Category: Covid-19

Plan B restrictions eased midway through January and, if you didn’t already know that, a quick glance at the streets of central London on Saturday night would’ve told you as much almost immediately. The bars were packed, the restaurants were full, and those who couldn’t find seats were standing, waiting patiently for them to become available. There was definitely a festival vibe in Soho – and I can only assume similar scenes could be seen all around the country.

Although critics argue that the governments’ precautions have been lifted a little early, it is hard to deny the benefits that come from high streets and city centres up and down the country being able to throw off the shackles imposed on them by self-isolation, social distancing, and mask rules. January is a tough month at the best of times, for both consumers and businesses – movements such as dry January and the newly-coined Veganuary mean that customers are less happy to splurge, whilst the aftermath of Christmas and New Year means that people generally have less money to spend. Nobody expects January to be the most lucrative month, and so most businesses baton down the hatches until February arrives.

And it has finally arrived. With the end of winter in sight, things are starting to look up a bit for everybody; not least of all, the business owners in our industry, who really have been through the ringer over the last two years. The general mood seems to be one of impatience; impatience to regain control of our social and professional lives. People want to get out again and continue their lives as normally as possible. With this in mind, it might be a good idea to give yourself and your business a little end-of-January boost; after all, why not make the most of your customers’ improving mood?

There are plenty of ways you can spread a little February joy in the lives of your customers – and give yourself a little extra profit to boot.

  1. Special offers and discounts

Winter sales aren’t just for the retail sector! Nothing makes people feel better than if they leave your business thinking that they got themselves a bargain, so why not introduce a special offer or discount of some sort? There are many ways you can do it – buy one get one free, offers on specific items, or even a flat rate discount on everything in-venue. People love discounts, and it’s a great way to encourage people to try outside their comfort zone, and we all tend to frequent places we’re familiar with, because we know we’ll get the best value for money there. The beauty of offers and discounts is that it gets customers through your door – it’s only once they’re in that you can work on making them stay longer, or even return – again and again, hopefully with friends in tow next time!

2. Make the most of special events

You’d be forgiven for thinking that, now Christmas is over, there’s no real holidays until Easter. Well, you’d be wrong. There are plenty of events coming up over the next month or so – Valentine’s Day is next week, half term is only a few weeks away, and why not get in the spirit for National Tortellini Day on the 13th? Only joking – although National Tortellini Day is real, you can Google it… Most businesses have something planned to celebrate Valentine’s Day, but why not make the day more inclusive, and invite your single customers in-store as well to treat themselves to something nice? There are so many ways to market yourself in the lead up to events such as half-term and Valentine’s Day, so unless you want your customers to head elsewhere, it’s time to start planning.

3. Encourage larger bookings

It feels almost alien saying this after the last two years of our lives have turned out, but now we’ve moved back to Plan A, it’s going to start being possible to accommodate larger bookings – from birthday parties to corporate events – at your venue or outlet. There’s no time to waste, as many companies have had to put off office Christmas parties until Work from Home guidance abate, and many children have had increasingly disappointing parties over the last few months, so they’ll all be keen to get booking as soon as possible! Having larger bookings coming in is a great feeling, and it provides your staff with something to work towards. To stop your business becoming overwhelmed by the influx in demand, it might be best to implement some kind of booking system for your customers, either online or on your very own app.

We’ve got a few ideas about where you could find a fantastically versatile and multi-faceted booking system, if we do say so ourselves…

Words by Rebecca Clayton

After PM Boris Johnson imposed dreaded “Plan B” restrictions in December of last year, masks were made mandatory once more on public transport and in shops. Furthermore, the controversial coronavirus passports were reintroduced for nightlife venues all over the country, throwing the UK’s hospitality and leisure industry into disarray once more during the festive period, potentially the industry’s most lucrative time.

