Hospitality networking company Arena hosted its latest Ask Arena virtual event last week with ‘Hospitality – the Road to Recovery'.
The panel discussion included insights from representatives from UKHospitality, the Peach Pub Company, Red Carnation Hotels, Gusto Restaurants and Access Hospitality.
Kate Nicholl's, chief executive of UKHospitality painted a picture of the devastating impact of Covid-19, where just one year ago the hospitality sector represented 11% of employment, 7% of GDP and £130b of revenue.
By the end of 2020, revenue had more than halved, with £200m a day in lost sales (or £8 per hour) and the employment headcount of 3.2 million down by 30% with more than 660,000 people having lost their jobs to date.
Nicholl's, however, remained optimistic, and said: "This is the scale of what we've lost but also the opportunity of what we can recover if we get the right support."
Nicholls stated UKHospitality's three-point plan, which it had taken to the prime minister:
- A clear staged exit strategy: not just from lockdown but from all restrictions, with a commitment that we will not go back into another lockdown.
- Rebuild shattered balance sheets, shattered confidence in consumers and business and tackle indebtedness, critically extending the reduced rate of VAT and the business rates holiday.
- Tackle rent debt: if support is not provided, recovery will be crippled.
The panel discussion was hosted by Paul Pavli, executive director, NED, and strategic consultant to the hospitality and leisure sector; and included Nicholls; Hamish Stoddart, managing director of the Peach Pub Company; Jonathan Raggett, managing director of Red Carnation Hotels; Frank Bandura, chief financial officer of Gusto Restaurants and David Whyte, hospitality solutions consultant at Access Hospitality.
The panel discussed subjects including:
- Employee engagement: The clear message was to keep in contact with staff and be contactable. Show genuine enthusiasm and positivity about the future, but be realistic. Honesty, transparency and support is what people want and need.
- Supply chain engagement: Communication is king. By working together, talking openly and listening, mutually supportive solutions and innovations can be found.
- Attracting customers back: Continue to be seen to your customers, as if you disappear you will be forgotten. Be relevant and empathetic to the current situation and consumer concerns. Success lies in engaging outside of the commercial drivers.
- Technology: The speed of technical innovation has been phenomenal, but operators must continue to be agile.