COVID-19 has impacted our daily life habits. Going to our regular pub for a pint or having a meal out at a restaurant may seem like a thing of the past.
The UK went into lockdown in March and, like most other industries, it has affected the hospitality industry. The pandemic has meant that restaurants, bars and pubs have had to temporarily close. For some, this has meant closing down for good as they can’t afford to keep the expenses of a business while not generating any income.
At the time of writing this article, the confirmed date of reopening for restaurants, bars and pubs is 4th July, following a change from the original date of 22nd June.
Hospitality is a key industry for the UK economy
The hospitality industry is the third largest employer in the UK, employing 9% of the total of UK jobs nationwide. In addition, last year it generated £130bn annually to the British economy, making more than the pharmaceutical, automotive and aeronautics industries combined.
Looking at pubs only, in the UK there were more than 47,600 pubs in 2018, according to the British Beer and Pub Association.
The hospitality sector saw sales decline by 21.3% in the first quarter of 2020, as the coronavirus lockdown forced businesses to close. In addition, trade publication The Caterer estimates that over 40% of British restaurants will not survive the crisis.
Pubs, restaurants and bars are a pivotal part of British culture and the country’s GDP, and the question is, how are they going to continue operating once the lockdown lifts on 4th July, ensuring they comply with new COVID-19 safety regulations?
Takeaway and delivery provide a lifeline to restaurants
Some restaurants have been able to continue to offer their services to customers as a takeaway or food delivery, following the rules set by the Government on social distancing and hygiene measures, while waiting for the lockdown to lift on 4th July.
The hospitality industry, alongside other key ones like retail, is one of the most affected industries by the pandemic. The nature of these businesses means that people go into a bar or a pub physically, rather than having it delivered online.
However, while restaurants have been keeping businesses running using take away services, pubs and bars have had to remain closed.
New rules for the “new normal”
However, in the wake of the opening date, the hospitality industry has been preparing itself for a new era, the post-COVID-19 ‘new normal’.
Personal interaction will be reduced to a minimum, from ordering to paying the bill, the industry has been working to adapt to the new requirements. The pandemic has also forced UK businesses to start using business software they might not have needed in the past.
However, it is yet to be seen how the hospitality industry will adapt to these changes, and if it will be a temporary change or a longer-term digital transformation.
British pub chain Wetherspoon has invested more than £11million to ensure that its pubs have regulatory safety measures when they reopen. As well as signage across the pubs to respect the safety distance, there will be:
- Hand sanitisers for staff and customers
The chain has also created an app in which customers are able to order from and pay.
Sam Harrison, the owner of London-based restaurant Sam’s Riverside,said they are looking to accommodate the new safety guidelines by offering a click and collect option, as well as home delivery and meal boxes that people can cook at home.
The restaurant is also looking at implementing a new restaurant POS system so customers can order before they arrive at the restaurant. They are also looking at a new system for reservations, including a turns system and also an outside area for customers to wait their turn.
Similarly, Cambridge-based restaurant owner Charlie Gerard has also implemented new POS systems that allow customers to order from the app and avoid personal interaction and also a pre-ordering solution that has allowed them to have food ready for customers during the lockdown.
A new restaurant experience?
The COVID-19 crisis has allowed for other technology previously used in other industries being considered for the hospitality sector – such as AR and robots. US based delivery company DoorDash has partnered with Snapchat to deliver an AR experience to customers. The company allows customers to imagine they are in the restaurant. When a user activates the AR lens, they will also be prompted to download the DoorDash app to place a food delivery order.
British company Service Robots provides robots to the hospitality industry like events, fairs, and catering. The company offers waiter robots that incorporate facial recognition software to identify customers and an in-built navigation system to be able to move around a crowded room.
Despite these new advancements in technology, traditional software solutions such as Delivery management software, Restaurant POS and Pub ePOS systems are a few examples of the software that has been used the most until now in the hospitality sector. These allow restaurants, bars, and pubs to have wider visibility of logistics and delivery as well as managing staff schedules and points-of-sale.
Once the lockdown lifts, the experience of going to the pub may not be the same as before – we may need to leave 2 metres between us at the bar – due to social distancing.
Charlie Gerard, owner, Stolen:
“I expect us to be in a new world where people are aware of the dangers, and while they may not choose to stay in a double sanitised room, [safety measures as well as technology] are features that gives our guests reassurance about their stay.”