However, after a bumpy start to the New Year, it was announced on the 19th January that with the fall in infection rates and plateauing of hospital admissions, “Plan B” restrictions would be scrapped from this Thursday onwards. Johnson said in a statement to the House of Commons that work-from-home guidance and coronavirus passports, as well as the compulsory wearing of face masks, would both give way to the previous “Plan A” guidelines we were all living with back in November.

It is no surprise that the announcement has made waves over the last week, and that the news has been welcomed by the hospitality and leisure industries. It is the leisure and hospitality industry that has suffered most acutely from the imposition of further restrictions. Michael Kill, the CEO of the Night Time Industries Association, said: “we welcome the removal of the restrictions for the night-time economy and hospitality sector.” He continued, saying: “Following an extremely difficult two years for the night-time economy and hospitality sector, which has been, in every sense, at the sharpest end of the pandemic throughout, we are finally able to plan for the future with some level of certainty and without debilitating restrictions.”

We are used to hearing statements such as these released as the pandemic fluctuates, and restrictions alternately tighten and lift. The news is definitely positive, as many of us in the industry are finally able to get excited again about the possibilities for growth in 2022. However, statements such as the one Kill made do not translate into practical advice for your business heading into February. Many questions still linger – how will the office workers’ return affect your customer footfall? Will you still be able to impose coronavirus passport requirements in your venue if you so wish? Will the dissolution of government advice regarding face masks mean more people are likely to make bookings at the levels we were seeing in November?

We’re here to answer these questions. Statistics show that, even on the first day work from home advice was officially dropped, congestion levels rose from previous levels of 66% to 72% on the 20th in London. Similar trends were seen elsewhere in the country, although in Birmingham and Leeds congestion actually dropped slightly (figures collected from TomTom). Of course, these statistics cannot prove anything conclusively, but they do show that people are willing to return to the office again. With the return of office working comes a much larger demand for restaurants, cafes, and shops. If you operate a retail or hospitality business in a city centre area, you are very likely to see an increase in your customer footfall and therefore, an increase in your profits.

Businesses lost profits after the need for coronavirus passports was introduced in mid-December. Therefore, the dissolution of Plan B restrictions last week has had a positive effect on the industry. Covid passes, which had been implemented in Scotland and Wales for weeks before England required them, caused a 30% and 26% drop-off in trade respectively, NTIA chief executive Michael Kill said. Young people were massively put off by the need for coronavirus documentation, as not only are they the most resistant to vaccination but they are also markedly less likely to be severely ill with coronavirus. However, if the requirement makes yourself, your staff, and your customers feel safer, you are still able to encourage customers to show their coronavirus documentation upon entry to your shop or venue. If your business does not rely on the custom of under-thirties, you may find it easier to impose such rules. However, it is worth noting that there is no decisive evidence yet that points towards the passports having any effect on the spread of the virus.

Lastly, will the dissolution of government advice regarding face masks mean more people are likely to make bookings at restaurants, bars, and cafes again? Currently, it is hard to ascertain how the lifting of Plan B restrictions will affect the general publics’ behaviour. Anecdotally, it seems people are happy to see the end of coronavirus restrictions across the country, in England, Wales, and Scotland; there has been an increase of 8% on public transport services in London over the past week according to TfL. People are beginning to move again, and with spring on its way, this can only really mean good things for our industry.

Words by Rebecca Clayton

With the recent rise in COVID-19 cases, it’s understandable that you might be worried as we head into the winter months. The period between Halloween and Christmas is one of busiest times to be in the leisure and hospitality industry, and we know how vital the revenue you generate in the last two months to the longevity of your business. Luckily, there’s a lot more optimism this year than there was this time last year. Hopefully, with the push for people to get their booster jabs over the coming months, we can all band together to stop the spread.

