Why Hospitality Desperately Needs New Thinking If It Is To Survive
The chorus from hospitality to be allowed to reopen without restrictions on June 21 is rapidly reaching a crescendo, but going back to the future simply isn’t an option, instead, new thinking is urgently needed in order to save the sector.
Who amongst us isn’t just a little bit nostalgic? After all, it’s great to reminisce from time to time isn’t it? But looking back on ‘the good old days’ with a fondness blurred and distorted by the passing of years, is of course but a fruitless and idle distraction from the inevitable change which is an intrinsic part of all our lives.
Nowhere is that more apparent than in hospitality, which appears to be stuck in a binary argument between returning everything to how it used to be and grappling with a government which steadfastly refuses to listen.
And therein lies the tragedy of it all. Because whilst individual businesses either remain closed or go out of business, it’s still taking a long time to get through to the industry the need for huge change in their operating model.
Why? Because the pandemic has permanently changed the habits of at least 30% of us. Covid caution and a new found taste for bespoke individual service afforded to us by the plethora of food and drink delivery apps, make our expectations of physical venues vastly altered from the pre-pandemic era.
We all exist within a ‘Covid Cohort’ and to understand why hospitality needs more than a flux capacitor, is to understand our new behaviour.
There are five identifiable cohorts:
- Covid Cavaliers: They have never believed in the ‘Covid hype’ and will take to the end of restrictions enthusiastically.
- Covid Casuals: Emboldened by vaccines or impervious of risk, they will be in stores, bars and restaurants without hesitation.
- Covid Converted: They’ve enjoyed their ‘to the door’ service, and will dip in and out of physical settings.
- Covid Cautious: They will look for ways in which public spaces are managing their safety.
- Covid Concerned: The pandemic has changed life irreversibly. They will not return until every concern has been eradicated.
Rather than insisting that they wish to return to pulling pints and be allowed to ‘return to normal’, pubs and restaurants need to understand the behaviour of each cohort and take the necessary steps to alter their operating model to suit this new mood. And whilst the Cavaliers and the Casuals will happily return to standing five deep at the bar, they are in the minority.
Wanted: Smart Thinkers
Because here’s the thing; lockdowns might protect the NHS but they do little for businesses, so, rather than continually bang the same drum, wouldn’t it be better to think differently? To think smarter? Because we all want hospitality to fully reopen, but we also need the industry to think smarter if it is to be able to do so.
More smart applications that help us pinpoint our time at the table and the fayre that is served to us, must be employed and our safety has to be visibly in evidence. And clean air, because indoor air quality will become the most valuable currency, and some hand sanitiser and a few screens do little to make a venue safe.
There will always be those that constantly look back and fear change as a threat; we can all wish for things to be back to the way they were before Covid.
But they’re not and they never will be.
Andrew Busby is co-founder at SafePrem Solutions, founder of Retail Reflections and a former Forbes contributor.