The Community Pillar

We are witnessing a reset where culture, regional differences and community are at the fore. This creates opportunities and change.

There are a number of key learnings to emerge from the Covid-19 crisis and maybe the most important is that many have found something of genuine importance in how communities have reconnected and collaborated together. At the heart of it lies the fact that during the lockdown and the crisis, many have had time for more face to face interactions which has arguably led to improved behaviours, compassion, friendship and productivity.

It is no accident that this has come to the fore. It has been building for some time, from before the crisis struck. Many have blamed social media for many of the woes and the erosion of trust but the real truth is that the issues are more closely aligned to erosion in face-to-face interactions, longer work hours, increased pressures and a decline in strong cultures/values within business. There is no little research to support this perspective:

· A 2018 study, by Cigna, which found that close to half of all Americans feel alone and isolated. The study suggests that the use of technology and social media has minimal influence on a person’s feelings of isolation. The study found that it was the decline in face-to-face interactions which was most of the impact.

· Another study in the UK found that over 40% in work feel alone and isolated. This is a 20% increase in a single decade.

· A further study found that over 84% of people wanted to feel they belonged to a culture/community of value; in business and in their roots. Localism is seen to have become increasingly of importance.

People are craving community now more than ever. For businesses, this means that creating a strong community, of clients and employees, is critical to success. For hospitality, it can also play a central role in bringing people together within companies, and within communities.

· Research has also shown by over 73% believe that eating together creates greater understanding and breaks down barriers.

· Another study notes that 81% believe that informal comms has declined within the business, which has made performance less effective.

· 64% have found that during Covid-19 they have found stronger relationships within their own communities rather than from work colleagues.

· There is also not little research which has indicated that many do want to highlight local customs and traditions, be close to their heritage and to celebrate local food styles, wines, beverages and produce.

It is not a hard case to make to say that if a company wants to build strong performance, then it will to need to once again build a strong community, a real connection with employees and with customers.

What does this all mean?

· Communications strategies will move from talking almost predominantly about a brand to a focus on community to increase brand awareness, understand customers, improve outcomes, build trust and develop greater loyalty. Despite all the advances in modern comms, still, the most effective way to raise awareness and grow a business is through word-of-mouth. It is stated that 84% are more likely to trust a referral or recommendation if it comes from a friend, meaning the importance of community is at an all-time high.

· There is a desire for the greater celebration of regional customs, traditions, histories, food styles and produce.

· Creating communities should be a primary area of focus in all local and business strategies

· For Hospitality, there is a genuine real opportunity to step forward and bring people together – in business, in schools, in daily life – to improve face-to-face interactions, improve communications, trust and break down barriers.

EP, is, therefore, delighted to launch “The Community Pillar” campaign which has a five-dimensional focus:

· To promote the role that hospitality can play in bringing people together, increasing face-to-face interactions and in building performance through community and culture.

· To promote greater collaboration of those that do create stronger bonds in their links with local suppliers and artisans; create stronger economic relationships within communities

· To celebrate regional differences, traditions, produce, and food styles

· To promote the importance of building strong communities and cultures within companies with employees

· To promote more effective communication strategies.

All of the above is not new. It is returning to core values, legacies and cultures which helped create the strong performance in companies that led the economy out of the deep recession of the early 90s and into the long boom of 1995 to 2008.

For Hospitality, there is a real opportunity to step forward and make a real difference in companies, in schools and socially across the country. It can be the foundation stone that does really enable greater face to face interaction, strong informal comms, people not feeling so alone/isolated and of course a voice for great local and regional produce/food styles.