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05 July 2022

Opinion from Adrian Leopard & Co

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Re-opening of hospitality has not been what was hoped for. The topic for our 100th news blog
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Re-opening of hospitality has not been what was hoped for. The topic for our 100th news blog

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As we reach our 100th news blog wouldn’t it be nice if it was all just a dream?

When “Super Saturday” came along, everyone was filled with hope that at long last normality was going to return but early reactions were that trade had not really been as good as had been hoped for. Almost three weeks have now gone by and the results of the early period are becoming clearer as venues respond to questionnaires but the reality is that the re-opening has been something of a disaster generally with trade so bad that operators are going to have to take great care if they are to survive. Very few are satisfied that things have gone well.

A survey of 1500 consumers and 200 business leaders in food service has produced interesting results. Less than 30% of consumers are happy to head straight out to visit their local when it re-opens. This is actually minute and to some extent gives the lie to the statement that people could not wait for the lockdown to end. 35% of those questioned said they would only visit pubs they know and trust whilst another 45% say they would be more likely to choose a known venue. That only leaves 20% who would have a more liberal view on where to go.

Which of the three brackets do you fit into?

The survey was intended to ascertain where customers would place their trust and there were predominantly three particular areas. Firstly customers want to feel a sense of safety and security; secondly they want high quality ingredients used in the food and interestingly working with community is seen as a third positive area.

It is ironical that so many want to feel safe and secure when they go out and yet the very things that make them safe and secure are the same things that can put people off going out at all. Social-distancing and tables being wide apart, queuing, screens, masks etc are all safety measures and yet they detract significantly from the atmosphere. Happily there seems little dissent from the need for good hygiene and cleanliness and I can think of a few places that certainly need to clean up their act! What do they say about lavatories in pubs? If the lavatories are bad, so will the food be. One Amsterdam restaurant is putting its customers into two seater greenhouses on the river bank and serving them with food on long planks.

What is also interesting but probably predictable is that the over 55s are the most concerned about spatial issues and social-distancing, about 82% in fact, while only 51% of 18-34s feel the same way. The older people also feel quite strongly that PPE should be warn in hospitality venues. Customers also want clear and concise information.

Whilst not directly related to Covid-19, consumers want decent quality food – if they have to go out and put up with the inconveniences brought about by the disease, then at the very least they want to enjoy what they have to make it worth while!

So far as “staying local” is concerned, that really is about trust. You are always going to trust what you know more than something new or unknown. Think about your friends – you would probably not really think twice about a lack of social-distancing with them whereas complete strangers are definitely the enemy! Do you trust the landlord of your local? If you do and he tells you he is taking all the right measures, you will probably be very happy.

However what is also becoming clear is that take away food really has got a foothold in the market now. You can get the same food as you would have at the restaurant but dine in safety. Collecting your takeaway was recently shown as one of the safest actions a person could take in a properly regulated environment while eating in the restaurant is highly risky. Takeaway could be cheaper too – especially if you go and collect it yourself.

And innovative ideas are coming in too. TGI Fridays have now invented its range of Fridays at Home meat boxes. The ingredients include marinated baby back pork ribs, Cumberland and BBQ sausages, burgers made from cuts of brisket, and ribeye and sirloin steaks. These are quite big boxes and range from £75 to £95; they come frozen so you can defrost what you choose and keep the rest frozen until you need it and they include some of their own sauces. Makes my mouth water just thinking about it!

So you can see that gradually new ideas and new habits are developing on both sides of the divide. Everyone will make up their own mind what they consider to be safe but the good news is that people really are putting thought into what they will and will not do as the restrictions slowly lift.

As a matter of passing interest it has been startling the number of Michelin starred restaurants which are not re-opening for one reason or another, including one which has been wound up by the High Court on the petition of HMRC. Is this something to do with high prices and not enough, or indeed any, profit?

Adrian Leopard 22-07-20

Photo Victor Ballesteros

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Adrian Leopard & Company is the trading name of Alderney Offshore Ltd, a company registered in Alderney, Channel Islands number 1220.

Address P O Box 1027, Alderney GY9 3AS

Registered Office Seldomin, Longis Road, Alderney GY9 3YB.

Adrian Leopard & Co is represented in the UK by 3CL (UK) Ltd trading as Adrian Leopard Associates.

Telephone enquiries may be made on 05603-681921 or 01684-230360.

E Mail [email protected]

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