However, there are other steps we can take to make sure that the run up to Christmas is a happy and profitable one. Of course, there are the obvious precautions we should all be taking – business owners, staff, and customers alike. This includes increased hand washing, cleaning surfaces regularly, and wearing a mask. However, beyond that there is still so much we can do to stop the spread. In particular, there are many ways in which technology can help to limit the spread of coronavirus within your business

  1. Go cashless

    Even before the pandemic, most businesses offered customers the ability to pay without cash. However, the cashless revolution has only been accelerated by the pandemic. Whether customers pay via their smartphone, their contactless card, or even using smartwatches and wristbands, these transactions mean that less cash is in circulation, staff and customers don’t have to regularly handle cash, and bacteria and germs cannot be spread through the use of cash so easily.

    We recognised the increased need to go cashless right at the beginning of the first lockdown. That’s why we provide industry leading RFID cashless payments solutions to business of all kinds. There are two ways in which we offer cashless solutions to businesses.

    • Customers can top up in advance, via an onsite kiosk or from their phone on our app; or
    • Customers also have the option of having contactless card payments use card or Apple/Google pay

    We also offer wristbands to our clients, who then distribute the bands to customers for them to top up via their phone or onsite kiosk. This is the one of the most innovative way in which venues can go cashless, and this metho works best for nightclubs, live music venues, and festivals.
  1. Bookings

    Bookings are another great way to help control of spike in coronavirus infections. This is because bookings offer businesses the ability to determine how many customers they are expecting, control where customers are able to go within your venue, and help keep customers socially distancing throughout the duration of their visit. When pre-bookings were the norm, it was much easier to separate different groups at different tables, and to make sure that customers moved on after they had finished spending their money.

    Once again, Booked it has spent time developing an online booking system that seamlessly allows you to manage capacity and oversee the experience you are providing each of your customers. Features such as the

    • Ability to capture data from every customer that books,
    • Check guests in upon arrivals; and
    • Engage with your customers via Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp

    These tools, plus many more, allow you to take control of your bookings, and maximise the profits you are making with every visit. When you are able to manage your bookings efficiently and effectively, you increase the safety of yourself and your customers.
  1. Mobile ordering

    Mobile ordering has been a trend for some time now, but it has become particularly useful since the pandemic. Using mobile ordering means that customers don’t even need to get up to order the food, drinks, and services you provide. This means that it is far easier for customers to remain in their groups, and socially distanced from others. With a distance between tables of around 1m+, people will be far less likely to become ill with a respiratory infection. Not only does this stop the spread of coronavirus, but also the circulation of other seasonal viral infections!

    Our mobile ordering system is the ultimate way to ensure hygiene standards are met within your business. Our mobile ordering system, available through either Booked it or Licklist, allows you to

    • meet any government regulations for obtaining customer details for the NHS Test and Trace apps;
    • minimise contact between staff and customers; and
    • implement our loyalty scheme, meaning that customers earn points for every £1 they spend, with rewards on offer when they reach a set number of points.

These are just some of the benefits that come with using our mobile ordering system! It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the number of apps, widgets, and software providers available, each claiming to provide a failsafe way for your business to continue trading safely. That’s where Booked it comes in. Rather than having multiple systems from multiple providers, we can offer you the complete package. This saves you time and energy which could be better spent elsewhere in your business at this festive time of year.

For months now, it has been said that certification offering proof of double vaccinations would be necessary for people entering nightclubs and large venues from the end of September. All arguments in favour of this plan state that such requirements would allow the economy to reopen fully in as safely a way as possible. Mr Zahawi, the former vaccines minister now turned education secretary, told BBC News: “When the evidence that you are presented is so clear cut and that we want to make sure the industry doesn’t have to go through [an]open-shut, open-shut sort of strategy, then the right thing to do is to introduce that by the end of September when all over 18 year-olds have had their two jabs.”

