Business recovery stories: Roarr! Dinosaur Adventure
Roarr! Dinosaur Adventure in Norfolk is a family-run business, acquired in 2006. It includes over 25 dinosaur themed attractions across 85 acres, complete with play areas and eateries, an animal farm and deer park. They prioritised learning from their industry networks to test adaptations and focused on empowering staff, allowing them to communicate the COVID secure measures to customers confidently.
Their initiatives included:
1. Listening to what others are doing. One of the first things the management team did when they realised they would need to close was to engage with other attractions and industry trade associations, as well as VisitEngland. This helped the management team to strategise and test ideas for practical adaptations to make sure the business would survive. The team also received support from ‘We’re Good To Go’, which provided customers with the confidence to visit.
'Tools that provided training support and customer confidence, such as We’re Good To Go, were really helpful'.
2. Actively engaging the team. The immediate priority was finding ways to maintain team morale. A newsletter was developed for staff, as were communications to ensure that they felt supported emotionally. Staff were also encouraged to take ownership of their part of the park operations and to use their intimate knowledge to deliver solutions to challenges ahead of reopening.
3. Getting customers on board. Reopening has been a very public affair for the team at Roarr! - a countdown to reopening on the website created a sense of excitement, while social media feeds were regularly updated with behind-the-scenes snapshots. A new video was produced to promote safety information and all that the site has to offer.
'When we were looking at how we could reopen, we followed the mantra ‘sanitise the site not the experience’. We made sure the adaptations we had to make were fun and part of our brand, like dinosaur themed spacing markers, masks and sanitisers. Our focus was on taking our visitors out of the real world and into an escape'.
4. Developing new communication tools. A video about reopening has proven an unexpected success. Each departmental manager recorded a segment on the area they were responsible for in the attraction, which was used online and at the park. It helped rebuild customer confidence that the site was safe, but also helped the youngest visitors know what to expect and how to engage with the safety measures when they visited. The impact was that customers felt safe to visit, and with pre-booking and limited capacity, demand exceeded availability – a measure of success.
'We’ve always recognised the importance of helping our young team develop, and they’ve stepped up during the pandemic to grow as individuals and as a team. We passed ownership of tasks to our junior managers with an approach of ‘if it doesn’t work, fix it’. We really saw them blossom which makes us immensely proud'.
5. Making it fun. Customer safety is essential, but doesn’t have to be boring. Dinosaur themed hand sanitisers and face masks, dinosaur footprint trails and a host of other measures helped ensure safety precautions were followed without undermining the fun ethos of the park and kept the sense of adventure alive for visitors whilst ensuring that everyone felt safe.
6. Not compromising accessibility. It was important not to let the COVID-19 adaptations adversely affect accessibility for their disabled visitors. A senior management group provides leadership to ensure experiences provide a sense of adventure and remain inclusive to a broad range of customers.
'The pandemic enabled us to learn, and fail. We had an attitude that the world isn’t ending, it’s evolving and changing – we need to evolve with it'.
7. Embracing technology. Pre-booking has become essential, but the technology has proven useful for more than just booking. The management team now have pre-arrival information about visitor numbers and this means they can better manage the staff rota, matching the number of team members and visitors on site more effectively. Food ordering can also be aligned to visitor numbers, reducing waste. The team have realised that innovation offers opportunity and are now investing in new apps to keep people safe and support business efficiency, including food pre-order apps to further reduce food waste and also reduce the need for customers to queue.