Shola Osinaike and Dr Lorna Thomas explore how the hospitality business can bounce back after lockdown.

The hospitality sector is a wonderful industry with a passion for people and service. The industry contributes immensely to the global economy and has been identified as the backbone of a vibrant country. According to the British Hospitality Association, there are about 127,000 businesses in the UK, directly employing approximately 1.8million people. However, with the coronavirus crisis, it has not been easy to deliver what the industry practitioners love to do. Most businesses have been closed for months, and losses and closure have been the talk of many organisations.

Coming out of lockdown, hospitality businesses must understand and focus on what will make the sector bounce back and be great again. Some factors will enhance these growths, such as customer awareness, emphasis on health and safety and creative service delivery.

Without the customer, there is no hospitality industry. For the sector to rebound, there is a need to understand customers’ needs and wants. With limited money in circulation, people have less disposable income, as such, organisations need to remodel their revenue management strategies to deliver the right service at the right price to the right customers and ensure profitability.

Health and safety will help to build customers confidence. People want to feel safe wherever they go, so hotels, pubs, cafés, restaurants and other hospitality businesses need to do more than just cleaning the environment, providing hand sanitisers and ensuring social distancing. A clear emphasis on customers’ safety should be paramount. When customers feel safe, they feel valued. Hospitality organisations should not just consider profit, but customers and staff safety as key to business success. 

In explaining the impacts of coronavirus on the economy, the Financial Times mentioned that consumer spending is still down despite the reopening of different businesses. The UK government’s introduction of the eat out to help out scheme is a positive plan to support the sector in August. However, making customers feel safe will ultimately bring back customers. Hospitality owners and managers will need to develop strategies to boost customers’ confidence.

Creative service delivery goes beyond the usual and normal business operations. People have been indoors for quite some time. What will drive customers to your business is what makes you unique, as opposed to similar companies. This is when talent and niche services will define the business model.

The use of technology is also another device to foster growth in the sector. Pubs, restaurants and hotels will have to invest in tools that will enhance smart bookings and limit queues, thereby promoting service delivery and customer satisfaction. Customers can order drinks, foods, room service using phone apps which will give real-time information to management. Online booking and reservations, and staggering staff shift patterns will contribute to ways to minimise the risk of transmission among service users.

As organisations open their doors to welcome guest and diners again, adaptability, creativity, health and safety will help businesses to thrive in this strange time.

Shola Osinaike is Senior Lecturer and Programme Director for Hospitality and Events Management. Dr Lorna Thomas is Senior Lecturer and Programme Director for Tourism Management.