We’ve loved watching customers stream back into bars and restaurants across the country since April 12. With the first stages of lockdown easing in the rear-view mirror, we're ready to look back at what we’ve seen and heard from venues and customers around the UK.
Who has been trading?
According to CGA around one-third of all English venues reopened in the weeks after April 12th. This number was strongest among pubs and was weaker for bars where that number is closer to one-fifth. Given the difficulties of following covid regulations in a bar setting and the limited outdoor space, this is probably not a surprise.
Since then, with indoor trade resuming on May 17th, a much large cohort of venues been able to return to trading and 58% of business leaders found their performance ahead of their expectations, and just 8% below.
How are sales?
Like-for-like sales from the first week of outdoor trading were up by 59% when compared to the same week in 2019. This is a contrast to the first week of trading after a lockdown in June 2020 which saw a 44% drop in sales and many consumers reporting anxiety about entering venues.
Attendance did drop off slightly as the month went on, with poor weather deterring even Britain’s hardy customers, but a CGA report described it as a ‘robust start’. Premium products proved to be winners dreporturing this period with 43% of customers choosing a higher-end brand at some point during their hospitality visit. This trend of customers seeking to treat themselves was predicted by industry observers and seems likely to hang around throughout the year. 20% of all customers interviewed by CGA said they will go for premium products when they’re out more often now than they did before the lockdown.
What do customers think?
A huge 97% of customers who have revisited the trade have reported that the experience either met (52%) or exceeded (45%) their expectations. While one-third of patrons reported feeling nervous about returning to the venue before trade reopened, 21% said that they felt more confident after their visit. It’s great to see that while licensees and managers have taken the lessons of the past year on board, customers are responding with greater levels of confidence even at this early stage.
There is, however, still an opportunity to capture the customers that feel hesitant about venturing out. With safety the number one concern among consumers it’s worth reaching out to your customers, through social media or email, and reminding them of the steps you've taken to keep your venue, customers, and staff safe. While following government guidelines is an important piece of the reopening puzzle, visibly going the extra mile by providing on-table hand sanitiser or temperature checks, for example, will show your customers that you're fully committed.
What do people in the industry think?
All of this bodes well for the next few months of trading, as more restrictions are lifted around the UK and the Summer season starts in earnest. But, with a relatively small number of venues open it's a little too soon to tell how the industry will bounce back from this unbelievably challenging year.
One message that is coming loud and clear from licensees and interested parties across the industry is that more government support is needed if the majority of venues are going to survive. A joint call has come from UK Hospitality, the British Beer and Pub Association, and the British Institute of Innkeeping for the government to extend the business rates holiday for pubs by three months to help hospitality venues to get back on their feet.
We’ll keep posting updates via our social media channels as the UK hospitality industry continues to reopen. If you have any stories or experiences you would like to share around the 2021 return to trade reach out to us via Twitter, Instagram or Facebook or email us at email@example.com.