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Morning Briefing Strap Line
Fri 7th Jan 2022 - Friday Opinion
Subjects: The one positive to come from covid, my hospitality wish list for 2022, time to commit to being kind, Only A Pavement Away is coming to a street near you
Authors: Glynn Davis, Ann Elliott, Katy Moses, Greg Mangham

The one positive to come from covid by Glynn Davis 

Before the new Licensing Act was introduced in late 2005, pubs pretty much universally opened for their full permitted hours of 11am to 11pm, six days a week, with reduced trading on Sunday – which was great for drinkers, but maybe not so good for many licensees with invariably scant amounts of customers to serve during off-peak hours.

The new act relaxed the rules, thereby giving pubs the potential opportunity to open 24 hours a day. Ironically, many used this change as an opportunity to assess their trading patterns and ultimately reduce their opening times. Many concluded, for instance, that there was no point throwing open their doors at all on a Monday when virtually nobody used the place.

If anything positive has come from covid-19, it is that the hospitality industry has been able to experiment with its trading and operational practices through multiple lockdowns and re-openings, and is arguably in a similar state of reset over its trading hours as was seen back in 2005 with licensed premises.

For many years, trading through all dayparts has been the objective of food and beverage companies – with the likes of Carluccio’s being a pioneer in successfully attracting customers across not only the three peaks of breakfast, lunch and dinner, but also flogging coffees in between and even having a retail component to further sweat the physical (i.e. bricks and mortar) assets.

Even those traditional daytime operators such as Pret A Manger and Starbucks played around with extending their trading hours into the evenings. Changing the menu, lighting and music (but not the undoubtedly tired employees) didn’t ultimately work for either of them, although others have achieved some levels of success.

Sweating the other physical (i.e. people) assets is now being reassessed as employee shortages and a greater focus on mental health and work/life balance is leading companies to take a more holistic approach to their operations. The incredibly long hours prevalent in the foodservice industry might well be coming to an end for many businesses. 

Keeping restaurants and pubs open for even the quietest of services and squeezing in the odd walk-in customer late in a service, thereby elongating the opening hours, is now being seriously questioned. A growing number of establishments are knocking such practices on the head and re-evaluating their trading policies. Many venues that did lunches all week are considering whether they simply reduce the number or focus purely on dinner.

Some venues, such as Oxeye in London, have implemented single sittings, while at Trinity restaurant in Clapham, the dinner service has been brought forward to 6pm and last orders taken at 9pm. Not only does this help the restaurant team, but many people have found they prefer eating out earlier after all the pandemic upheavals. 

Such actions clearly have to stack up financially, and what has helped restaurants is that a more even spread of bookings have been taken across the more limited times the venues are open, which has reduced the pressure on the teams and resulted in fuller bookings across all services. 

The days of foodservice companies offering maximum flexibility to customers look to be over, certainly for the mid-term, which will require diners and drinkers to plan ahead a tad more than they have become accustomed. What would certainly help them is for operators’ websites to be fully up to date with their opening hours. 

From my recollections of the reduced pub hours that appeared after 2005, there was only one thing worse than my destination pub being closed at a time I’d planned to visit, and that is turning up at said pub to find the lights out and the doors locked because the website had failed to list the new updated timings. During this period of great change, operators and customers need to be understanding of each 
other’s’ requirements and work together for a hopefully successful 2022.
Glynn Davis is a leading commentator on retail trends

My hospitality wish list for 2022 by Ann Elliott

Just like many other people (and businesses), I suspect my Christmas was, to all extents and purposes, hugely spoilt by covid. Not only because our son was ill and couldn’t join us for Christmas Day and Boxing Day, but also because of the split in our family between vaxxers and anti-vaxxers. 

I could always see the argument for Brexit (the last major debate I had with family) despite being a Remainer, but I cannot really understand the rationale for not being vaccinated (apart from obvious health issues for some people). This was the challenge over Christmas when my dad, who is 91, obviously wanted to see his grandchildren, some of whom will not agree to being vaccinated. So, I compromised and went with him, but it was an uncomfortable time for all really and not one I want to repeat this year. 

