What’s next for UK bars and restaurants?

Posted on | Posted in Hospitality

 Many UK bars and restaurants have been open to the public since early July, and staff and customers have been getting used to new measures. Track and trace, table service, remote ordering, and the end of bar queues are all part of this new normal, along with increased hygiene measures.

Pubs, bars, and restaurants, along with their staff and customers, have adapted to the guidance. But there is concern that awareness will slip as people get used to life outside of lockdown. Scotland has already seen outbreaks linked to pubs, leading to safety measures being made mandatory by law.

Across the world, there have been local and national lockdowns as countries brace themselves for predicted second waves. Countries including Spain and Greece have imposed curfews and closures due to tourism fuelled outbreaks, with increasing numbers of holiday makers venturing abroad.

The ever-changing landscape of the pandemic makes it difficult for UK bars and restaurants to know what’s around the corner. Further lockdowns are likely, and distancing measures are here to stay. But what’s clear is that businesses need to remain adaptable to stay resilient.

The post pandemic digital shift

Technology has been making life easier in the world of hospitality for decades. The pandemic has accelerated this shift and the businesses that have adapted to digital operations stand the best chance of surviving.

Ordering apps, online booking, table service and contactless payments are allowing UK bars and restaurants to manage numbers and limit close contact between staff and customers. Apps for checking capacity give customers the ability to plan ahead to avoid busy periods.

These measures reduce crowding and create a clear system for everyone to follow. The safer people are in bars and restaurants, the more likely they are to stay open. Having a robust digital ordering and booking systems, and a functional website to support this, is now critical.

Finding more ways to serve customers

Many businesses are making use of third-party apps to boost their offering, and there are plenty out there in response to increased demand. Other bars and restaurants are developing their own apps and online shops, which has the added benefit of increasing customer loyalty.

Online shops, takeaway services, digital vouchers, and customer loyalty campaigns sprung up during lockdown. Many bars and restaurants have continued delivering these services and selling off-the-shelf food and drink to supplement serving fewer covers inhouse.

Events and initiatives to keep people returning

To boost profits and encourage more customers to return, businesses are running events. Hotels and pubs have turned car parks into large beer gardens, hosting outdoor bars, bands, and DJs. Food markets and outdoor music events are returning. Bars and restaurants that have the space have teamed up with other businesses to host events, run food stalls, or create their own gatherings.

While we live with the pandemic, outdoor events with limited capacity are going to be one of the only safe ways for people to gather in large numbers. Seeing businesses team up to put on socially distanced events is a promising sign for how we might share leisure time for the foreseeable future.

Crowd funding and customer loyalty

Starting a new initiative or expanding your offering has a cost. With the upfront funds not there for many businesses, they’ve found other ways to raise investment.

Loyalty schemes, crowdfunding, and fundraising schemes have helped many businesses stay afloat during lockdown. It’s enabled some businesses to raise the money they need to change operations For local and independent venues, having a loyal customer base and community to turn to will continue to be a lifeline.

What’s next for UK bars and restaurants?

The businesses that adopt digital processes and expand their offerings stand the best chance of staying open for the duration. Protecting against further lockdowns and tighter restrictions means having a plan for supplementing income.

This could be expanding sheltered outdoor seating for winter, creating an outdoor food van or bar trailer, or investing in an online shop. Taking a creative approach to serving customers with strict distancing in place for the long term means bars and restaurants are prepared for resurgences.

Are you a bar or restaurant owner or manager looking to extend your space to seat more covers at a distance? Talk to us about what’s possible.