Future-proofing the outdoor hospitality sector.

THE LIQUI VIEW ON OUTDOOR HOSPITALITY

Brew92 Palazzo Riyadh

As a number of countries around the world begin easing—or planning to ease—their coronavirus lockdown restrictions, both the inside and outdoor hospitality sector is gradually reopening. This is welcome news, especially in the UK, for example, where the hospitality sector’s revenues plummeted by £80.8 billion between April 2020 and March 2021. While there is an initial focus on outdoor eating and drinking, the measured return to indoor dining will mean that businesses must think about how they operate in both the short- and long-term. The coronavirus pandemic has brought about a need to reassess the time-honoured rules of hospitality. When the pandemic has abated (although it is suggested that COVID-19 will likely be with us forever), it cannot be assumed that people will once again act naturally—the impact of the pandemic on our future social interactions and behaviour is as yet undetermined. For that reason, the planning and designing of outdoor spaces, and indeed indoor, should aim to future-proof the hospitality sector.

The availability of outdoor trading space differs from country to country, and is impacted by factors such as the weather and local planning regulations. If we take the UK, for instance, just two in five licensed premises have some form of outdoor space available to them: a garden, terrace, car park, or other area in which guests can be seated. Premises with no outside space will need to find imaginative solutions if they are to trade. In these circumstances, local authorities can take a proactive approach to opening up street spaces. A business might consider lobbying its local council, asking them to temporarily cone off an area of the street or to think about pedestrianising it altogether. One solution is to implement the timed pedestrianisation of streets, where any business deliveries are made by an agreed time—the street can then be given over to al-fresco dining.

Parklet at Kaafi Coffee

The Wellhead Bar Bristol

While there is no absolute panacea for issues raised by limited outdoor dining space, creative low-cost and scalable solutions can be found. One such solution is the construction of a parklet, a public space that sits on or alongside a pavement, and typically involves redesigning a number of on-street parking spaces. In Belfast, The Ormeau Parklet is a trial placemaking project, with the aim of testing how the city can creatively redesign its public spaces. The parklet was formed using five on-street parking spaces, and is separated from the busy road by seasonally appropriate planting and corten steel (with its oxidised surface, it has a warm, red appearance). Low walled planters provide impromptu seating, while local cafes and restaurants (who prior to the parklet had no outdoor space), can use the space to set up tables and chairs.

Whatever type of outdoor space a business plans to use, at present it must adhere to a government’s covid restrictions. In the UK these include: the two metre rule between people/tables, the placement of screens (though not mandatory), and the erecting of shelters—at least fifty percent of any shelter must be open. Businesses might also use one-way routes and phone app ordering systems. Moreover, because of the pandemic, consumers and diners are likely to be cautious, and more attuned to hygiene measures as well as their proximity to others.

Francis Outdoor Easy Chair

Bread Lab London

Of course, businesses will need to take the customer experience into consideration. The outdoor space should be pleasing—appearance and ambience are an important part of hospitality. If the setting is a pavement, it should be designed where possible to encompass people, ensuring they feel separate from the street and traffic. Planters and plants will divide an outdoor space: they’re practical, attractive, and make for a more interesting backdrop. A canopy or umbrella is inviting and great for regions with changeable weather conditions. If a business has a garden, the outdoor space can be delineated by a raised level, such as a deck—this provides diners with a different perspective and they feel as though they are stepping into a distinct space. Furniture is also a key factor. Discerning diners will seek out places that prioritise comfort and have an aesthetic quality. Liqui’s sleek Francis Easy Chair has a contract grade steel frame with a selection of colours, finished in a polyester powder coating. With an outdoor upholstery option, this contemporary armchair adds an easy ambience to any outdoor hospitality setting.

