Published Thursday 11th March 2021

So, with a month to go until Stage 1 of Hospitality Reopening in the UK, how has it been for you? The stats have been shocking: £53bn loss in sales in the last year; 33,653 licensed premises shut by the end of October; 88 million fewer visits to the sector in Q3 2020; and a very gloomy prediction that 43% of outlets that haven’t opened since Lockdown 1.0 may never do so. These are stark and reflect the deep abyss the sector fell into as a direct result of Covid. However, signs of hope are growing: 55% of consumers say they feel safer in hospitality venues than in shops and supermarkets; 1 in 5 hospitality leaders are confident about improving prospects for the next year; and 44% of operators plan to open new sites this year. 20,000 venues reopened in the UK during August and September, some 320 a day. Are they all going to reopen from 12 April / 17th May? What’s your plan? Will customers return and in what numbers? Trickle or deluge?

A cursory glance at the papers suggests that Staycations are the way forward for the rest of the year, with demand expected to outstrip supply in some hospitality businesses. Try booking a campsite in Cornwall in August, or a cottage in the Lakes from July onwards without it costing silly money, or even a posh dinner for 2 at anywhere remotely popular on Friday 25th June. Having tried and failed miserably to do all three I’m disappointed and delighted in equal measure that demand appears to be so strong. Those who emerge phoenix-like from the ashes of the last 12 months deserve our overwhelming support.

So, you’re a hospitality and leisure business. A group of boutique hotels, a restaurant chain, a holiday park or a sports ground, maybe a theatre or some other sort of leisure attraction. Staff continue to be furloughed, you’re in receipt of business rates relief and VAT has been reduced. Thanks Rishi. But what of other costs to your business that are significant, or will be when your doors reopen. Surely these also demand scrutiny if you are to be as lean as possible to give yourself the best fighting chance to thrive and survive.

As expert advisors in purchasing all things deemed ‘indirect’, we at ERA have seen additional supply chain risk as businesses replace failed suppliers or items that either cannot be sourced or aren’t economically viable to source, due to the pandemic. If sustainability and ethics are centre stage in your company policy, do you have visibility of your entire supply chain? Maybe on a lesser level, have you had to accept reduced service and quality from suppliers? Saving a few pounds here and there is all well and good, but businesses need to operate. If recent examples on the UK High Street in other sectors are anything to go by, reputation is hard to win and easy to lose and perhaps a wholesale review of exactly where the items and services you consume come from is of greater importance, now more than ever.

And that’s where we come in. Your suppliers may well have stuck with you through thick and thin. But we’ve seen pricing leap in some areas as some take advantage of the situation. Do you know what ‘good’ looks like? Competition will be fierce to retain and attract new business and hospitality and leisure operators need every little bit of help they can. Let Rishi do what he can to help out but don’t squander the opportunity to critically assess where else your business is spending money. Shine a light on some areas of the purchase ledger which perhaps haven’t had any attention for some time.

The leap forward in technology, accelerated by the pandemic, needs factoring into growth plans. The 3 tenets of booking, ordering and paying have quantum-leapt into our lives via tech means and demand investment. Surely it is common sense to identify inefficient purchasing within your business, put it right and use realised savings to help fund such initiatives, leaving you to rebuild your workforce and establish sound operations.

Every journey starts with a single step; take that step now and contact ERA. Buy the best, better.

About the Author: Chris Wardle, has worked in the catering sector for over 30 years and his experience covers a range of roles and service sectors including Hotel Food & Beverage (F&B), housekeeping and reception, clubs, event and rail catering. He served for over 20 years as a catering officer in the Royal Air Force in operations director and food supply roles in the UK, Falkland Islands, Bosnia and Afghanistan before retiring in 2012.