By Andrea Dunlop, managing director at Access PaySuite (www.accesspaysuite.com)
Having started its post-pandemic recovery, the hospitality industry is now bearing the brunt of record inflation, impacting both its own costs and consumer spending.
Last year, more than 32 pubs in England and Wales closed for good each month due to factors such as rising energy costs adding pressure and, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the UK economy is set to perform the worst out of all advanced economies in the year to come. In real terms, this means that prices for customers and businesses aren’t set to stabilise any time soon.
This is worrying for hospitality managers. Wages are climbing higher than any other industry in the UK, and energy bills are set to soar by up to 82% by spring this year. All this paints a bleak picture, so how can the industry respond?
Getting the basics right
During the pandemic, digital payment systems were praised for helping the sector to bridge the gap between customers who were eager to return to ‘normality’ while adhering to guidelines and feeling safe.
Whether this was through pivoting towards a takeaway model with PayFac technology or adding QR codes to menus to make it easy to order and pay via mobile devices, the use of this type of technology has now become commonplace.
As we reach another crisis point in the industry, it’s important to approach it with the same sense of innovation – but not before getting the basics right first.
Stability and security
With digital payments now widely accepted, the priority for business owners must now be to move towards stability and security. Of course, flexibility is still a key factor – customers may ask to split the bill more often as their budgets become tighter. Doing so with their card (or digital wallet) gives them a much better oversight of their spending, but that does come with some risks too.
Customers who are spending at your venue, or making a payment online, want to know that their payments will be quick, easy and safe. High profile data breaches are often making headlines, which cause the victims’ reputation to take a hit and are costly to fix.
While these are on a large scale, turning your attention towards investing in a secure payment system can help to reduce the risk of data being lost, while also providing reassurances to your customers that their sensitive financial information is protected.
A 360-degree approach
Beyond point of sale, the way that payments are managed internally can also be transformed by digital systems, and doing so could put your business on a stronger financial footing.
Cash flow has always been king, but as wholesalers, contractors and other suppliers also cope with the challenges faced by the sector, intelligent automated systems could help to highlight any missed payments before the problem becomes too big to solve.
The leisure and hospitality industry can bring a lot of joy to people’s lives, whether it’s supporting catch-ups with friends, hosting special moments or giving people a base to explore new cities.
Yet when times are tough financially, it’s a luxury that many people choose to – or sometimes have no choice but to – go without.
Last Christmas, 61% of people who were cutting back on spending chose to do so on gatherings, such as meals out.
As decisions over where and how to spend disposable income become more challenging with the rising cost of living, the hospitality sector can ill-afford giving potential customers any more reasons to save their money. With a few simple switches to your payment systems, it’s possible to ensure you remain a first-choice when customers want a treat both during and beyond the current economic crisis.