Updated: Jan 5
It’s a well known fact that the hospitality industry was one of the sectors hit hardest by the UK Covid lockdowns, and although things are still tough and confidence of business survival remains below the all-sector level, the majority of businesses are now open and trading again.
And, although it seems all doom and gloom following an abysmal December and with the new Omicron variant rearing its ugly head, the precautions adopted by the hospitality industry since reopening in the summer of 2020 stand it in very good stead to remain open safely, should things continue to worsen over the coming winter months.
Online ordering & payments, QR code menus and safety protocols have seen a decades worth of advancement over the last 2 years, and with a large number of hospitality businesses having proactively adopted these advancements, it’s now vital for the public to understand just how safely the industry can serve them going forward.
The Impact Of Closures On The Industry
According to the ONS and HMRC, the hospitality industry contributed £59.3 billion in Gross Value Added to the UK economy in 2019. Fast forward just 12 months, and lockdown restrictions had seen a decrease in hospitality sector output by 90%, 1.6 billion people were living on the government funded furlough scheme, and just 19% of hospitality business owners believed they would still have a business in 3 months.
While these restrictions were of course deemed necessary to protect countless lives in the early days of the pandemic, the damage done to the hospitality sector was enormous. May 2020 saw a turnover of just £1.2 billion for the entire industry, and while the Eat Out To Help Out scheme of August/September did see a significant increase in consumer spending, the lack of preparation for the return of thousands of eager customers saw it provide only a temporary boost, with restrictions and ‘lockdown 2’ following soon after (and hospitality was to blame, of course).
However, since the end of the last lockdown in early 2021, hospitality businesses have been rapidly acting on the lessons learned over 18 months of closures and lost incomes, and putting new systems in place that drastically improve the safety of their staff and customers. The majority of these businesses simply do not have another lockdown in them, and so technological measures to fight a third wave of closures have been taken extremely seriously.
How Technology & QR Codes Are Saving The Industry
Decreasing Unhygienic Touchpoints
As a QR code menu and digital guest experience solution provider, we have spent the past 18 months meeting the demands of hundreds of hospitality businesses looking to improve their customer safety. Yes, the Financial support provided by the Government during the lockdowns was nice, but these businesses also needed more practical support, not least in the form of minimising contact between their staff and customers.
Heightened hygiene concerns have led to a whopping 59% of consumers now preferring to have the option to scan a QR code and order & pay via their own mobile device, which in turn has seen a massive uptake in the number of businesses providing digital menus via QR codes. We’ve commented before on the unhygienic nature of sticky paper menus, and by removing this touchpoint between customers, staff and other customers, the risk of passing germs around has decreased significantly among pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants alike.
Enabling Contactless Payments
Grubby card machines and cash are another obvious one that customers now have the luxury of avoiding thanks to the adoption of digital order & pay systems, and with the number of consumer actively looking to avoid handling money now sat at over 42%, payments via contactless or Apple/Google pay are available in more places than ever. During a period in which we’re constantly being told to wash our hands and clean down every surface that we go near, avoiding pin pads and the passing over of paper receipts is a no brainer, and something that hospitality is achieving far more successfully than retail and other sectors.
While decreasing surface contact is important, minimising close face-to-face interactions is even more so, according to government covid guidelines. Customers in hospitality venues no longer have to necessarily order or pay in person, meaning contact with staff can be kept to an absolute minimum, and the risk of passing on germs and viruses is now far lower than when restrictions were initially lifted in 2020.
One of the most common questions we’ve been asked recently is ‘can you help make us more money’. Now that hospitality businesses are back open, they have some serious catching up to do in terms of revenue, so luckily the answer is yes, with the right systems in place! Online ordering systems are helping countless hospitality businesses to maximise their order values, by automatically enabling them to upsell and suggest additional items to customers. This is helping businesses to make on average 25% more on each order they take, and make up for those 18 months of lost revenues so that they can survive.
The same applies to tipping and service charges. We’ve personally seen an increase of around 80% in tips being left since implementing in-system tipping for our clients, and automatic service charges are rarely removed by customers when paying their bills. These small increases are making a massive difference to an already stretched workforce, and more importantly, they’re also helping them to recover on a personal financial level.
We could go on and on about the ways in which the digitisation of hospitality operations since the last lockdown has bolstered the security of the industry, but in short, businesses have taken it upon themselves to serve the public safely, responsibly and in a manner which is allowing the sector to finally see some recovery.
While there are currently no plans to implement more restrictions, it is essential that the public are made to feel safe, and return to venues to eat and drinks out as soon and as frequently as possible.
Thanks to the adoption of QR code menus, digital guest experience solutions and contactless order & pay systems, hospitality businesses are now a far safer place than the likes of retail stores and office buildings, and CAN remain open safely in order to allow the industry to recover following an awful December.
So, please rest assured that your local venues have worked hard to ensure that you can visit them safely... oh and to whom it may concern, LEAVE HOSPITALITY ALONE!