The hospitality sector has found itself having to step out of the norm over the past few years; from drinking Pimms in the gutter from takeout cups during the lightening of Covid restrictions, to steaks in the post, to the growing demand for booze without booze as the appetite for alcohol wanes with the younger generations.
This need for flexibility is not a one-off response to unusual circumstances before a more recognisable world returns.
Operations are under what feels to be unrelenting pressure. More than 150 pubs closed in England and Wales during the first three months of this year, according to Altus Group. The hotel sector is seeing less visible pressure, with banks unwilling to add ‘running a hotel’ to their skillset, but the mood is not chipper.
Inflation, energy prices, growth in interest rates, issues around food supply, the horror of trying to build a team - the era when people fantasised about opening a pub or hotel during their retirement are long behind us.
But in the hotel sector in particular we have seen a realisation that beds are not the only revenue point. Buildings are more that just bedrooms and revenue per available room is not the only way to measure performance.
During the pandemic, hotels noticed that rooms were being rented so that home workers could get away from their noisy families and have some hearing-their-own thoughts time. A hotel room is too isolated for many, but hotels appreciated the cash and have been adding coworking to lobbies and other public spaces. This has led to looking around the building for other revenue points.
After years of Airbnb eating their cheese, the big hotel companies are looking to extended stay, with Marriott and Hilton both announcing new brands within the past month, targeting the bargain-seeking guest. Extended stay makes good use of space, with smaller staffing requirements and can easily be changed to a traditional hotel model should demand suggest it.
Running a pub or hotel has never been easy, but, as befits some of the oldest industries out there, it has been felt for a long time that there was one predetermined way to do it. In this era, that is no longer the case.