A recent survey conducted by Taste Cheshire, of over 1000 Cheshire and nearby residents found overwhelmingly that customers want the hospitality sector to find a way to open sooner rather than later, despite the possible imposition of social distancing and new operating procedures that might be imposed on the industry.
Taste Cheshire CEO, Stephen Wundke said “the results of the survey were not unexpected but no less pleasing, in light of the prolonged lockdown, with 86.9% saying they would be happy to come out again to pubs/restaurants if the government eased measured and had restrictions in place. This was very encouraging for operators concerned about the possible public reaction to new measures. The fact is, 76.6% urged the industry to find a way to get open doing whatever was necessary to make a safe and viable offer. This was a big thumbs up from customers.”
Taste Cheshire posed several different scenarios to respondents about what service in bars and restaurants might look like, including masks, tables distanced to provide protection, door monitors for safe access and egress and the use of ultra-violet light on products. A resounding 88.1% said they would be happy to return if it was part of an overall plan that got places open.
There was good news for the Bar sector as well as somewhat surprisingly people were still keen to support bars, even with measures in place with 63.3% still happy to return to their local bar even if there were very strong new measures in place. Clearly, it is a far greater challenge for bars given that the majority are smaller in size and it may be that they are not financially able to make it pay with significantly less people.
The hospitality sector will be delighted with the response from respondents when asked if they should be supported with an extra grant and further furlough if they are not able to re-open at the same time as the rest of the country, with a whopping 77.9% agreeing that the sector should receive prolonged support.
Wundke added “I am delighted with the feedback and have had numerous conversations with operators in the sector who are likewise gladdened by the public support. The big fear is that whatever measures are agreed may mean that many of them simply can’t open because the reduced numbers will mean they would be losing money by trying to trade or it wouldn’t be an appropriate product for them to offer to their clients. What we are trying to achieve with our work with the local authorities is to create choices for our operators. We want a set of circumstances where those who could re-open do and another set of circumstances for those who logistically cannot reopen. They should be protected with a further grant and continued furlough of their staff in order to get them through until measures are loosened further. All owners expressed that whatever the circumstances the safety of their staff and their customers would come first, and they would then make decisions after they knew the facts about re-opening measures. News on re-opening is vital as our recent industry survey across Cheshire showed that as many as 40% of hospitality businesses face bankruptcy if they are closed after the 20th June.”
We Love Good Times proprietor, Izzy Grey, whose readers also took part in the survey, was also delighted with the public response but added a word of caution to public officials, “This is an excellent response from the public. Hospitality operators will be delighted to see the support. I think what comes out of this survey is that customers are prepared to put up with quite lot to get back their “going out” experience, the difficulty we face now is that many operators may not be able to trade in whatever guidelines the government put forward and we must find a way to give them choice where they feel their product is being compromised beyond that which makes it financially viable to operate. The public endorsed further financial support of the industry by government in a big way and we must do everything we can to create choice for what is now the hardest hit of all sectors. There are too many jobs and too many businesses at stake, so we need to get it right.
The survey also showed that despite the fact that many people have had takeaway products and supermarket drinks at home, very few want to carry on with that lifestyle at the expense of visiting their local pub/bar/restaurants. It seems we really do like the experience of going out and haven’t been enticed to stay at home by convenience or cheaper prices with only 10.4% thinking they might go out less often to eat. The Hospitality sector should be heartened by this response.