That made me think about the sector and what I wouldn’t want to see repeated this year – but then I thought that was far too negative (and I really don’t need negativity in my life right now), so I have focused on what I think should be repeated this year from last year. 

First on my list of wishes for 2022 is the hope for continued collaboration of the sector behind UKHospitality and its great representation of the sector with the government. The sector may debate about the right way forward (VAT cut extension vs covid passport vs grants, loans, rates support etc.), but on the whole, it does so with good humour and a real appreciation of the viewpoint of others. Uniting behind Kate Nicholls and her team has been a huge positive for our sector.

The second wish is for the continued decline of discounts in the casual dining sector. While the usual January sale activity is happening at the moment, this should hopefully stop at the end of the month, and the sector should return to “normal”. Pizza Express have played a huge role in this and are to be applauded. There is no doubt that taking out discounts has hit footfall hard for operators where discounts, in the past, have been applied to 20% or more of their covers. Holding their nerve is vital. No one I have spoken to wants to see huge discount proliferation through the likes of Meerkat reappearing this year. 

The third wish is for continued customer listening and understanding. A new generation is now pouring into our pubs, bars and restaurants and they are very different to those who have gone before – different even to Millennials. They need to be heard. So too do an older generation with more money and time than ever before. Getting to grips with consumer segmentation and listening, really listening, to what each has to say is critical. I think marketing has gained more of a voice through the pandemic, and that needs to continue 

As a fourth wish, I would love to see the role of HR carry on growing exponentially. The impact of outstanding HR directors within their businesses has been extraordinary since the start of 2020. Their role in recruitment and retention has been pushed to the limits, and they have been at the forefront of action on diversity and inclusion. Conventional HR rules have been torn up while innovation and creativity have both become essential for those that work in this discipline. I don’t think HR teams always receive the credit they deserve, but I hope that changes in the year ahead. 

Finally, I would like to see the bravery in our sector continue. It’s a really hard sector to work in, no more so than now with fluctuating consumer demand, input supply chain price rises due across the board, a government that few really trust, VAT due to return to 20% in April and tightening margins. This sector, though, is good at working through challenges. Many businesses are in a better cash position than they were two years ago and have rid themselves of the stress of underperforming sites. They see opportunities and they are going for them. It’s a joy to see.
Ann Elliott is a hospitality strategist, connector and adviser 

Time to commit to being kind by Katy Moses

Almost three quarters of UK adults say it is important that we learn from the covid-19 pandemic to be kinder as a society. As we reflect on lessons learnt over the last two years there is a clear message coming from the ashes – perhaps we could be a little kinder to ourselves, to each other and to our planet.

Health, wellness and even sustainability are not new phrases to us. In fact, they were considered important growing trends long before covid became an unfortunate household name. Perhaps one of the first hot topics of 2020 to temporarily disappear when the pandemic struck was sustainability. All talk of single use plastics and buying ethical brands went out the window as consumers and retailers went into survival mode. Just to start with, drinking and eating more at home meant more packaging. Indeed, sales of bottles and cans of beer and lager from supermarkets soared – not to mention the initial rush to move into takeaway and home delivery, and all the plastic that comes with that.

But as the dust settles, we’re seeing the 2020 trend re-appear on our 2022 landscape. Sustainability is back, and this time it’s serious. Brits say the environment is now the third most important issue for the UK, after health and the economy.  Having endured the turmoil of the last two years, consumers want to be kinder to themselves (their bodies AND their minds) and their planet. It may sound a little cheesy, but many consumers want to spend their money with companies that care. 

Consider all the factors at play when deciding on what to buy – both in hospitality and the wider retail landscape – price, taste, quality, availability, value for money, health, pack size, allergies etc. Yet, for around one in three Brits, a company’s impact on the environment and its ethical stance are all major factors influencing their decisions. Some 70% say they buy products with eco-friendly packaging, even if they are slightly more expensive. 

Being kind isn’t just about being good to the environment – it’s also about being ethical, inclusive and fair towards humans too. That might be in a team meeting or at the distant end of your supply chain. We are already seeing businesses that have been active in their communities during the pandemic reaping the rewards – whether they’d planned that to be the outcome or not.

