The above questions have become some of the most regular discussion points within many companies as there appears to be an acceptance that too much focus was placed upon chasing margin and driving costs down in the pre-pandemic years to today, a greater need to focus on how consumers can be re-engaged and attracted back into hospitality operations. It is almost a move from taking business flows for granted to now having to compete for business through improved services.
This is true across all markets:
• For workplaces, there is a growing belief that it will be support services and how these can create a differential in daily life which will be the core to attracting employees back into offices; not the edicts from boards. Many companies are noting that it is senior execs and junior execs who are returning first which is leading to new relationships between these groups. The question is being raised as to how they will impact of the absent middle layers and will their behaviours change as a result?
• Within schools, it will be food service which is the basis of improved social interaction and nutrition.
• Within city centres, there is a major need to entice consumers back in high densities. The present stats suggest that 11.8% are back in offices and that this may rise to 30% in September and 45% by the year end. It will be a long road back.
• The great hotels which were the homes of international business will not see numbers return till an expected 2025 so will need to find new audiences.
Add to this mix the fact that re-opening is proving to be very challenging with falling government support, food inflation, the lack of available talent and revenues increasing but not at the speed of costs. Could it be that re-opening will be even more challenging that the lockdown proved to be? Are companies prepared for what is coming?
Naturally this mean that operators will need to rethink their strategies and it could lead to a challenging but exciting period of time. New conversations and discussions are emerging all across the market.
Given all the above, it is understandable that there is a real shift to a focus on engaging customers, creating new environments and new service levels. Many talk of the great period of success and growth that the industry has enjoyed over the last twenty years. It enjoyed and became accustomed to consumers eating out and spending more on food. It is understandable that so many focused on costs and margins as business almost flowed in.
However, the landscape has now changed and every operation, large or small, will need to compete that much harder for every pound. Service and design could become the great differential as consumers will be more selective of where they do spend their money as inflation bites in.
As always, the experienced operators who remember the 70s, 80s and early 90s will understand and know the challenges which are to be faced. For many, this will be new territory but it could just lead to greater levels of hospitality for a new era to emerge.