Businesses 'remain fragile' as customers return to hospitality quicker than last summer

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Businesses remain fragile despite customers returning to hospitality more quickly than last summer

Related tags ukhospitality Coronavirus

A UKHospitality survey has found that customers are returning to hospitality quicker than last summer, but the trade body warns that businesses 'remain fragile' in face of the staffing crisis.

The survey, supported by data from CGA, found that 56% of consumers visited a hospitality venue in the first 10 days after ‘Freedom day’ on 19 July – a much faster return to venues when compared to last summer’s reopening following lockdown when just 35% returned in the same timeframe.

It took more than six weeks for people to return in similar numbers in 2020, and with 45% of those who haven’t yet been out saying they plan to do so in the next month, it paints a picture of growing consumer confidence when it comes to hospitality experiences, according to the trade body.

The figures suggest that 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 on a 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, UKHospitality 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.

The latest ONS figures released last week show UK job vacancies at a record high, with the hospitality sector reporting a 10% vacancy rate – equal to 210,000 roles.

“Eating and drinking out is safe and we encourage everyone to rediscover their favourite venues if they haven’t already," says Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality.

"However, while rising customer numbers is welcome news, the hospitality sector is by no means out of the woods.

“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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