There is no doubt that the hospitality industry was hit hard by the pandemic. While consumer spending on hospitality has increased from May 2021, with the easing of restrictions and uptake of vaccination programs, it remains at less than 70% of pre-pandemic levels.
Adapting to constant updates on social distancing measures, managing staff isolation periods, developing digital menus, and trialling take-away or outdoor dining options has presented many challenges for restaurants and food providers.
But, despite this, embracing these opportunities as areas to develop, has provided businesses with a promising road to recovery. Even more positive, though, is the evidence suggesting that the industry ‘comeback’ will be even stronger than pre-pandemic if continuing to adopt an agile approach.
So, what opportunities are there for businesses to recover and thrive in a post-pandemic world? In this article, we will look at how practices implemented during the pandemic, like embracing technology, expanding delivery options, and a continued focus on cleanliness and hygiene could encourage customers to return.
How can the hospitality industry recover post-pandemic?
For a strong recovery, it is important not to focus on the idea of returning to ‘normal’, and reverting to habits and systems from before the pandemic. Instead, taking on many of the new practices introduced over the past 18 months, and further investing in these areas will be how businesses can bounce back from this testing time.
Operators have had to invest greatly in equipment, training, extra cleaning, and other measures to ensure venues were safe for business. But continued innovations in service, customer experience, and even menus will prove to pave the way not only for recovery but also for progression.
Not only are there stand out trends that can help restaurants recover, new legislation in the industry, like Natasha’s Law, will change how food must be labeled and allergy information displayed.
While the past year seems to have been full of change, smart swaps and switching attitudes will ensure that opportunities for growth and success are achievable for the industry.
Research has shown that continued adoption of technology, including ordering and paying online or via an app is likely to improve customer experience. In fact, over 50% of 18-44 year olds will be likely to use tech in restaurants.
The use of apps and digital menus promotes safety for customers and staff, as it limits contact between people, while also becoming a hygiene solution. In many cases, this has improved the working experience for industry professionals and kept them safe.
With tech updating constantly to meet the new demands of the industry, electronic tablets and other handheld devices may need updating more regularly. With sustainability still in focus, it is important to dispose of any out-of-date tech responsibly.
Providing confidence in the protection of customer data when using online booking, ordering, and payment systems, and adhering to GDPR standards means considering the correct disposal of hard drives, customer data, and confidential documents through IT asset management.
While this could seem costly, this investment in tech will mean businesses are adaptable and ready for change.
Clear allergy information and the impact of Natasha’s Law
With digital menus comes the opportunity to improve accessibility. Updates to allergy information and food labelling requirements as a result of Natasha’s Law, displaying this information correctly is a priority on both physical and digital menus. Coming into effect in October 202, Natasha’s Law aims to help the estimated 1 in 5 people in the UK suffering from an allergy and will encourage more transparency in what is in food.
It will require food businesses to provide full ingredient lists and allergen labelling on foods prepackaged for direct sale on the premises. This will impact cafes and to-go food destinations greatly, though restaurants that have more recently embraced takeaway options will need to prioritize this.
Similarly, though, the use of digital menus can also make eating out for those with allergies a more pleasant experience. This often allows customers to view allergen information more easily when clearly signposted online and via apps. Similarly, allergen filters and easy to digest symbols indicating the presence of allergens or dietary requirements will instil confidence in diners.
Making the most of the dining experience
Overall, focusing on customer experience will set restaurants apart. Creating a clean and hygienic environment will reassure potentially nervous diners from returning to restaurants. But also spending time training staff on delivering a quality and reliable service.
Making restaurant visits experiential is a surprising outcome of the pandemic. With rules of six and staggered mealtimes, diners have responded well to more intimate experiences, with fewer other customers and more space between tables.
After almost two years of home-cooking or delivery dinners, heading out to restaurants is more of a treat than ever. So creating an atmosphere that emphasises experience will encourage custom. Removing queuing and replacing this with table service increases the sense of attention.
Keeping abreast of emerging food trends and diets and regularly updating menus will also create an exciting experience for repeat diners.
Similarly, sustainability and conscious consumption are ever present, so sourcing the best quality ingredients and communicating this on menus will add to the ethos and experience presented.
Although reopening or adapting restaurant operations may require an initial investment, these costs could be offset by the long-term success of those businesses choosing to adapt.
By embracing technology, creating an inclusionary and exciting experience while remaining hygienic and safe for staff and customers will be vital in retaining existing customers and attracting new ones.
With help from streamlined systems, support for staff and an eye for innovation the hospitality industry can set out on a roadmap to recovery and look at opportunities of change as positive developments for business.
About the Author
Kafoodle guest blogger Sophie Bishop is a Brighton-based health practitioner, passionate about sustainability and the health and wellbeing sector.
Check out what Sophie has been up to over on Twitter: @SophBishJourno