The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have had a dramatic impact on the global economy.
The hospitality industry has been one of the biggest business victims, with bars and pubs forced to shut unless they are able to operate as a takeaway food service in accordance with the new lockdown rules.
With a looming recession and economic recovery said to be “fragile and patchy”, every hospitality business will only continue to suffer as less people dine out. And in the event of further ‘circuit breaker’ lockdowns imposed by the government, businesses will need to find new ways of trading in an unstable industry. Many restaurateurs and bar owners have already taken the initiative to switch up their services to cater to the new—and growing—socially distanced market.
New takeaway services
More customers than ever before relied on food delivery services during the initial lockdown. UberEats orders alone skyrocketed by 160% in the first half of 2020, while chains of convenience and small grocery stores, such as CostCutter and Londis, joined the app to help those self-isolating get their everyday essentials. Prestiged restaurants including the likes of Hakkasana, Nobu and Dishoom signed up for a piece of the action, along with smaller, independent cafes and restaurants that relied on food delivery apps to continue operating.
Just Eat’s chief executive Jitse Groen announced that the group added a “record number of new restaurants and customers”. It was also found that each customer ordered more on average compared to figures from previous years. Signing up to these apps, or even offering your own delivery service, could be enough to keep your restaurant going despite any lockdowns. It’s also an opportunity to reach new customers who may stumble across your eatery while browsing the delivery apps.
Bar owners also got involved with the growing trend, with companies offering professionally mixed cocktails for delivery. In London, Cocktail Trading Co made their expertly blended drinks available for order or collection, and even included a bag of monkey nuts, a link to a Spotify playlist, and a cheesy joke from the bar staff in order to recreate the atmosphere and service you’d get on a regular day.
DIY kits for at-home treats
While most restaurants turned to food delivery apps, others explored a different route by creating DIY meal kits for customers to create their own versions of their favourite dishes. Patty & Bun, for example, made eight meal kits available for customers around the country to try their hand at recreating the signature dishes at home, with a range of dietary requirements to suit everyone from meat-eaters to vegans.
The beauty of offering these kits is that they’re able to reach a wider audience than on a general basis, as they can be delivered nationwide. It’s also possible that you can fulfill more orders from more customers when compared to takeaways (or dine in customers during the UK’s tiered lockdown), as you don’t have to deal with the clean-up or waiting times.
However, working with the right courier company is crucial to ensuring the success of this venture. If you’re taking inspiration from Cocktail Trading Co and keeping your delivery space to the local area, it’s worth working with a local company. CitySprint, for example, offers priority delivery for drop-offs that take place as soon as possible, giving your customers what they want, when they want. Nation-wide orders need that extra care in getting to the customer to ensure that any raw food hasn’t gone bad in transit. A food courier like Igloo offers multi-temperature services to ensure that your package is kept at a constant temperature to maintain optimal freshness.
Altered seating arrangements
When hospitality venues opened up after the initial UK lockdown, social distance measures were put in place in order for restaurants, pubs, and bars to start trading again. This included many establishments changing their floor plans to maintain a large enough distance between tables, and marking out a one-way system for customers to follow. This is likely to stay as the “new normal” once restrictions begin to relax once again. For anyone dining in during future uncertain times, you should try to make the process as comfortable and safe as possible to keep any customers at ease.
Minimising the number of customers you can serve in your hospitality business at any one time is one way to keep your numbers down, while spreading tables out further works to keep each social bubble as separate as possible. In some areas, rules may state that bubbles can mix in outdoor areas. If you have the facilities to do so, consider opening up a beer garden or outdoor dining area, offering covered and heated spaces to minimise the effects of harsh weather. Customers will likely appreciate the gesture and revel in the fact that they can safely—and legally—socialise with their loved ones once again.