Viewpoint: Safety is overtaking trendy in the leisure, food and drink sector, says Rachel Channer

25 March 2021 by
Viewpoint: Safety is overtaking trendy in the leisure, food and drink sector, says Rachel Channer

Novelty and the Instagram factor are no longer hospitality's ‘must-haves', with consumers now favouring establishments with outdoor areas and distanced tables. Rachel Channer explains what guests are looking for and how to achieve it.

Two years ago, the hottest new places to go for food, drink and entertainment were trendy establishments that offered something new and quirky and which looked good on Instagram.

Fast-forward to 2021, and because of the pandemic, the definition of an attractive and successful business proposition has changed dramatically.

Who would have guessed that these "must-haves" would be so quickly matched by ample space, one-way systems, takeaway options and outdoor areas? But these are appearing as common features among those businesses that have been able to successfully flex their offerings in order to maintain some level of trade in these difficult times.

Flexibility

Diversity has been a key strength for many businesses during the pandemic and will continue to impact where we see growth and investment – including the opening of new premises.

We have seen many more operators look at online delivery and takeaway options in order to continue to serve and maintain visibility with customers. Providing online options has not been limited to just takeaways, as restaurants have widened their range to include meal kits and bars have offered cocktail gift boxes and virtual tastings, for example.

The move online has enabled smaller independent operators to capitalise, advertising by word of mouth and social media and profiting from the increased popularity of more local, artisan offerings.

The nation can't wait to get back to a pre-Covid way of life in many respects, including socialising outside of the home. But the lasting effects of the pandemic will no doubt include a renewed focus on how businesses can build more flexibility into their offering and prepare to adapt if and when needed.

The lasting effects of the pandemic will no doubt include a renewed focus on how businesses can build more flexibility into their offering

Space

Whether you're buying a house or running a business, space has become a luxury due to guidelines around social distancing. It will take the nation a while to a) be allowed to socialise in close proximity with others, and b) feel confident and comfortable when doing so.

As social distancing limited the numbers that could be safely permitted inside, businesses had to get creative with their outdoor space in summer 2020 to comply with social distancing, attract more customers and make the most of the summer weather. Even in the winter, tents, pods, marquees, gondolas and outdoor heaters provided essential cover.

We have seen licensing authorities working collaboratively with operators in order to allow them to licence pavement space and other outside areas, and we hope this will continue.

It is likely that customers will be drawn towards (and feel safer in) units that continue to limit indoor capacity, and therefore useable space outside will be equally critical to profitability in 2021.

Entertainment

For many years, there has been talk of a shift in the high street and shopping centres towards leisure, and the pandemic could be the catalyst for a permanent change.

We are already seeing interest in vacant stores from a variety of different operators, who are all hoping to capitalise on the nation's desire for entertainment and fun post-Covid: event and festival spaces, darts clubs, escape rooms and other indoor "shoot ‘em up"-type games. If nothing else, the pandemic has taught us to value fun and games perhaps more than ever before.

Rachel Channer is legal director at UK law firm TLT

Photo: Shutterstock

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