Under the scheme, people would be required to show proof – whether of double vaccination, a negative Covid test, or finishing self-isolating after a positive PCR test – of being unlikely to spread illness in order to gain entry to clubs and other events. However, there was a lot of confusion among members of the public as to the way in which such rules would be implemented. Some believed that vaccine passports would only be available to the vaccinated, and others were under the impression that they would have to show certification to enter shops, restaurants, and other hospitality venues.

The policy was also coming under mounting criticism by both politicians and the public for potentially allowing discrimination of minority groups. Furthermore, there were those who said that the government were using the scheme to appeal to political “tokenism,” meaning actions taken in lieu of real political and social policies.

For these reasons and more, the government have told the media this week that the plan has been rejected. Speaking on The Andrew Marr Show, health secretary Sajid Javid said: “We just shouldn’t be doing things for the sake of it or because others are doing, and we should look at every possible intervention properly. We’ve looked at it properly and, whilst we should keep it in reserve as a potential option, I’m pleased to say that we will not be going ahead with plans for vaccine passports.”

The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) had previously criticised plans and as such “welcomed” the announcement. A spokesperson for the NTIA said the plans could have crippled the industry and led to nightclubs facing discrimination cases. They said that they now hoped businesses could plan with some certainty and start to rebuild the sector.

However, different approaches are being taken in other parts of the country. In Scotland, a vaccine passport will be brought in for over-eighteens for entry to nightclubs and many large events from October. Furthermore, in Wales ministers will determine over the coming weeks whether to introduce the scheme.

Words by Rebecca Clayton

Within our industry, a perfect storm created by the UK’s departure from the EU combined with the ongoing effects of the coronavirus pandemic, has led to staff shortages increasing at a rate previously unseen in over two decades.

The Confederation of British Industry (the CBI) has recently released a report that shows the number of vacancies in the UK has only increased since we last reported on the issue in June. Then, it was stated by UKHospitality that there was a vacancy rate of 9%, implying a shortage of 188,000 workers. Back then, the ongoing lockdown and ensuing popularity of the furlough scheme was partially blamed for the lack of workers within the hospitality industry.

However, since ‘Freedom day’ passed the situation has not improved. In fact, vacancy figures have increased exponentially since June, and the CBI have warned that such shortages could last for up to two years. The prevalence of the ‘pingdemic’ can be assumed to contribute toward this growing problem, along with other issues such as the inability for workers to find Visas and supply chain issues in Europe.

The CBI flagged growing anxieties across a multitude of industries due to the rise in unfilled vacancies; these are continuing to disrupt businesses across the UK as they battle to recover from the impact of the pandemic. Director-general Tony Danker says the predicament goes beyond a lack of HGV lorry drivers, which is hitting supplies of goods to supermarkets, pubs, and other businesses. Danker urged ministers to marry skills policies to roles with the highest unfilled vacancies, to add greater flexibility to the apprenticeship levy, and to use their “immigration levers” to alleviate short-term pressures.

Danker said that the current attitude, that of standing firm and waiting for issues to solve themselves, is not the best way forward. He added: “While the CBI and other economists still predict growth returning to pre-pandemic levels later this year, furlough ending is not the panacea some people think will magically fill labour supply gaps. These shortages are already affecting business operations and will have a negative impact on the UK’s economic recovery.”

“Other European countries are also experiencing staffing shortages as their economies bounce back. In the UK, many overseas workers left during the pandemic, affecting sectors including hospitality, logistics and food processing, and new immigration rules make replacing those who left more complex. The Government’s ambition that the UK economy should become more high-skilled and productive is right, but implying that this can be achieved overnight is simply wrong, and a refusal to deploy temporary and targeted interventions to enable economic recovery is self-defeating.”

It is clear that the issues causing vacancies to soar are complex, and systemic problems within the hospitality industry such as poor pay and ill treatment from bosses are customers, are also causing staff to feel neglected and to subsequently leave the industry. The government need to tackle these issues head on, rather than blame them entirely on aspects of contemporary society that are out of their control.

Words by Rebecca Clayton

TIME
TIME