New research* from insurer NFU Mutual has found that nearly half of consumers (47%) have witnessed some form of abuse towards hospitality staff in pubs, restaurants, takeaways and hotels in the past three years, ranging from customers belittling to being patronising, cursing and shouting, to physical attacks upon employees.
A spike in violent attacks upon staff in retail published by The British Retail Consortium’s latest Retail Crime Survey** has led the insurer to explore the impact of violence and abuse upon different types of customer-facing businesses that it insures.
The research also found that nearly nine out of ten (87%) consumers expect hospitality staff to have the necessary training to effectively manage a verbally or physically abusive customer.
Despite this, nearly half (45%) of the customer-facing businesses which were also surveyed*** said that they are not actively taking any measures to protect their staff. If anything, the measures that they take include having a policy statement, CCTV or always doubling up on staff.
Darren Seward, Hospitality Specialist at insurer NFU Mutual, said: “Employers’ Liability and Public Liability claims remain to be the highest cost to us as a commercial insurer and unfortunately while most is accidental damage, the sad fact is that some is down to threatening behaviour or even assault. It’s not only the physical abuse that employees receive but also the emotional cost of everyday discourtesy.
“Many hospitality staff are young people taking their first steps into the working world, often doing so for minimum wage, and these sorts of encounters can crush their enthusiasm to pursue a career in hospitality which is a particular threat while Brexit approaches and questions about recruiting talent remain unanswered. No-one deserves to be spoken to rudely or feel threatened at work, no matter their profession.”
Reinforcing the importance of staff training the research, which also covered all types of businesses, found that while consumers are relatively undeterred by a badly handled incident, a well handled incident can improve a business’s reputation and enhance the likelihood that consumers will return. Talking about premises they regularly visit, 40% of consumers would be just as likely or even more likely to visit if an incident was handled well as they would feel very safe. Whilst 14% would be put off by a poorly handled incident at somewhere they regularly visit, a quarter (26%) would be put off somewhere they are visiting for the first time.
Darren continued: “Consumers have a clear, perhaps idealistic expectation that hospitality staff are trained to keep themselves and customers safe. While this may not always be possible, a well-handled incident – perhaps with the use of a panic button or a security guard – could even help to improve reputation and encourage visits. It’s the responsibility of the management to keep people safe and although insurance can provide cover against legal action, the best option is always preparation. Often fuelled by alcohol use, property damage and damage to security systems is also a common issue of violence in hospitality premises, which can be limited by following certain precautions.”
The NFU Mutual study also found that 80% of consumers would either physically (32%) or verbally (48%) intervene if a member of staff was being attacked by another customer. Men and women are almost equally likely to verbally intervene if a customer is being rude to a member of staff (39% of men and 38% of women), while men are more likely to physically intervene if a staff member was being attacked (47%).
The vast majority of consumers (86%) agree with the prospect of legislation changes that would provide better protection for hospitality workers, with those in Scotland, East of England, the North East and South West most likely to agree.