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Wed 6th May 2020 - Only a third of sector bosses expect to eventually reopen all sites
Only a third of sector bosses expect to eventually reopen all sites: Only about a third (36%) of sector bosses believe they will eventually reopen all their sites for trading, according to the latest Business Confidence Survey. Another third are yet to decide on closures but almost all leaders expect to see a much-reduced market overall in the future, with somewhere between 70% and 80% of sites across pubs, bars, restaurants, late-night venues and hotels continuing to trade. The survey, from insights firm CGA in association with hospitality software provider Fourth, showed most businesses across Britain’s eating and drinking-out market are now actively engaged in planning for life after lock-down – although the majority of bosses are not expecting to reopen until June or July, if allowed, and then taking a phased approach. The vast majority (81%) of operators have started recovery planning, with most considering a range of different scenarios. But 13% said they were still waiting for more information before starting, while 5% did not currently have the capacity to plan. A total of 62% are planning for a phased reopening of their own estates. However, a sizeable 31% expect a full-scale reopening of their operations, but dictated by what the government allows. Most businesses will be starting recovery from scratch, as only 27% of those surveyed had any sites open, either for delivery (8%), grocery and food supply to the public (4%) or for NHS or community support (14%). More optimistically, two-thirds of bosses believe it will take them less than two weeks to get their sites ready to trade after lock-down is lifted, including a third (33%) who think they can do it in less than a week, while another 22% anticipate a two to four-week preparation period. “This is undoubtedly the most important business leaders' survey we've delivered in a decade,” said Karl Chessell, director of food and retail at CGA. “At this critical juncture, how hospitality leaders plan for the recovery will be critical to the long-term success of their businesses.” Losing quality staff during lock-down is a concern for 47% of bosses, although the vast majority of companies have been engaging with furloughed teams at least weekly, and some daily, with WhatsApp and email groups being the most common mode. When it comes to readying staff for reopening, most bosses (63%) believe teams can be prepped and trained in less than a week, with 32% saying less than three days. Health, safety and hygiene is seen as the main area where training will be required, followed by emotional well-being, people management, and customer service. Most (73%) operators said they are either confident in accessing the funds needed to reopen or don’t require funding, leaving 27% who are apprehensive about financing a return. In that context, extending furloughing has wide support, with a three-month extension after sectors reopen backed by 36% and a sector-by-sector extension dependent on opening backed by 33%. Exactly half (50%) of businesses back extending furloughing in three-month blocks, with 40% favouring a month-by-month approach. Adapting to operational changes forced by the continuing threat of the virus is seen as the main challenge after opening, rather than suppliers or staff. Increased hygiene measures, reduced occupancy, reduced menus and reduced hours are the most anticipated changes to business. James England, senior vice-president at Fourth, said: “Social distancing and the fallout from the pandemic will demand businesses take a fresh look at their operating models and, of course, labour productivity and increased automation. This might see the rise of the ‘host’ role, in order to oversee social distancing measures, along with likely additional bussing and cleaning activities and procedures. Ultimately, hospitality’s post-covid-19 complexion will look fundamentally different to the start of 2020, but we are a resilient industry that will evolve, adapt, innovate and overcome the challenges presented.”

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