11 August 2022

Opinion from Adrian Leopard & Co

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Hospitality businesses uncertain over future with new lockdown.
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Hospitality businesses uncertain over future with new lockdown.

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It’s going to be quite a tough slog when things get back to normal; what can the industry do to help itself?

Now the new lockdown has started in England hospitality businesses find themselves with quite mixed feelings about the future and what to do.

43% of hospitality businesses are against the lockdown while 41% say that they support it with the remainder uncertain. This is not quite the rip-roaring majority which may be expected. The truth is that perhaps businesses are beginning to realise that being open contributes some risk at least to the spread of Covid-19 and that any spread at all should be restrained if at all possible.

This does not alter the fact however that many businesses are concerned for their survival with further lockdowns even with the extension of the furlough scheme which still requires a contribution to be made by employers so further redundancies are certainly quite feasible – in fact there are still tens of thousands of jobs at risk.

If you are a hospitality business, what can you do? The shock to the system is far less this time around than it was the first time because people have started to come to terms with things to some degree. Many pubs and restaurants have turned to take away service as a temporary saviour and there is no reason why this should not do well. It may mean the difference between the business surviving and going down completely.

But when they re-open, do hospitality businesses need to think about the future? Yes they do. It is very likely that overall business will be well down for a very long time until confidence returns to the market or perhaps a vaccine becomes available. Cost cutting and improvement in efficiency are going to be the order of the day. To this end, hospitality operators ought to be turning their minds more and more to state of the art software to assist in running their businesses. That is not to say that businesses have not already stepped up to the plate in bringing technology into play but improved technology which can do so much more is coming into existence all the time so may be your ten year old state of the art EPoS system is now due for retirement in favour of its young spritely grandson.

Restaurants and takeaways in particular will find that there is so much new software available now that it is almost mind-boggling. But think of the ways in which this new technology can help: remote meal ordering to reduce the possibility of errors. Stock control which can now be so detailed that it includes all the details of your menu items and the exact quantities of their ingredients – and records their usage every time a meal is prepared. Table software to ensure that tables are effectively reserved so that you don’t waste tables, particularly valuable just now when restaurants have to restrict the number of tables available to conform to social distancing.

Your EPoS system is a major tool in stock and cash control and if used properly will ensure that you never fail to keep your stock levels at their optimum and all of these systems can be linked together as more and more companies work to provide the necessary interfaces where required to operate with the software of other suppliers.

As is well known, the use of computer technology brings about greater reliability and low man-power requirements and with wages where they are now, saving in man-power is a major need for all businesses in the sector. And all these new programs have more bells and whistles on today than you would believe – even down to reminding you what a particular customer ordered last time and which is his favourite wine.

There is a caveat though. As more suppliers come into the frame, that means more different forms of payment. Be very careful that you do not get signed up into something you cannot easily get out of with payment of a huge exit fee. Also watch any company that seeks to limit its own liability if everything goes wrong for you; they could finish your business off and walk away without responsibility. The moral is be careful and take professional advice before committing yourself to anything arduous.

Probably everyone has seen that in extreme circumstances, drinks can be ordered by computer and they are then mixed and prepared by robots, thereby cutting out the human intervention completely, definitely the rather chilling route to a sort of star ship replicator. But then we already use that technology all the time with our coffee vending machines so perhaps it will not take us so much by storm after all. Mind you, I hope the mixing of ingredients will be carried out at a far greater level of precision – after all who likes tea flavoured coffee and vice versa?

Adrian Leopard 06-11-20

Photo Jason Rojas

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