Restaurant branding is a crucial component of any outdoor space, and businesses should seek to bring their branding outside with a logo, colourways, and textiles. Consumers who knew a business before covid may expect to see a level of service reminiscent of those times, and it will be important to listen to their views and opinions. A business can also think about its digital presence, and work to drive traffic to its website via social media: here, customers can make online bookings, and find out more about a business’s current offer and future plans. Having the right technology in place will be essential, for example, providing diners with the ability to place an order by using an app on their smartphone.

Remembering that indoor drinking and dining will once again be made available, any period where people are confined to outside spaces provides a perfect opportunity for a business to invest in its interior space. Whether it’s a deep clean, a spruce up, or a redesign, giving attention to the inside can pay dividends now and in the time ahead. For those businesses in the hospitality sector, the covid pandemic has entailed extended periods of closure, a number of legislative changes, and unplanned, additional expenditure. Now, businesses will need to adopt a ‘pandemic mindset’. Instead of viewing covid-related measures as temporary, city planners and businesses should think about future-proofing work that has already begun. If planners prioritise flexibility and accessibility, public spaces can adapt and improve. In spaces that have been modified, for example, a short-term street closure, we might ask whether or not it can be made permanent. It is actions such as these that will help to benefit the hospitality sector in the future.

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4 key points a hospitality business should consider as COVID restrictions are eased – BTCBD Podcast – Episode 7.

4 key points a hospitality business should consider
as COVID restrictions are eased
.

Episode 7 of Because Things Can Be Different

 

The latest Step for the UK’s Roadmap to recovery came into play today as the Government eased a number of restrictions. For Hospitality this is a huge break, as venues can now open their outdoor space areas for ‘Al-Fresco’ dining.

But what does this all mean for the Hospitality industry?

In this article and the latest episode of our podcast launched today, we cover the four key points a Hospitality business should consider now that restrictions have been eased.

  1. What the current and future steps of the COVID 19 Roadmap mean to hospitality
  2. Outdoor dining – does it make sense?
  3. Branding – what to focus on now
  4. The interior – now might be the best time to invest in this

 

1. Right now what is the state of play for businesses….

As of the 29th of March in the UK all venues were only allowed to offer a takeaway service, thankfully that has now changed. As of today, 12th April 2021, hospitality venues (Restaurants, Cafes, Bars, and Pubs), can serve an ‘Al-fresco dining experience if they have the space to do so.

 

 What will this mean for businesses?

Having looked at several sources, there seems to be the potential for more than 41,000 venues to open their outdoor spaces to consumers, offering a much-needed boost for the economy and the hospitality industry in general.

There are a number of things to consider…

 

2. Outdoor dining

Restaurants, and hospitality venues in general, looking to maximise outdoor bar, patio and lounge spaces, could also seek creative ways to make use of street fronts, car parks, gardens and terraces.

Only two in five licenced premises have permanent space to trade outside according to data analysts CGA and advisory firm AlixPartners. This does differ by location and type of business – for example, more than 80% of pubs have beer gardens, whilst for casual dining restaurants it’s only 12% that have outdoor spaces.

In larger cities like Birmingham, Manchester and London, they are preparing temporary road closures and pavement widening to help with this.

This same study also found that the numbers reopening may not be as high as we might expect due to limitations on space and the costs of equipment and staffing.

Should this be a stopper?

Demand for those establishments that are reopening however seems high due to pent up demand. Creating an outdoor environment people want to spend time in and that reflects a business is important.

The current UK government guidelines for outdoor dining state that…

– 2m between groups/tables/people
– Screens can be used
– Fixed booth seating less than 1m+ apart plus additional screen making the back 1.8m
– Shelters can be erected – 50% of walls open whilst in use as ventilation

Space planning will be key…

Large volumes or groups of businesses that are open in close proximity are advised to consider the cumulative impact of visitors. It is suggested that steps could be taken to regulate the capacity and staggering entry times to avoid build up on the street.

– Arrange one-way routes.
– Reconfigure seating to maintain social distancing.
– Reservation systems, looking at 3rd party apps or even a booking system on a website.

