This week’s government announcement hadn’t brought the hoped-for dropping of all coronavirus restrictions.
Which means that if you’re responsible for a HORECA business such as a pub, restaurant, cafe or entertainment venue, you may be holding your hands in the air in despair, right now.
However, all is not lost, and there is still plenty you can do to maximise your revenue – particularly given that the British summer weather has finally arrived.
In this blog, we bring together our observations from working with a multitude of hospitality clients, to inspire you with a range of ways in which you can can seize every opportunity as the summer sunshine abounds and COVID-19 restrictions gradually unfold, despite this latest setback.
It’s well-known that the UK’s retail and hospitality sectors have been among those hardest-hit by the coronavirus pandemic. According to the UK Hospitality Quarterly Tracker, sales fell by 64 per cent between April 2020 and March 2021. Insights from the research conducted by consultancy CGA suggest this could lead to an estimated £80.8 billion revenue loss.
However, a widely-predicted bounce back is now under way, with customers who’ve been cooped up for months, desperate to get out while they can and enjoy some of life’s simple pleasures that have been missing for so long. Research conducted by the Centre for Retail Research for the VoucherCodes.co.uk discounts site, predicted that 104 million people would head for hospitality outlets in the week commencing 17 May, with venues expecting 13.6 million customers on the Monday alone. On the Saturday and Sunday of that week, people were predicted to spend £815.3million over the two days. And the signs are good that this surge in demand continues.
All of this, of course, presents a real burning platform for all manner of hospitality outlets to pull out every stop now that there is scope to do so, and, as with anything in life, it’s likely to be the strongest, most determined and creative that will survive and thrive.
While this week’s announcement has put the brakes on the rate of acceleration through the Government’s roadmap for lockdown easing, there are positive signs that many HORECA businesses are managing to really make hay while the sun is shining.
We work with many in this sector, and we’re seeing, firsthand, the benefits being reaped by those which are really grasping the opportunity re-opening represents.
Our advice? BE BRAVE!
Many owners of restaurants, cafes and other hospitality businesses have taken the opportunity to regroup, during successive lockdowns, and re-think their businesses and customer service models.
We’ve seen the most successful ones adding takeaway food and beverage lines, creating additional outdoor areas, introducing new dishes and experiences, and revamping tired décor and equipment, ready to wow visitors as soon as they were able to welcome them again.
However, our Sales and Marketing Executive, Chris Elliott, said: “If you weren’t quite confident enough to do that, and took more of a wait-and-see approach, making sure you could bring in revenue again before deciding to invest, don’t worry, there’s still time to capitalise on customers’ thirst for entertainment and enjoyment.
“We’ve reflected on the best practice we’ve seen over the past eight weeks since HORECA outlets were allowed to welcome customers for outside drinking and dining once again, and compiled the following suggestions for businesses that are looking for a little help getting back into full swing, or wanting to build further on their efforts so far.”
Maximise your sales potential
The reality is that none of us really knows how long the current lockdown amnesty will last, so our advice is to ensure you make the most of every, single customer opportunity. If you’ve successfully added a takeaway strand to your business, don’t ditch it, build on it!
“While their hands were forced initially, we’ve seen a number of outlets effectively double their turnover with takeaway offerings,” added Chris, “and if that’s you, why wouldn’t you want to carry on doing that? We think customers like the choice and convenience of being able to order ‘to go’ as well as coming in for sit-down fare, too, so you’d be wise not to disappoint them now they’ve got used to this as an option.
“If you haven’t already, consider door-to-door delivery, too. Again, if there’s one positive to come out of the past 18 months, it’s the increased flexibility we’ve all enjoyed from being able to fit our purchases, entertainment and dining around our lifestyle choices, while staying closer to home.”
See a selection of our takeaway food packaging options in our brochure.
With the sun finally shining, ensuring you utilise all available outdoor space is a must. You’re likely to be limited for some time, in terms of how many people you can serve inside, so you need to be able to spill out into any ‘al fresco’ areas you have as much as possible.
“You only have to make a foray into any town or village centre at the moment, to see just how much customers are loving the café culture atmosphere – and ability to mingle more safely – that outdoor dining brings,” continued Chris.
“It’s worth sense-checking the flow of your interior premises as well, though. Do you have fixtures and fittings, offices, back or upstairs rooms that could be re-purposed to give more customers chance to visit you, and still maintain appropriate social distancing? Would updating some of your furniture be worth the investment, given the additional covers this would enable you to fit in?.”
