How are Hospitality Businesses Going to Come out of COVID-19?
Updated: May 13, 2020
Over the last few months we have watched the hospitality industry be devastated by the effects of the COVID-19 lockdown, the government have stepped in and helped a lot of small businesses with grants and schemes but the question I'm being asked again and again is "How do we come out of this" and "How are hospitality businesses going to encourage people to come out and spend again?"
Our clients include, Stonegate, Admiral Taverns, Greene King, Punch Taverns, Hotels and Restaurants as well as Offices and Property Developers.
The questions I've been asked by some of my clients are:
1. What would you want to see / happen, to entice you back into a pub / restaurant again?
2. What would entice you to stay in a hotel room again?
3. How is the world of Interiors going to change, will a certain amount of social distancing become the standard short - medium term?
4. What ideas do you have that will help all of us stand a chance of still earning a living after all this moves on?
5. How will you be amending your designs to manage the current situation?
I'm going to try and answer these questions but if you have any further Ideas or insights into this I would love to hear your thoughts.
1. What would you want to see/happen, to entice you back into a pub / restaurant again?
I would love to see bars and restaurants having big parties to celebrate the reopening of their venue again, this may be a realistic type of reopening for some venues that target a young market like the student market but for an older market this will not work and a more softer, slower approach is needed.
It is also possible that we will be part of a phased reopening and this will probably mean restrictions on the amount of people in a venue and social distancing measures. There may be a prevention of large gatherings and things will feel a little different.
I would like to see venues in the short term embracing social distancing to a level and communicating their plan effectively through marketing / social media streams and inside the venue, engaging and asking all entering customers to respect the measures. It will encourage people to come out and still feel safe.
Some people I've spoken to have mentioned that they are looking into the screens that we have in supermarkets to put into bars in hospitality venues and there are mixed opinions on this. Some of my clients have said they would rather stay shut than implement this kind of barrier as Pubs are not about social isolation. One client from a major pub group said "A pub is about bringing people together, putting people in pods isolating them will feed addiction".
Things that I would welcome include:
Discreet Sanitiser stations
Contactless Payments Only
More Touch Free Technology E.g. Hand Soap in Toilets
Tables spaced out more than usual
2. What would entice you to stay in a hotel room again?
I'm not concerned about Coronavirus and the opening up of the world again, in fact I can't wait to get out again and find myself a fab hotel room for the night!!
There are people however who have become very insular and the lock-down will have had an enormous impact on their mental health. People will be used to the social distancing and will be afraid to come out again. We will need to break down barriers to get back to normal. Some people will inevitably take their time coming out again and there are some things that might assist them in their transition back to normality.
To reassure guests you can consider letting people know how thoroughly the room has been cleaned when they check in, maybe inform then that you are doing extra deep cleans.
Hotels could provide the Facility to Eat in the room? Bring in a table and chair from the restaurant to facilitate this? Maybe a good thing for people who need to travel on business as the lockdown is still in the process of being lifted.
One of the things we can control in Hotel Rooms is the surfaces and technology used. I believe that long term, when refurbishing some of the fabrics and surfaces that are used in the care industry are going to be a standard in hotels.
3. What ideas do you have that will help all of us stand a chance of still earning a living after all this moves on?
I believe for the hospitality sector, staying in touch with your clients through online and social networks is key to keep them interested, doing something good for the community is key to keep people loyal and engaged, for food venues, offering take away meals will allow people to order their favourite dishes even if they are locked down. For a wet-lead venue that sell craft beer for example, can you offer this as a take out service?
Assuming we are reopening in the UK summer, the use of outdoor space will be a good way of initially encouraging people out of their homes, BBQ's and Al fresco dining can be encouraged.
I have been speaking to our curtain manufacturer and they are looking at Perspex table dividers or clear plastic roller blinds for use in between tables. I'm not sure about this but it might be something that may work in certain venues.
Salt and Pepper - Sachet on the side of the plate instead of pot on the tables.
Menus online - so people can use their own phone.
An App - So people can order and pay on the app with minimum contact with the server.
There is a practically in how all this would happen. Some venues would prefer to stay closed longer than open with restrictions. The atmosphere with plastic screens goes against the idea of a hospitality venue having a fun and entertaining atmosphere so this may not be practical
5. Will a certain amount of social distancing become the standard short - medium term?
I believe social distancing will be in place until this virus is either reduced right down or there is a vaccine. Short term social distancing is inevitable and we need to find ways of delivering this and trade through it.
QUESTION - If a venue has to reduce the amount of people it takes in, the question is, is this venue still viable? Can a venue survive if it is usually able to deliver a service to 200 people and now it is reduced to 50 - 100. Long term social distancing may force some businesses to close and nobody wants this.
6. How is the world of Interiors going to change after this?
There are many items of technology that we feel might be more widely used after this and that we are considering specifying, including:
Any kind of touch free technology.
If a venue needs to count the amount of people Alpha Bird have developed an automated store access device that can assist with social distancing. www.alphadisplay.at.
There are some fabrics that are Coronavirus resistant already, you could consider using these when refurbishing:
Fabrics that can be cleaned with Bleach or Alcohol like: Sileather - www.sileatheruk.co.uk - Alcohol wipes - Alcohol known to kill viruses.
Antimicrobial - Shield Plus - Coronavirus Resistant - Panaz Fabrics - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=leqFzHySl5M -
Other things that can be considered when refurbishing could be:
Touch Free or foot operated dispensers for soap and shampoo.
Talk Technology - "Alexa turn the lights on" "Alexa open the curtains" Or a hotel equivalent.
7. How will you be amending your designs to manage the current situation?
Our Designers are looking at social distancing floor layouts as well as standard floorplans, keeping in mind flexibility for when things return to normal.
We are researching, alot, we are looking for new products where people are developing solutions and technology to help in the fight against COVID19.
We are making sure we stay at the front of any design changes that we think might happen and making sure we know what that looks like. As stated above with fabrics and technology. I believe this will continue to be developed and improved upon.
I think I will certainly be mindful of future-proofing venues in case this kind of thing happens again.
Booth seating I feel, will be more used and there may be more private room hire so this will be something to consider. I believe larger venues with more space will become more in demand.
A Final Note
After all this is over though, in a years time we will all be back to normal and this will all be a distant memory. It has been a huge lesson for everyone and a lot will change.
We will all be more grateful for the NHS and care workers. We will be more thankful to see our family and friends and we‘ll be thoroughly enjoying our favourite venues once again with a renewed sense of belonging and appreciation.