We have a confirmed re-opening date for hospitality! 4th of July in England, while Northern Ireland can re-open from the 3rd of July, and Scotland on the 6th for outside venues and 15th for indoor spaces. Wales, meanwhile, are yet to confirm their decision but we can presume it won’t be far behind. This means then that it’s all hands on deck for those who are set to take advantage of being able to welcome guests back.
From the conversations we’ve had in the wake of the announcement, the attitude towards re-opening, generally speaking, is enthusiastic. But of course not all properties are opening straight away. Some have taken the opportunity to refurbish during lockdown, as there’s nothing like painting a hotel, restaurant or pub whilst there are no guests to worry about! Others however – especially in central London and other cities – just cannot justify the additional costs associated with opening when the demand is likely to be so low.
Staff also aren’t entirely confident about going back to work, especially those that have to travel on public transport, or those that are vulnerable or live with a vulnerable person. Many then are looking to the autumn before they are fully functional again, and some even later than that. On the flip side, most out-of-town restaurants and country house hotels are experiencing a surge in bookings, even though in some cases some of their local communities are not so happy about welcoming ‘outsiders’ into their village or rural location.
The relaxing of the social distancing requirements though has made it easier for restaurants to open, but still there are concerns about breaking even – let alone making a profit. With reduced capacity impacting already small margins, there are many risks to consider. There are lots of new technologies that enable guests themselves to find their allotted table, to scan a QR code to view the menu and place their order, and then pay as well.
While this will go a great way towards reducing human contact, the tricky bit will be delivering the food and drink and clearing tables. The 1m+ social distancing will though allow for more tables in the space, and for those with an outside area – they will reap the rewards of a willing and keen clientele. Let’s just hope the weather remains warm and dry! Another potential positive, that’s sometimes overlooked, could well be a new attitude towards our industry from the general public. I think, or perhaps hope, that the pandemic has made more people appreciate hospitality businesses and maybe better understand the slim profits available from food and beverage service.
Despite positive movements towards hotel and restaurant reopening, the general feeling is that meetings and events will be the last to recover – especially when many blue-chip companies have imposed travel restrictions on their employees for the rest of the year and beyond. One key factor that will play a part in post-COVID recovery is transparency around the measures hotels have put in place. If you do not have the benefit of being part of a corporate with the new ‘clean directives’ please do take a look at the nationwide programmes from the AA (COVID Confident) and from Visit Britain / Visit England’s kite mark “We’re good to go”. The public will place great stock on COVID precautions – and these initiatives will help to provide visible reassurance.
And finally, plans continue apace for HOSPACE – The Hybrid Edition. I am so excited that we are definitely going ahead with a great solution for all. So, please make sure you have 19th November marked in your diaries!