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What does the Great British summer look like for the hospitality industry?

What does the Great British summer look like for the hospitality industry?

So the Prime Minister has confirmed that his roadmap is on track, and the planned Step 3 easements went ahead on 17 May. The stats are looking hopeful for Step 4 on 21 June, too. Not long to wait now and we’ll all be hugging and dancing again.

On 17 May, most indoor and remaining outdoor venues reopened, and gathering limits increased.  This mean't that purely indoor hospitality spaces could reopen, and indoor entertainment resumed. So restaurants, cocktail bars, and pubs can now seat up to six people, or two households indoors and up to 30 people outdoors and events bars can serve private 'stage of life' functions for up to 30 people in a COVID-secure venue.

Some much larger events will be able to take place, including theatre and concert performances, and sports events, although restrictions on the number of attendees will remain until 21 June. COVID-secure rules still apply in the workplace and for customer-based businesses like shops and hospitality.

But what does this mean for the hospitality industry, and what have we learned from opening in 2021 so far?

Beware of Stealth Parties

Ah yes, the group of six that book a beer garden table, turn up with balloons and a cake, order three small kids meals and an evening sessions worth of cider. The phones are soon whipped out, and slowly their friends begin to arrive, drip-feeding into the tight, outdoor space. A server’s requests to split them up is ignored, and soon you have a beer garden takeover, and no one else wants to stay as the party becomes rowdier. A manager has to step in, there is an uncomfortable confrontation, and everyone has to go home annoyed and upset. Keep a lookout for this kind of behaviour asset’s sure to continue while restrictions apply. Nip it in the bud as soon as you can. There's a £10,000 fine at stake, which is a sting for any business.

Staff Shortages & Opportunities

Pubs, cafes and restaurants are all waiting to welcome customers back inside on Monday, but staff shortages mean some are struggling to reopen at all. There appears to be a good consumer appetite for booking ahead, making it seem like restaurants, bars, and pubs will be busier than ever this summer. However, only a handful of staff has been kept on furlough over the pandemic period. Due to a combination of lockdown and Brexit, one in ten hospitality workers have left the industry altogether. Recruitment is made more difficult because there's no guaranteed income, job satisfaction or upward mobility at the moment. While hospitality has a high turnover of staff generally, servers used to know that if they left one job, there would be plenty of other venues waiting to snap them up. The disruption caused by the pandemic has taken away this sense of security. Which has meant even high-profile venues are turning to social media to look for probable job candidates.

Then there are the owners who are struggling to manage rent arrears and payback bounce back loans. Iconic bars like Milk and Honey will never reopen their doors. Add to that the insane level of difficult working practises that were standard pre-pandemic (long hours, no breaks, poor protection, basic rates for sick pay, holiday pay and maternity leave, tronc-based wages, etc.) and many people won't return to lower wages and worse job security. Bartenders that used to hoard 150 cocktail specs in their memory banks now think about delivering parcels or helping their community; not only do they worry about not being 'match fit' for a long shift, but they are also rethinking whether or not they want to miss their kids' bedtime, their Saturday football match or their regular eight hours sleep a night.

This could be a good thing, though, as it's a new dawn for service workers. It's a golden opportunity to establish better working relationships and practices within your company. Plus, as an influx of new blood spills out of uni's ready to work, you can mould the next generation if you're willing to train them. 

If you are a bartender looking for employment, look at job adverts on groups like The London Bartenders Association, where pay scales are monitored, and job transparency is encouraged.

No Shows and What to Do About Them

Another hangover from the pre-pandemic times is the no show. This is when an advanced booking for a table is factored into food prep, staffing and business levels that fails to show up at the allotted time or at all. When it happens, fresh produce is wasted, staff are sent home early to even up wage costs and paying tables are turned away for the sake of absent customers. The problem seems to be that consumers want spontaneity of an evening, and so make several bookings for the same evening. But in an economy that rest on just a 2-5% profit margin, one or more no shows can be catastrophic. There is a move in larger cities to take credit card details upon booking, take a small booking fee or even charge a cancellation fee to curtail the worst culprits and recoup some costs. Perhaps if this were industry standard, it would prevent the practice altogether. 

The good news is that latest data shows that the vaccine rollout means a significant reduction in symptomatic disease cases, and hospital data reflects this. And the Government will release further details on Step 4 at the end of May. For now, we can presume that larger events can open, the legal limits on social distancing should disappear, and nightclubs can finally open their doors. And with international travel still uncertain, consumers will be out in force, looking to reclaim the social life they've missed for over a year. For more up-to-date information follow us on Instagram or Facebook for the latest news.

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