was restored, and a delicious feeling of freedom began to creep my way.

It was picking up yet another soggy towel from the bathroom floor that tipped me over the edge. That and looking forward to a biscuit with my cup of tea when, surprise! No biscuits. ‘That’s it!’ I shrieked to my husband, ‘It’s high time they moved out’. He raised one cynical eyebrow and replied: ‘You don’t mean that; look what happened last time’.

Three years ago, both of my children left home at the same time – one to work in America, the other to his first year at university. Suddenly after 22 years of nurturing, cherishing, catering for their every need and generally interfering, my life changed in an instant with a simple, ‘Bye Mom’ and a slam of the front door.

I remember how I felt. The first few weeks I was miserable; I couldn’t concentrate, thinking about all the bad things that would befall them in their new lives. They were obviously drawn into an underworld of sex, drugs and rock and roll. My imagination ran riot and I would lie awake at night in a hot sweat as I imagined the worst, a small voice in my head whispering over and over, ‘Come back boys, all is forgiven’.

A friend of mine was so distraught when her last child moved out, she felt compelled to invite foreign students from the local university to dinner on a regular basis, then to lunch as well and before her husband knew where he was, whole weekends. He eventually put his foot down when she invited two of her new-found “family” on holiday. An amusing tale but with serious undertones. Lynn simply could not cope with not being needed. Any mother knows that the first few weeks without their children, when they first leave home can be quite traumatic.

Empty Nest Syndrome is well documented with some women falling into a deep depression, no longer a full-time mum but not quite knowing who they are.

I’d heard of the empty nest syndrome. ‘Empty Nest?’ I’d scoffed. ‘What rubbish’. Personally, I couldn’t wait for the boys to leave. I would be able to reclaim some “me time”. I would be able to do all those things that had been put on hold while the children were growing up. I would be able to please myself about what time I went out and came home, instead of creeping in at midnight to find one of them sitting on the settee, tapping his watch and saying, ‘What time do you call this?’ (Erm, who is the parent here?)

Over the past 25 years, I had been the consummate mother, taking care of my boys’ every need. Taxi, cook, chambermaid, interfering mother, you name it, I was at their beck and call (mind you, also at the beck and call of the husband but that’s a whole other issue!), and I thoroughly enjoyed it most of the time. But three years ago, both of my children left home at the same time, albeit temporarily. One to work in America, the other to his first year at university.

I wasn’t prepared for the feelings of sadness when my boys moved out. The advice dished out by well-meaning friends was that I take up a new hobby to fill my time and give me something else to think about. Distraction therapy, I think it’s called. But I didn’t want to be distracted. I didn’t want to think about anything else. I wanted my boys back – I liked my children at home.

We would come back after a night out to a dark house and eerily quiet – when they lived at home, they would leave all of the lights on even if they went out. The neighbours nicknamed our house “The Lighthouse”. We didn’t trip over the sports bags or numerous pairs of shoes in the hallway. There were no dirty pots strewn around and the kitchen looked just how I had left it. All very peculiar.

Gradually, as the weeks passed, the feelings of sadness began to subside and I noticed that, actually, there were quite a few positives now that the boys weren’t there. Not least the dramatic reduction in our electricity, food and petrol bills. I’d stopped thinking for four people and could concentrate on me and my husband. Biscuits stayed in the tin; towels were not found on the bathroom floor. A sense of freedom had returned. Admittedly I had lost my way a bit, but the peace and quiet afforded me the time to sit and think about me and my needs. My husband and I could do what we wanted to do without restriction. For the first time in 25 years, I could put ME first without the guilt trip.

I was getting used to all of this, when, just like a boomerang, they came back. You would have thought my prayers had been answered, but these were not my babies anymore. These were young, independent adults, with their own opinions, ideas and ways of doing things. Admittedly, it was nice to have them around, but it was encroaching on my new way of life. I gradually found myself sliding back into the role of chief cook and bottle washer, laundry maid and housekeeper. And, do you know, I didn’t like it very much.

So, just as the pain of childbirth has long been erased from my memory, so have the feelings of sadness at being initially separated from my children. So here we are, all together again, one big happy family but boy, am I counting the days….. Selfish? Definitely. Guilty? Definitely not. Empty Nest? Bring it on…biscuit anyone?