 

3. Branding

For branding, a lot of what should have been utilised at the start of lockdown will remain an essential piece of a brand strategy for businesses to operate effectively throughout the COVID-19 roadmap.

We have already covered a lot of this in our earlier podcasts, and if you are a business owner who has done nothing with your brand during the previous lockdowns, you might be too late. Your competition, if they have been brand-focused, may have an advantage.

However, there are focus point that should be looked at regardless.

 

Customer service and customer sentiment and behaviour.

As we start engaging with hospitality environments, and with their staff, consumers may expect a certain level of service reminiscent of what it was like before COVID, and their sentiments and behaviour towards a business will offer valuable insight.

Listen, now more than ever to what consumers are saying and how they feel. Keep an ear to the ground, and it will provide you with the best insight into how to adapt your offering to meet customer demand, monitoring the changes in concerns or sentiment.

What are hospitality staff going to be like after months of not serving?
Training will be essential, not only to implement a strict Covid policy but to keep the brand engagement on point.

Strict hygiene and social distancing for the short to medium term will be essential. This has a tendency to strip away the warmth of human contact, and the businesses that bounce back will inject warmth and friendliness into the experience.

 

Ramp up Digital delivery if you’ve not done it already

Your customers want to know what steps you are taking as a business to look after them, so plan for this demand. They may also like to know how your staff and the wider community are being treated, as this helps them feel safe.

Update the website, make sure it can handle the demand whilst business comes back online, and put in place a robust way to make bookings online. This will also go a long way in the business efforts for track and trace, helping to meet those government guidelines.

Put a COVID Policy in place that outlines your efforts as a business, and not only display that at the venue but make it prominent on your website.

Drive traffic to your website via social media, and create great content that focuses on the positives that are coming from being able to operate in a normal(ish) capacity once again.

Marketing

Reviews will be the ultimate cherry on the icing, indicating that the business is still providing a quality service. Have in place a process that easily puts the option to leave a review directly in front of a customer. If they book online, then send a follow-up SMS or email to get that feedback. This will also help with ranking signals on Google helping a website with SEO and search visibility.

Offer incentives during the early stages to generate interest that will drive traffic to your venue. Discounts can work well, especially when trying to fill those quiet periods.

 

4. Investing in your interior

The next step in the UK Roadmap (17th May) states that there may be the potential for Hospitality businesses to reopen their interiors, whilst still keeping all distancing measure in place from step 2. There may also be a 30 person limit in outdoor spaces.

So now might be a good opportunity to invest in the interior.

Deep clean, spruce up or re-design?

Some businesses may have taken advantage of government-backed schemes, which will provide an opportunity to invest some money back into the business and create a better interior and digital presence, rather than on staff. It may mean that the business will have a better chance of recouping the cost later as it will have a better presence on the high street and online. The staffing costs can then be covered later as the business following starts to grow off the back of the interior investment and business increases.

For many, there have been little or no shutdown costs, but there may also be a lack of surplus money to afford any sort of investment. This could mean that the best way to update the interior might be to do it yourself and get involved with the painting.

It may also be an opportunity to look at the business model, and switch it to something like the ‘and’ model. We have seen a rise in ‘Coffee-and’ models consistently over the past couple of years, and that may be a viable option. This could be key in the regeneration of a business.

 


 

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Join our hosts from Liqui Group Ltd, as they discuss the world of Branding, Interior Design, and Business, providing listeners with some all-important insight into these powerful business essentials.

Episode 7: 4 key points a hospitality business should consider as COVID restrictions are eased.

Uk Lockdown restrictions are starting to ease and in Episode 7 of “Because Things Can Be Different” Cameron Fry and Mike Page discuss the 4 key points that any Hospitality business should consider, now that outdoor dining has been given the go-ahead.

They cover the Steps in the Roadmap and what it means to hospitality businesses, the reopening of outdoor dining and what to consider, the brand and what to focus on, and if now is a good time to invest back into the interior.

Embrace the ‘Al Fresco’ dining experience.

 

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