Sascha Blodau: “We are in line with July 2019 which is where we wanted to be”

Sascha Blodau pingamodium staff shortages
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The customers are pleased to be back, as are MERKUR UK where performance is back in line with pre-lockdowns. But pingamodium and staff shortages have laid significant challenges in the path of freedom day.



Coinslot: How has business been since July 19?

Sascha Blodau: The early signs have been encouraging in our Merkur slots venues. We are in line with July 2019 which is where we wanted to be.

It’s been noticeable that our customers are pleased to be back. They enjoy visiting our venues to see their friends and meet back up with our venue team, so reopening with less restrictions has definitely made it feel more comfortable for them.

What was interesting from speaking to customers is that there were a number that played online, but they were quick to return because they enjoy the social interaction we offer.

Blueprint Operations has seen strong sales in both June and July for both Cat C and B3 machines which reflect the quality of the product and the fantastic work done by the development team over lock down.

CS: How are your customers responding to freedom day?

SB: Overall, I think our venue customers want us to continue to maintain the safety measures that we have introduced over the last 18 months such as the provision of masks, cleaning the machine after use and the availability of hand sanitisers.

This makes them feel safe when they visit our venues. And some customers still ask us to the reserve the machine next to the one they are playing to provide social distancing which we are happy to do.

One key area that has made a valuable contribution is the removal of the track and trace which has provided more time for our venue teams to be with our customers which is what they enjoy. But more importantly, it has been vital in helping us to engage with them and move swiftly to respond to any Covid-issues they have.

But, our customers and staff safety is our top priority and we will ensure that we do whatever is needed to meet this obligation.

In our pub business we have generally seen improvements with the return to vertical drinking. Play was compromised by the previous restriction and our customers clearly enjoy the freedom to walk around the venue and play our machines as they did previously.

CS: Ping mayhem: what has the impact been on you and your team?

SB: This is having a significant impact on the smooth running of the high street business. We have had to adjust the opening hours of some venues and close one completely.

We currently have over 130 isolations which is 8 percent of the team.

This has a big impact on staff rotas. We have on average 8-10 people per venue so if we lose one or two due to self-isolation this puts a great deal of pressure on the rest of the team to cover.

But we have great staff and they really step up when we need them.

Within Blueprint and Regal we have experienced similar challenges and this can be exaggerated in an office or depot environment where people are working in closer proximity. Again we have taken all necessary measures to mitigate the problem and keep our staff safe..

CS: Are you experiencing issues with recruitment or staff shortages?

SB: Yes this is a growing problem in our high street venues.

We are around 8 percent short across this business. There is no geographical differentiation; it’s across the board.

We are not prepared to compromise on the quality of our teams so we have to be patient and recruit the right people.

We do however have to make decisions faster as good people are recruited quickly. We also have to build staff training into the recruitment process again an area with no compromise.

The staff shortage issue is a real challenge, but this is where good HR processes and practices will help.

Blueprint and Regal have presented less of a challenge as we are not competing with the broader hospitality sector to recruit the best people. In Blueprint the R&D team have been working throughout Covid developing new content so we can maintain our pipe line of high income new games.

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