You’ll find some inspiration for ‘al fresco’ dining solutions in our brochure.
Arrange your customers around one or two-hour slots and work predominantly off pre-bookings, to enable you to make best use of all available time and maximise your covers. Charging a small booking fee may also help to ensure that customers turn up for their slots so that you can accurately predict your revenue levels and don’t lose out unnecessarily.
“You don’t need to worry about offending customers by organising them in this way,” explained Chris. “All the feedback from the HORECA businesses we work with is that their customers welcome the sense that venues they visit are in control of the situation and doing their best to serve them in a responsible way. It also helps them plan their time and avoid spending what should, finally, be an enjoyable outing, queueing.”
And to help you get the overall experience while they’re with you, see some of our catering product heros in this brochure.
Clean thoroughly after every sitting
Time slots will also help your front-of-house staff fit in everything they need to do, as well as putting food and drinks on tables.
By operating a system of booking windows, you can allow your team a set number of minutes to thoroughly sanitise each eating station between sittings. “To ensure COVID-security, this needs to include wiping down not just tables but also chairs and any other fittings, decorations or utensils the previous customers may have come into contact with during their visit,” said Chris.
“It’s also worth ensuring you have colour-coded cleaning equipment front-of-house, too, to further maximise the efficiency of your regime, as well as sending out a message to customers that you take this seriously.
“Because, be in no doubt, visitors are now incredibly savvy about COVID-safety, and will notice if anything about their experience makes them feel unsafe.”
Undoubtedly, the coronavirus pandemic has shifted hygiene from something that might have seemed a boring necessity to many, and been shunted down the list of priorities, to a key marketing opportunity. People will make their entertainment choices, going forward, based on which businesses they feel assured visiting, which seem professional and in charge of the situation. It’s important to ensure your staff understand the importance of all this, too, so that they can reflect a positive image at all times.
“In fact, with large chains potentially finding it tougher conforming consistently with the new, stricter standards, due to the volume of outlets and employees they have to manage, smaller independents have a fantastic opportunity to really excel and steal a march on the catering ‘big boys’,” added Chris.
If you’d like to sense check you’ve got your COVID-secure cleaning regime’s spot on, see our guide to catering hygiene.
Think outside the box
With so many potential customers desperate for an uplifting and nourishing, social experience after being cooped up for months on end, businesses that are switched on are expanding their ranges with new dishes and drinks.
“For example,” said Chris, “additional exotic starters or sharing platters, cocktails and even entertainments that enable people to splash out a little, stick around and have more fun while they’re with you, and add to your revenue at the same time.”
If you think there might be more you can do and need a little inspiration, see this brochure from Genware, one of our most popular suppliers.
While we don’t wish to be at all party-pooperish, we do have to give another, final mention to the whole matter of COVID-security. We all want to remain optimistic about the future, in the wake of the UK vaccination programme and other steps forward. However, nevertheless, it’s clear this virus is not likely to go away any time soon, though we will hopefully get gradually better at controlling its impact.
And, despite this week’s announcement, as experts in hygiene, our advice is to continue to exercise the kinds of precautions that we’ve become so familiar with in recent times. After all, they help to minimise the spread of all manner of illnesses that can prove unpleasant for individuals and disruptive to businesses, including the norovirus or winter vomiting bug, as well as COVID. Keeping a degree of distance, sanitising and handwashing regularly, and even continued, selective mask wearing will certainly do no harm, even if they are no longer compulsory.
“When it comes to hospitality outlets, and indeed any venue which welcomes large numbers of people from disparate places, we believe it’s not just a moral obligation but also makes perfect business sense, to visibly protect your clientele as much as possible. And, as we’ve said above, we believe good hygiene in general will continue to be a major differentiator for those venues that do it well, for many years to come,” concluded Chris.
“And this needn’t get in the way of your customers’ enjoyment – in fact, it will help you provide them with a more relaxed and fun experience overall, knowing that they are in safe and professional hands.”
There’s a reminder of some of the steps you can take to ensure you give the right first and repeat impression in our Guide to Getting COVID-secure.
Our personalised approach to serving our clients means we can provide you with a bespoke plan for achieving the most professional standards possible, as well as revisiting your space to ensure you’re providing an experience your customers want to come back for again – and again.
Just email us or call us on 01482 327580 for some advice tailored to your business.