Customer Confidence Is The Next Battle

According to a  recent survey there is a lot of work to be done as far as convincing people it’s safe to come out and play.

The survey by the Office of National Statistics (which consisted of 1,788 people) showed that only a smidge over 20% of respondents would be comfortable having a sit in restaurant meal. 60% said they would be uncomfortable or very uncomfortable.

Move the eating experience to outside and the number improves to 35% comfortable and a similar percentage uncomfortable.

It is worth pointing out that this survey was tailored towards restaurants rather than bars, but the health of these two types of venues are inextricably linked so this is pertinent data. There have been a series of surveys and questionnaires knocking around over the last few weeks and there are certain key points that are consistently cropping up.

When it comes to the issue of why people are so uncomfortable the NPD Group’s Foodservice Sentiment Study released on May 27th has some strong clues. This study showed that 58% of respondents consider restaurants and bars the riskiest places to be infected with COVID-19 and 64% said they will only select establishments they trust.

It isn’t all doom and gloom, 63% said they would return to restaurants, bars or cafes in the first month they reopen, but, 76% said good hygiene will be a more important factor in choosing where than before the lockdown.

As you would expect there have been many surveys in the US, almost all agree with the UK results when it comes to the importance of hygiene (there is almost definitely one that relies on god not soap). A Zagat Future of Dining Study found that 83% of those not immediately comfortable with returning to restaurants would be made more comfortable with social distancing measures and masks worn by staff.

Show Off About It

Here’s the thing. We don’t need to tell you about hygiene. When it comes to this area then cocktail bars are good to go. From day one it is drilled into bartenders. If all bartenders know three things they are ‘Pretend to like Negroni’s until your body gives up fighting’, ‘Clean as you go’ and ‘I don’t give a shit your hungover, smile’.

What this particular battle is about is communication. No-one likes putting stickers and posters on their lovely windows, everyone likes a stripped back minimalist website, less text on menus the better. Maybe for the short term this can be overlooked.

The issue is that Boris Johnson, the answer to the question ‘What does a 3D wet patch look like?’, is obviously not going to give any firmer guidelines for the hospitality industry (unless his idiocy results in another lockdown). Add to this, the disgusting arse maggots who run our newspapers continuing to publish fear mongering propaganda because they care more about sales than the good of the country, and it is no surprise the country is worried.

The hospitality industry needs to convince people that in actual fact we are, the good ones at least, the most hygienic places on the street. That we take social distancing seriously. The best way to do this is to shout about it. Let people know what extra precautions you are taking, not just after they are in your venue but beforehand on the street, on websites and social media. Maybe it is worth getting your staff to wear masks at certain times?

If the only messages the public are getting come from our government and media (not us, the shit ones, we’re lovely) then this is going to be a long year.

You know the old saying ‘If you’ve got time to lean, you’ve got time to stop the entire UK hospitality industry dying on its arse’.