Lockdown; delivery and take out; Eat Out to Help Out; the Rule of Six; 10pm Curfew and #cancelthecurfew, all in as many months - 2020 has been a hospitality rollercoaster. If you can predict the next challenge or opportunity for the industry, then you're probably a Government advisor!
Maybe limiting the time you can spend in the pub or the number of drinks you can have before you're no longer considered Covid-safety compliant? God forbid!
One thing is certain: the operators who will survive this pandemic are thought-leaders and activists. They are the ones who are in a two-way dialogue with their customers, clearly communicating their policies and gauging customer feeling. They are pushing back against Government policy - #cancelthecurfew - and feeding back from the frontline where things aren't working via the media and industry bodies. They are positively turning challenges into opportunity. Agile decision-making and creative revenue generating ideas are the order of the day!
I've seen one or two good examples of operators who are creatively drumming up business and give us some good news.
A local food hall, café and deli operator, Macknade, who champion local producers and businesses, are running a Virtual Dog Show to celebrate patrons' pooches, remind people that they can bring their dogs with them to dine out and raise money for the local Happy Endings Animal Rescue sanctuary. This is a lovely social media initiative that can only keep them top of mind and cement their community spirit.
I've blogged before about maximising all of those eating and drinking out opportunities. Well that's even more true now, as the night-time economy is squeezed further. Brunches, coffees, lunches, tea breaks and early evening suppers have all become even more crucial in ensuring a steady stream of custom.
Yummy Pubs are quite literally turning the curfew on its head - 10am is the new 10pm - promoting brunch and Bloody Mary - sounds very appealing but it won't change the fact that they're having to box-up customers' puddings to make sure they are out of the pub by 10pm!
A night out at the pub just became a not so relaxing prospect unfortunately....and there is still a large portion (just under a third, according to polls) of the public who aren't happy to eat out. It must be hard to remain positive if you're an operator, so hats off to those who are making the best of things, innovating and providing safe environments for customers who are prepared to brave it and support them. Hang on in there, the ride is far from over....
Clare Pope, always has her head in a book - current read Gathering Storm by Rachel Hore