Recent changes in the Google’s algorithm can affect your page ranking and sales

Paul Dobson, Senior Lecturer at Staffordshire Business School


According to a number of reports Google has implemented a substantial search engine algorithm update in January, plus a number of smaller ones in February 2020 … But what does this mean for businesses?

The Google search engine uses a combination of algorithms and numerous ranking signals to deliver webpages ranked by relevance on its search engine results pages (SERPs) and we’ve seen these changes have a direct impact on the Google Analytics results and effectiveness of the customer journey to gain sales for businesses. An example of this, is the page ranking has changed to be more themed based.  However, there are ways for businesses to enable their website to be high up in the SERP. These include :-

1.  Snippets Dominate More Search Clicks

Google has changed over recent years with the aim to deliver better search results for the reader, examples include providing the answers through featured Snippets which appear above the organic results. For example, I’ve search “how to walk in snow”

For your website to take advantage of this, you need to provide clear answers to commonly asked questions in your website area of interest. These featured Snippets are evaluated and boosted to the top depending on their quality, with the results that 54.68% of clicks from Google come from featured Snippets. There are various ways to create featured snippet at the top of the page but the key ways include :-

  • Create something better than the current Answer Card / Provide updated information, and Google will prioritise this ‘Freshness’
  • Take the most frequent People Also Asked questions, listed in the Google search, and create content to match*
  • Focus on the most frequently asked types of questions: “How”, “Is” and “Why”

2. Keywords no longer work

Trying to pack key words into landing pages is no longer effective.  Google is using more natural language and wants to independently rank websites and use them as quality data sources.  Your website needs to be written as a natural language rather than trying to pack key words at the top, and consider the long key words that readers may use to find your website.  In addition, you need to consider your website as an overall themed area rather than a mixture of items or topics, for example if you’re selling car parts do not include information blogs on other areas such as toys, or if you do include other areas setup robot.txt and sitemap.xml so that Google does not to index them and get confused. 

3. Mobile User Experience (UX) affects your ranking and Sales.

On some of the websites that we use for student demonstrations of Customer Experience, (CX) User Experience (UX) and Google Analytics (for example https://aubergedechabanettes.com/ ) we can see up to 80% of the hits to the websites are from smart-mobiles in some weeks. A website that is not mobile compatible will lose customers especially as mobile access is a growing trend. How people find information using their mobile devices is also getting more advanced, so your website must be easy to read, grab people’s attention and then can answer their questions or keep them entertained.   If you own a business based at a property such as a Hotel, Restaurant, Bar and Beauty Salon, local SEO is vitally important. Studies show that 4 in 5 consumers conduct local searches on search engines using their mobile devices. Google now allows customers, at a click of a button, to navigate to you, call you or even book directly. 

4. Websites Optimize for Voice Search such and Alexa and OK Google

With the growing use of mobile devices and home devices, voice searches are becoming an increasing trend. These searches are not only done on phones, but they can also be performed on home voice assistants such as the Amazon Echo, Samsung Smart TV, Voice Pod, etc.

Questions asked via voice instead of entering search queries are going to make short choppy keywords less relevant and therefore search terms have become more conversational and targeted. This increasing use of voice searches has already had an impact of Google’s algorithms and Artificial Intelligence systems since the search engine needs to do more work to get the relevant information that the user is looking for.

5. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the way forward.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is an important technology behind Google to deliver better search results to its users to create personalized experiences for consumers.  The AI has been learning the characteristics of what makes websites of high quality or not, then classifies these web pages and determines their rankings.  Therefore, high-quality content is essential for effective SEO strategies. Users want content that is relevant, helpful, and timely, so Google tends to place websites with consistently themed high-quality content with higher search engine rankings.

If you’d like to know more about becoming an expert in using data driven strategies to lead businesses to success including how to use data to analyse, design and test elaborate customer experience systems in the customer journey to optimise growth, plus learning to work in development environments for Fitbit, Alexa and Google home and mobile devices/smartwatches/ smart home devices as well developing using cloud computing, have a look at our MSc in Customer and Data Analytics.


Author :-

Paul Dobson is a Senior Lecturer at Staffordshire Business School in Digital and Strategic Marketing. He is actively involved in supporting local and EU charities and businesses especially hospitality businesses such as hotels and restaurants. Further details can be seen at https://www.linkedin.com/in/paulmddobson/