BarLifeUK Covid-19 Outlook Survey Results

Almost 300 Bar Industry Employees and Employers Answer Questions About Life and Work During the Coronavirus Pandemic

A couple of weeks ago, we published a story with links to two surveys, one for employees and one for employers, asking questions about life and work during the Coronavirus crisis, and the outlook for the bar industry once the current lockdown has been lifted. You can see the specific questions we asked here, although please be aware we are no longer collecting responses.

In total, 286 people completed the surveys – 226 employees, and 60 employers. The responses came from all over the UK, with pretty much every bar job function represented.

Before we talk about the results, it’s important to acknowledge that BarLifeUK aren’t data scientists, and this is the first piece of research of this sort we have undertaken, so it’s possible we could have asked better or more insightful questions, meaning this survey should be treated as an overview of opinion and situation, rather than a piece of hard research.

Mental Health and Paying Bills

The first trend that jumps out when viewing the answers highlights the bizarre nature of the current situation – during a global virus pandemic that has killed thousands, fear of catching the disease ranks toward the bottom of both groups’ list of concerns, although employees, who are more likely to be customer-facing, are more worried about this than employers. Concerns about paying for living expenses, and mental health rank far higher with both groups – with both factors leading to uncertainty about the future, and the likelihood of things returning to pre-covid ‘normality’.

While the furlough scheme appears to work – only 8% of employees are now unemployed (3% were already unemployed before lockdown) and employers have only let 13% of staff go since lockdown – many employees still have money worries. 20% are struggling to pay rent, 14% are struggling with bills, and even more worryngly, 6% say they are unable to pay for food. This is a horrendous statistic and more support is clearly needed.

For employees, Universal Credit was the most frequently sought type of financial support, with 29% applying (although only 59% of those were successful). Both the Drinks Trust and Hospitality Action funds were applied to by 8% of respondents, however acceptance differed greatly – being 50% and 13% respectively.

Another striking statistic from the employee answers is that only 10% of respondents say they will ‘definitely’ remain in hospitality, with 38% actively planning to leave, and the remainder unsure what they will do for work if the situation doesn’t change. This points to the majority of hospitality employees living in a state of uncertainty, which can have a terrible impact on mental health.

In the employer answers we see that less than half of operators have been given a rent holiday, which presumably contributes the fact that only 22% of respondents say they will be able to remain in business until the end of the year unless operating conditions change. Of the Government assistance measures, employers sought the Job Retention Scheme (77%), Business Rate Relief (70%) and Business Support Grant (53%), with all three having a high acceptance percentage. Within the industry, the Diageo Fund appears to have been the most effective, with 30% applying, and 43% of those applications being approved.

Employers seem to be generally confident that they will be able to re-open once lockdown ends, although 35% of respondents believe their business will only be viable under current social distancing guidelines if they employ fewer staff than they did pre-covid. Worryingly, 52% of respondents said their business is unlikely to be viable under the current social distancing guidelines, which highlights how important it will be for industry lobbyists to campaign for a reduction in minimum distancing from 2 meters to 1 meter.

When asked what help employers need from brands, the media, and industry in general, lobbying of government about a rent freeze, further grants, a reduction on alcohol duty, and reduction of minimum social distancing measures were by far the most requested measures.

Current Feelings, and a Glimmer of Hope

In the two weeks since we posed these survey questions, the situation in the UK has changed slightly. It has been announced that non-essential businesses will open later this month, and people have been given more freedom to leave their homes and gather in open spaces. The number of people catching, being hospitalised with, and dying from Covid-19 is falling, and there is a glimmer of hope that venues may be allowed to open in some form in July. It may be that because of these developments, both hospitality employees and employers are feeling more optimistic than they were when answering our survey questions. However, at the time of asking these questions, it is probably fair to say that the words ‘anxiety’ and ‘uncertainty’ do a good job of summing up the prevailing mood.

At the bottom of the page you will find graphs representing the answers to the survey questions, and we encourage you to read them and draw your own conclusions. On the employee survey, we gave respondents space to express their views and feelings. We received almost 150 detailed responses to this question, and I confess to getting somewhat emotional while reading them, as it’s clear a lot of people are struggling. We don’t have room to reproduce all of these responses, however this selection provides a good synopsis of respondents’ feelings:

“This time has made me realise the importance of downtime and making the time to exercise. I had pretty bad anxiety prior to this situation which has calmed down enormously since I’ve changed my routine, getting up early to exercise, drinking less, eating well, etc. I don’t know how I’ll manage this when I go back to working 50-60 hours a week.”

“I feel nervous about going back to work as I don’t think people will be careful when going back to normal, I also feel nervous as it’s going to be so much busier than normal and after months of barely any exercise or social interaction I feel like it will become too much to handle mentally and physically very quickly.”

“I hope that this sense of community and positivity continues to spread and strengthen even after the ‘new normal’. To all those that need a hug right now, we’re in this together. It’s extremely tough, but there is help out there. You are not alone.”

“My main worry is to have the same type of job at the same pay after this is over. The support and care for each other in hospitality is probably very unique compared to any other industry! Coping ok, just worried about the future.”

“I would rather chew a wasp than return to my vile job. But I’ll have to.”

“Calling it the new normal is a dangerous statement, as it indicates acceptance of the situation. Acceptance of uncertainty regarding our individual futures, our industry and acceptance of our government’s incompetence. Nobody is providing guidance on how to move forward with the shaping of hospitality and it makes me feel panicked, as I have no security and nothing to fall back on. I have only ever worked in this industry, and at XX years old not only do I feel like everything I have worked so hard for in the past XX years has been for nothing, I also won’t be considered for any roles in other industries, even though I am a highly skilled manager and personnel developer. It feels like I am on the edge of a precipice, on the brink of losing everything. I have sacrificed everything for this industry- relationships, work life balance, the decision not to have children because it’s too hard for women in hospitality to do that without a huge support network. Yet our government think it’s fine to drip feed us information and expect us to accept it without giving any reassurance that there will be a way out. They even have the nerve to say our economy can’t sustain our furlough payments, even though they were happy to bail out bankers by multiple times the amount of our payments. So yes. I believe I’m angry and despondent, however at least I feel a little relieved I got to vent here. Thanks for asking!”

There is all this support for NHS and Keyworkers, such has mental health and having access to the supermarkets at additional times ect. What about the staff during Christmas and busy seasons who are not able to see their families, who are serving off scraps from the kitchen as we dont have the time to shop, sleeping in the staff rooms during a back to back shifts where the shifts are longer than the amount of sleep they have had all week. Where is our support for our mental health? There was a slight interest when there was a spate of suicides of chefs. But all of sudden lost? Excuse me what about FOH welfare? Where is the investigations into high management drink problems or drug usage to get through long shifts? As we have no been considered “un skilled” I feel as though all support and understand of the trade has been dismissed.

Employee Survey Results: All Graphs Display Answers in Per Cent. Bar Graphs Represent Questions That Allowed Multiple Answers. Click the graphs to view them full size.

Employment Status Questions 

Concerns and Needs 

Financial Assistance Applications 

Current Situation, and Future Plans

Employer Survey Results:

All Graphs Display Answers in Per Cent. Bar Graphs Represent Questions That Allowed Multiple Answers. Click the graphs to view them full size.

Current Status and Concerns 

Current Situation and Support

Food and Drink Delivery

Re-Opening Confidence and Viability