Over the past few weeks, I have been chatting with industry thought leaders to start to explore “what our great industry may look like on the other side.” There have been some great insights, so I thought I would share these in the hope of shining a ray of hope during a very difficult time.
As the industry braces for its toughest challenge in our history, let’s continue to remind ourselves:
a) Hospo will return. It’s an integral part of the Aussie lifestyle.
b) We are a resilient bunch & will make it through, but it will be tough.
c) The other side will be different. We need to be different also.
It’s a rare opportunity to rethink & rewrite a better business model.
If there is any positivity to come from this, perhaps the Covid-19 crisis is a rare opportunity for us collectively to rewrite the future of our great industry. Let’s not just open the doors and return to what we did before. Let’s use this as an opportunity to rewrite our history and create better biz, a better industry, a better future.
Here are 20 predictions for the future of hospitality, for operators, for customers and for the competitive landscape.
When we return, there will be some inevitable changes.
Customers will expect a “contactless” dining experience. We need to rethink printed menus, queue’s, payment, cutlery and the delivery of food & drink.
We will need to change how we space our tables, manage queues and interact at the table. Our customers will be hygiene sensitive and will pick places that are clean and hygiene-aware.
Opportunities to push the envelope of technology adoption will be accelerated by desperation to improve productivity. Businesses that reinvent themselves to make the most of improved productivity, will disproportionally succeed.
Takeaway & pickup proved to be a saviour during lock-down but many will give-up after realising that it’s a different game, its just not our thing and that we need to be obsessed over the diners in our dining room.
Delivery will continue to boom as customers get hooked on the convenience BUT there will be a “come to Jesus” moment in relation to rates (I hope so anyway.)
The crisis will reveal not just vulnerabilities but opportunities to improve the performance of our businesses. We will need to find ways to do more with less & make some tough decisions regarding the way we operate.
Table service will come under pressure as operators will struggle to justify this level of service – unless they are playing in the premium segment. Staff will be reallocated to areas of higher value including hosting, connecting and more service-led roles.
There has been a massive disruption to our supply & demand at the same time – so it won’t be easy just to restart again. We have come to a complete halt and won’t be able to just go again when the doors do open.
Credit lines have been cut. Suppliers may have fallen. Many workers have returned home. Customers attitudes won’t be the same – especially for close contact industries like restaurants
As an industry, we need to be prepared for a new customer. shifting habits and preferences are set to stay well beyond the pandemic.
After many months of self-isolation, there will be a newfound appreciation for interaction & connection with friends & family around the table. This is our opportunity to shine and allow the magic to begin.
Much of the population will experience uncertainty and personal financial stress. Customers will have less disposable income, so we will eat out less frequently & spend less than ever. BUT we will still eat out. Menus need to be adjusted to reflect a more price-sensitive customer.
History says we revert to our staples during tough times. Less adventurous, more traditional dining.
After having been locked away for an extended period of time, customers will be more “health-conscious” than ever and we will need to cater for that through our menus.
The move towards a cashless society will accelerate as we avoid handling “dirty” money. Those in the industry hanging on to cash-driven businesses will be forced to evolve, fast.
Covid-19 forced a transformative shift in tech adoption – overnight. What normally would have taken a generation, literally took days. From Zoom, to online banking, to home deliveries, to working from home, tech is now the norm for everyone, not just millennials. We now have a once in a generation opportunity to embrace tech to run our biz and improve efficiencies, without fear of customer push-back. We can choose to embrace it or be left behind.
We fell in love with the convenience of working from home. This will become much more common on the other side and suburban hospo venues will boom as we realise we don’t need to be paying premium CBD rents to get the corporate $$.
This will be the final nail in the coffin of tipping. Customers just won’t feel comfortable tapping a third-party device to add 10% at the end of a meal.
Travel, tourism, accommodation and large scale events will take years to recover. If our biz is reliant on these sectors, let’s find new sectors to replace them rather than wait for them to return – which may be quite a few years. Go local.
A new competitive landscape will emerge as operators pivot and adapt to difficult circumstances.
There will be the emergence of our greatest competitor yet – the “dark kitchen” (by Ubereats and Deliveroo) which will mean they can deliver food to customers homes at a fraction of the cost and sometimes just as fast!
Post the GFC in 2008 we saw a huge boom in the “fast-casual” sector which centered around value, speed and convenience. Post Covid-19 we will further see an even bigger squeeze in this segment as premium venues open the doors with a more affordable offering.
Unfortunately, there will be fewer venues and fewer seats on the other side as predictions are that 25-35% of venues won’t re-open. For those that make it, there will be less competition.
High vacancies will mean rent will be at an all-time low for new players looking to enter the market. If the landlord doesn’t come to the table, we will move next door.
Things are changing, and fast. But if history has proved anything, it's that Australians need and love the hospitality industry. We're a resilient bunch and while it's going to be different for a while, I have no doubt we'll be back.
If you're a venue in need of an innovative and contactless ordering system, check out the me&u website for more information and to book a free demo.