Just one in three pub operators predict all their sites will reopen

By Stuart Stone

- Last updated on GMT

Pandemic planning: somewhere between 70% and 80% of pubs, bars, restaurants, late-night venues and hotels are expected to resume trade post-lockdown, according to CGA
Pandemic planning: somewhere between 70% and 80% of pubs, bars, restaurants, late-night venues and hotels are expected to resume trade post-lockdown, according to CGA

Related tags Alcoholic beverage Public house Restaurant Coronavirus

The latest CGA Business Confidence Survey has revealed that just 36% of hospitality business leaders are predicting life after lockdown for all of their venues once Covid-19 trading restrictions are lifted.

The survey of 120 hospitality executives working at CEO, chair and director level by CGA and hospitality technology specialist Fourth also found that almost all respondents expect to see a more sparsely populated post-lockdown landscape – with somewhere between 70% and 80% of pubs, bars, restaurants, late-night venues and hotels expected to resume trade. 

On average, those quizzed expected to see 69% of late-night venues, 71% of restaurants, 77% of wet-led pubs, 79% of pub restaurants and 85% of hotels left in business post-pandemic. 

As such, a third (32%) of respondents anticipate that they need to permanently close pub, bar and restaurant sites in the coming months.

“The size and shape of the eating and drinking-out market is projected to look very different post-lockdown,” Karl Chessell, director of food and retail at CGA, explained. “The offer will inevitably change as leaders have to change their operating model to thrive once they open their doors again.”


Funding fears

While four out of five (81%) operators have now started recovery planning under a range of possible exit scenarios, 13% told CGA they were still waiting for more information while 5% claimed they don’t currently have the capacity for forward planning. 

What’s more, CGA’s figures found that most businesses will be starting recovery from scratch, as only a quarter (27%) of those surveyed had any sites open either for delivery (8%), grocery and food sales (4%) or for NHS or community initiatives (14%).

With this in mind, three quarters (73%) of operators say they are either confident in accessing the required funds to reopen or don’t require funding – leaving 27% who are apprehensive about backing their business. 

Front-line focus

With this in mind, extending the Government’s furlough scheme has broad sector support according to CGA, with a three-month extension after sites reopen backed by 36% of CGA’s respondents and a sector-by-sector extension dependent on opening supported by a further third (33%).

Exactly half (50%) of businesses are in favour of extending the furlough scheme in three-month blocks, with 40% favouring a month-by-month approach.

The vast majority of business owners have furloughed staff en-masse under the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) since pubs were forced to shut on 20 March, with 83% furloughing more than nine in 10, and 96% of sites putting more than 70% of workers on the CJRS. However, only a quarter of operators with furloughed staff on the books are topping up pay.

While almost half (47%) of operators are fearful of losing quality staff during lockdown, two thirds (63%) of them state that they will be able to retrain the ones that remain in less than a week once the decision to reopen has been made – with 32% believing they could get them up to speed in less than three days.

“With great swathes of workers on the job retention scheme, businesses are focused on driving engagement with their teams, supporting health and wellbeing and retaining the best workers,” James England, senior vice-president at Fourth, explained. “While the crisis has brought many challenges, a renewed focus on culture absolutely feels like one of the positives. More and more businesses are seeking ways to further engage their workforce in order to support, train and retain them.

“Social distancing and the fallout from the pandemic will demand that businesses take a fresh look at their operating models and, of course, labour productivity and increased automation. This might see the rise of the ‘host’ role, in order to oversee social distancing measures, along with likely additional bussing, cleaning activities and procedures. 

“Ultimately, hospitality’s post-Covid-19 complexion will look fundamentally different to the start of 2020, but we are a resilient industry that will evolve, adapt, innovate and overcome the challenges presented.”


How and when will hospitality reopen?

When CGA surveyed hospitality business leaders during the week commencing 20 April, the majority assumed lockdown would be lifted within one to three months’ time – with 39% predicting between one and two months and another 29% between two and three.

However, whenever lockdown is lifted, an overwhelming majority (96%) of operators are expecting a phased reopening for hospitality based on sector, location and type of site, with close to two thirds (62%) of business owners planning for a phased reopening of their own estates.

Such an approach has already been forecast across parts of Europe​, with authorities in the Czech Republic – where sales from pub windows have been allowed to continue under lockdown – stating that outside pubs, gardens and restaurant terraces will reopen first on 11 May, with inside spaces expected to follow suit follow under strict social distancing measures a fortnight later, for example. 

What’s more, in an update on 4 May, the Irish Government outlined a five-phase plan for Ireland to reboot its economy post-shutdown​ with cafés and restaurants due to reopen on 29 June and pubs and nightclubs scheduled to open last on 10 August under social distancing measures.

More optimistically, operators believe they will be able to get sites up and running faster than the three weeks forecast​ by British Beer & Pub Association chief executive Emma McClarkin, with two thirds of bosses predicting it will take them less than a fortnight to reboot their businesses after lockdown is lifted – including a third (33%) who think they can do it in less than a week.  

“Operators are increasingly focusing their thoughts on reactivation,” England added. “While it’s not yet clear when the lockdown will be lifted, it is apparent that the market will have a fundamentally different outlook when it reopens. 

“Reigniting dormant supply chains and accurately forecasting demand in the volatile climate of Covid-19 will require collaboration up and down the supply chain, across technology platforms and operator to operator.”

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