Over the past two years, the hospitality industry has been severely tested but it has shown itself to be robust and able to adapt. No one should under-estimate the challenges which have been faced, the stresses which have plagued business owners but still, it has adapted. If ever anyone wants to understand how capable and successful the industry is, then one does not need to look much further than the last two years.
The industry has faced lockdowns, indoor restrictions, loss of great employees, Brexit, shortages of talent, new work patterns emerge and loss of density within city centres; the need for new digital technologies, new supply chain challenges and desired increased investment in sustainability.
So as the industry sets itself for hopefully a full year of trading, the question must be asked: how has the consumer changed?
Much has been written about the new work patterns which have emerged but this is only part of the story. Naturally, the lockdowns did see many re-connect with their local communities, suppliers and cooked far more from home. Eating at home suddenly became a great pleasure once again. The home dinner round the table suddenly regained its popularity. Families and couples reconnected. Many talk openly about how the lockdowns brought their family back closer together and was a positive factor against the pressures of work. Understandably, this is something that many do not want to lose. They don’t want to return to long, demanding hours which could take away the simple pleasures of home life rediscovered.
However, the ramifications run deeper as it also asks for all operations to raise their bar in order to regain lost audiences. The lockdown created a greater focus on self-care with many believing that a better version of themselves is emerging from the pandemic, so naturally, they want to ask for more from operators in exchange for their spend.
Experts often write about the economic pressures which will hinder consumers from returning to restaurants which is all true but this was already set to decline. Many have become healthier and fitter. The result, understandably, is that they want better; they want stronger experiences than they can find at home.
Of course, to make the situation more complex, many have been able to order in those great food styles which they could not re-create themselves.
This then creates a new challenge to operators; that eating out needs to provide that X factor which cannot ever be found at home or which can be delivered in. There are many experts who forecast success will, therefore, be determined by creating great experiences along with strong sourcing of produce. It will be these two factors which will lie at the heart of future success.
To hospitality’s advantage, little can match the atmosphere of a busy, vibrant operation and service which makes people feel special. However, it will take hospitality back to its very core – great care, food, product and experience. Little will ever beat the live experience.