Customers returning to hospitality but businesses remain fragile

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

Trade association comment: 'Hospitality venues are struggling' says UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls
Trade association comment: 'Hospitality venues are struggling' says UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls

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Customers are returning to hospitality more quickly than last summer, but businesses remain fragile, new research from UK Hospitality (UKH) survey, supported by data from CGA has found.

The survey found 56% of consumers visited a hospitality venue in the first 10 days after ‘freedom day’ this July ​ – a much faster return to venues when compared to last summer’s reopening following lockdown when just 35% returned in the same timeframe. 

Previously, it took more than six weeks for people to return in similar numbers in 2020.  Almost half (45%) of those who have not yet been out said they plan to do so in the next month. UKH said it paints a picture of growing consumer confidence when it comes to hospitality experiences.

Consumer confidence

The figures suggest this is due to consumer confidence in the extensive hygiene and safety measures put in place by hospitality venues. At the end of the first lockdown last summer, hygiene and cleanliness were the number one consideration for people when deciding which venue to visit. This year, that has slipped to fourth place behind price, convenience and quality of food. Pre-pandemic, hygiene and safety was the fifth priority for customers of the on-trade.

Despite this rise in consumer confidence, UKH is warning that the industry remains in a fragile state with businesses fighting for survival on a number of fronts, not least the critical shortage of staff. 

It highlighted the Office of National Statistics figures which showed UK job vacancies at a record high, with the hospitality sector reporting a 10% vacancy rate – equal to 210,000 roles.

Staff​ shortages

“Eating and drinking out is safe and we encourage everyone to rediscover their favourite venues if they haven’t already. However, while rising customer numbers is welcome news, the hospitality sector is by no means out of the woods,” said Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKH. 

“Hospitality venues are struggling to return to pre-pandemic levels of revenue with staff shortages hindering their recovery. In order to rebuild, the sector needs the Government to put in place a supportive landscape which includes an extension of the business rates holiday until at least October and a permanently lower rate of VAT for the sector. Such measures will allow the hospitality sector and the people it supports to play a full role in the UK’s economic recovery.”

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