Hospitality Expects Long Term Restrictions As Price Of Reopening

Hospitality operators expect increased safety measures such as social distancing and wearing masks to be trading requirements for the foreseeable future, according to new research by workforce management specialist Bizimply.

The majority of businesses would also welcome a vaccine passport scheme, in the form of a physical card or a simple online check, to enable them to ensure customers have been inoculated against Covid.

While most operators anticipate strong pent-up demand from customers once restrictions are lifted, the Bizimply survey also flags up significant concerns about staffing. The ‘double whammy’ of the impact of Brexit on the labour force, and employees who may still have concerns over workplace Covid safety, means 40% of operators do not expect to have enough suitably trained or experienced staff when the business is fully able to reopen.

Responses were received from owners and senior managers of hospitality businesses including restaurants, bars, coffee shops and hotels, both managed and franchise-based, representing hundreds of outlets in total.

Bizimply CEO Conor Shaw says: “Our survey shows that the UK hospitality sector is more than ready to meet the government half-way when it comes to lifting the lockdown. The vast majority, 93%, say they expect measures such as social distancing, wearing masks while not seated, and hand gel on entry, to be a trading requirement not just when they reopen, but in the longer term.

“That tallies with consumer surveys which show that the public will also expect such measures. It’s clear that both operators and their customers are pragmatic. They accept that the world has changed over the past year, and the safety measures needed to prevent Covid spreading are going to be part and parcel of everyday life, including going out to eat and drink, for some time to come.”

With the survey showing that 86% of operators anticipate high demand from customers once hospitality fully reopens, Shaw adds “people are very ready to get back out into hospitality, and are prepared to live with increased restrictions if that’s the trade-off. That sends a strong message as the Government continues to show caution about the timetable for reopening.”

However, the issue of vaccine passports is more complex, believes Shaw. “Although 53% of operators told us they would welcome a card or online check to confirm a customer has been vaccinated, that still leaves a substantial minority that are uncertain.

“Politicians continue to debate the issue, but it would take time to set up a reliable system. Many hospitality operators are looking to the government for a clear message now on whether passports are the right way to go, so they can prepare.”

Despite expectations that employment will rise over the next year, the Bizimply survey also flags up a range of operator concerns about staff.

Shaw says: “The Office for National Statistics has reported that many EU workers have returned to their home countries over the past year as hospitality shut down due to the pandemic, and the reality of Brexit became apparent.

“The vast majority of operators, 93%, believe that Brexit will have an impact on the availability of staff, and 40% do not expect to have enough suitably trained or experienced employees to call on when the business is able to fully reopen post lockdown. Businesses expect some staff to be reluctant to return to work, due to factors such as their perceived Covid risk, despite the measures operators are putting in place.

“While hospitality has relied on the skills and experience of migrant EU workers for a long time, and it’s not always possible to make a simple like-for-like replacement with UK staff, the survey shows very clearly that operators are taking the steps needed to address the issues they face,” says Shaw.

Findings of the survey include:

  • 80% of operators have made or are planning changes to their recruitment and training to address post-lockdown staff requirements;
  • 86% are investing in reassuring staff through Covid-specific measures such as PPE, and increased hygiene;
  • 40% expect to increase staff numbers when they can fully reopen;
  • 25% are increasing investment in technology to better manage their staffing.

Shaw sums up: “Competition for the best people will be as strong as ever. The minimum response is for hospitality operators to ensure they have a workforce plan in place that will enable the business to fully reopen once restrictions are lifted, supported by robust systems that give them a clear understanding of their business in terms of labour requirements and costs.”