Consumer confidence is everything for businesses looking to survive the Covid-19 crisis in hospitality. As consumers venture out the experiences they take in, consciously and sub consciously drive their future experiences.
Feeling safe is undoubtedly the factor that continues to direct consumer confidence and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
At the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic and at the onset of lockdown in the UK, the dialogue across the hospitality industry seemed to assume, along with many economic and political commentators, we were facing a blip. Everything would mostly be back to normal once the initial wave was conquered. The Prime Minister led this dialogue. He did so with others both inside and outside of government vastly underestimating the impact and ongoing effect of Covid-19 as well as timescales.
Boris Johnson’s cheerleading may be well received by a diminishing number of conservative party loyalists, but lacks any appreciation of the gravitas of the situation, let alone dealing with it.
Covid-19 is here to stay and even if a vaccine is discovered it will take a significant time to settle the economy back towards levels of trade seen pre-crisis.
Closed for Tourism
Tourists have all but disappeared from visiting the UK and their absence is primarily due to low consumer confidence. People in other countries do not see the UK as a safe place to visit. Airports and airlines struggle for their very existence amidst a lack of any plan to deal with Covid-19 from government. With no cohesive plan to deal with tourism in place or on any horizon, hospitality will need to adapt to zero tourism until there is.
Workers Stay at Home
Similarly workers continue to work from home seeing city workplaces closed or operating at a low fraction of capacity. This is also due to a lack of consumer confidence with travel into cities like London at record lows. Transport for London data shows the London Tube network transporting at only circa 30% of normal August passenger levels. People do not want to travel in the close proximities the London Tube is associated with as they do not feel safe in doing so. Similar to tourism no plan to get people traveling into and around London is in place or on the horizon.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan interviewed this morning by Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid on Good Morning Britain said he has not spoken with Prime Minister Johnson since the Cobra meeting both attended on 10 May four months ago. For the leader of the UK and its capital to be incommunicado is incompetent, it is also at the foundation of the problem – Boris Johnson is completely out of his depth, surrounded by sycophants.
Early Progress gives way to Complacency
We are currently at a stage in the Covid-19 crisis that has seen the demise of all too many household names in hospitality as well as countless jobs.
Yesterday the amount of new Covid-19 cases in the UK rose to levels not seen since May. The increase is of course due to some people not observing social distancing and other safety guidelines, we have become complacent. As we move towards winter and forecasts of a second wave, complacency has no place in hospitality, as we have not dealt with the first.
We can no longer look at the country’s leadership with questions, we have been let down. It is time to follow our customers wants and needs and the example of others in meeting them.
Consumers Continue to Lead and are to be Followed
As a hospitality business the money you want in your till right now is in the pockets of consumers. Consumers that are concerned about the safety of their next journey and their next destination. Accepting this as a fact is crucial in finding solutions.
In order to have the best chance of transferring consumer spending into your hospitality business it needs to communicate and deliver safe hospitality.
This means adjusting or even recreating your hospitality business to being a safe hospitality provider.
QSR Points the Way
Quick Service Restaurants follow consumer confidence and behaviour better than any other segment of hospitality, the nature of their business dictates it, feeding the masses. You may not be a fan of McDonald’s or any of the other giants of QSR, but their businesses are robust having acted upon recent changes better and faster than most.
Burger King is currently in the process of re-designing their basic restaurant proposition, and it is centred around reducing multiple touch points. This has not been undertaken as a temporary measure as it will take years to roll out. A video released by the design team leading the change not only shows reducing multiple touch points as a priority, but also the footprint of the building with sustainability considerations clearly evident.
Very few businesses can afford to redevelop their business similarly to Burger King, but following single steps one at a time will make a difference. There are many products and services available that make a difference.
The macro economic picture is unlikely to change any time soon, what you can change is the micro economic picture, making sure you are in it.
Safe hospitality will be at the centre of every hospitality business that manages to trade through the changes we are going through, for the foreseeable future.