As we slowly come out of lockdown and the country takes tentative steps toward some kind of normality there is no sector more impacted by what remains a very fluid situation than hospitality, so there is little wonder that we are finding many clients challenged by what their next steps might be. Current views seem to fall into 3 main groups:
A. Those clients who simply want to wait and see how thing play out over the coming weeks and months.
B. Those clients who are initially taking steps to safeguard their businesses but are intent on looking to the future and planning for this as best they can, either by developing a single strategy or exploring a range of options to meet varying market conditions.
C. Those clients who believe this will only be a short-term problem and that business levels will return to near normal in the medium term, notwithstanding the potential for future partial lockdowns.
Taking the second client group as the one that is most active in terms of planning for the future, by considering the need for longer term flexible social distancing measure, and developing their takeaway/click & collect business as a permanent brand extension are unsurprisingly in the mix.
It is fair to assume that the legacy of Covid19 is going to be with us for some time, as the virologists say we are just going to have to get used to living with it, and there is always the potential for other similar pandemics down the line, so having flexible solutions integrated into the space planning and design process makes good sense. Solutions that become an integral part of the design and not a “bolt on”.
Of course, no one really knows when and to what extent things will return to normal nor can we predict what the generational differences in attitude to going out might be, although it is probably fair to say that the older the generation the more risk averse, they are likely to be. A recent UK Hospitality report confirmed there a marked difference in attitude between age groups’
For all hospitality businesses, the absolute priority has to be to ensure their guests feel safe groups.
The same report said 23% of guests will only return with caution and 33% only if they were sure there were added precautions in place, which leads us to another important point.
Physiologically a quick fix “sticking plaster” approach will not do this as it suggests there is only a limited interest in guest safety on the part of the operator. Reels of hazard tape and notices on tables are not the answer. What is really needed are solutions that are fully integrated into the design so that guests sense their concerns have been properly considered and thought through properly. That restaurant or bar owner has thought seriously about guest safety, not just in the short term but as a long-term social necessity.
Guest confidence is key at every step of their journey, from stepping through the entrance to leaving, including critical health risk areas such as kitchens and toilet configurations, and brands that fail to address this in a meaningful way will struggle to stay relevant in what is likely to be a changed consumer need state. This is no more important than in City Centres where it seems 75% of leaders expecting consumer reluctance to visit town centres, it is going to take a concerted effort from all businesses to rebuild consumer confidence.
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