Hospitality industry support, rebuilding customer confidence and technology identified as essential for hospitality following imposition of latest restrictions

Henry Seddon

Access Hospitality, Managing Director

Article includes comments from Kate Nicholls of UKHospitality and Karl Chessell of CGA in Access Hospitality webinars restrictions

In a rousing response to the introduction of a curfew, with all hospitality venues having to close by 10pm from Thursday 24th September, leading industry figures have called for extended industry support and a change to the language used to ensure that consumer confidence is not further damaged.

Speaking during a live webinar hosted by Access Hospitality on Tuesday (22nd September), Kate Nicholls, CEO of UKHospitality, noted that measures must be put in place without delay to avoid another round of redundancies and business closures. Nicholls said “Unless the government acts really quickly, we've got a cliff edge coming at the end of September, which is when the trigger date comes for redundancy consultations, and it's also when the rents have to be paid.

“You cannot close down or severely restrict a whole sector without providing support for the people whose jobs, livelihoods depend upon it. You must make the support packages available to the industry last as long as the restrictions that you impose upon us. In the initial period, we need sector-specific furlough to be continued while we are through this period of closure. You need a real solution on rents because the rent dilemma comes to a head at the end of September and, currently, we don't have that debt enforcement moratorium extended, and we don't have any support on rent.”

Her comments were echoed by Henry Seddon, MD of Access Hospitality “These are not zombie companies propping up tax claims in other territories. These are businesses that are run in difficult times in really creative ways. Actually, what I've seen is an industry getting around its staff and its communities to really deliver for their customers.”

Karl Chessell, Food & Retail Business Unit Director of CGA, confirmed that one in five restaurants have not reopened yet, leaving 900,000 hospitality workers are still being supported by furlough.  “The one thing I personally would like to see from the Government is an extension to the furlough because I think that's the closest cliff-edge. There is a whole range of support packages that are going to be needed and, inevitably, I think there will be some element of role change as hospitality adapts.”

A survey conducted for Access Hospitality by CGA, prior to the latest announcements, identified that reassuring consumer about their safety was essential to rebuild their fragile confidence. “The key drivers that people were focused on, unsurprisingly in a global health pandemic, were the level of COVID-19 precautions being implemented with hygiene and cleanliness levels the second most important factor” added Chessell. “Every time there is a government announcement such as a stay-at-home, the rule of six or hospitality must close at 10pm, it dents consumer confidence. People are researching online more and that is where having the right hygiene protocols in place, but also communicating clearly on your website, on your social media channels is really, important.

The use of technology was highlighted as one of the biggest changes over the last few months, helping to improve confidence through the customer journey and back of house processes.

“I have never seen such a rapid rollout of technology” said Kate Nicholls. “Things that would normally take three to five years to get through, or you would have ‘it doesn't work with EPOS’ or ‘it doesn't work with the other bits of technology’, we've now got that seamless integration of technology and the acceleration towards a single portal for a customer. Where you want to use technology is in a smart way to allow your staff to be freed up to deliver better service. That's where technology comes into its own.”

As hospitality operators tackle the latest restrictions imposed on them, the full Access Hospitality webinar is available to download. It forms part of a week of practical support from the leading technology provider under its Access All Areas virtual conference.

Find out more and register for additional Access All Areas sessions