Everything a company does, from how it treats its staff to how it disposes of its waste and how it interacts with the local communities in which it operates, is all, somehow or another, in the public domain – and it’s by these actions that many consumers measure a company, not by what it says in its marketing or on its social media.

How you treat your staff, your political stance, what you stand for, what your directors say in public – all this and more has a profound impact on what your customers think of your business now, and ultimately, the extent to which they will engage with it. On one level, kindness can simply be phoning a regular who hasn’t visited in a while or thanking a colleague for something they’ve done, but it surely needs to be a bigger part of our company policies and strategy and culture.

The difficulty and pain that the hospitality industry has experienced should be an opportunity to question and reaffirm core values and beliefs. If a building is toppled by an earthquake, we probably wouldn’t reconstruct exactly what was there before, we build back better. We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to re-imagine a kinder hospitality industry – one that puts the mental and physical health of its customers, teams, communities and our planet front and central. 

A commitment to be kind can bring many important benefits to ourselves as individuals and to our businesses. I believe it can play an essential role in reducing the social, economic and mental health consequences of the crisis, which are likely to last for years to come, and the hospitality industry is in a great position to lead the way.
Katy Moses is managing director at KAM Media

Only A Pavement Away is coming to a street near you by Greg Mangham

We have all endured a two-year period we would probably rather forget. But perhaps one of the big positives is that our industry is, and has been, in the spotlight like never before.  

The modern shape of the hospitality industry as a massive employer and generator of both new jobs and significant taxes for the public purse is better understood by our politicians and the wider public than ever before. As others have written here (far more eloquently than I ever could), hospitality has, in the era of covid, shown itself as an enormous force for good – for communities, for giving and for cohesion. We are an industry that gets things done and makes a huge difference.

As we come out of this period, I feel it is up to all of us to keep telling hospitality’s positive and purposeful story, and to keep shining a light on all that is good about our industry. The eagle-eyed among you will have spotted our news earlier this week, first reported by Propel, on Only A Pavement Away’s latest initiative to open ten cafes in major cities, in partnership with industry companies, showcasing what we do and how hospitality is helping vulnerable people back on to their feet.  

If you’ve not come across us before, we work with industry employers and a range of charities to help the homeless, former offenders that have spent time in prison and people leaving the armed forces find stability through employment in hospitality. For employers, we provide access to a group of people that in almost every case are desperately determined to turn their lives around and to succeed.  

As with most successful things we’ve done since launching in 2017, and as my trustees can attest, we’ve launched the café concept, and now begins the real work of understanding how we are going to deliver it. But rest assured, we will. These cafes will be run very professionally and commercially and will thrive through industry partnership. They will be by the industry, for the industry, and showcasing what happens when you connect people that really want to change their lives in an industry that is a massive force for good. We intend to make them as ethical and progressive as possible.

Whatever money they make will go into a fund that will be used to help the people working there live independently and get back on their feet. This will be the industry saying this is how we are helping lend a hand to vulnerable people that are trying to move on from whatever adversity they may have faced in their lives; this is how we are supporting them to get back in to work and benefit from the stability employment brings. 

We are really passionate about this project. The prospect of having ten cafes in major cities around the UK is an amazing opportunity to showcase the incredible work hospitality does in our communities, and for people that need a helping hand in their lives and careers. Of course, we cannot do this without you. The charity, to this point, has been built on the amazing support, goodwill and partnership of the industry – be it from major brand owners and suppliers, leading service providers or the raft of operators we work with. In all, we partner 80 leading operators and businesses, and nearly as many charities. 

Encouragingly, we have already received a great deal of interest in supporting the launch of our cafe programme. For more information and to find out how you can be involved, just contact me at or visit the Only A Pavement Away website, or join our conference in London on 22 February. If you have a site, a piece of kit or a skill or resource that can help make our cafes a reality, we would love to hear from you. Let’s continue to show the world what an amazing industry we are.  
Greg Mangham is founder and chief executive of Only A Pavement Away

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