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The further challenges of the hospitality industry

Diane Hall


Cozy hotel room

It’s an industry that has been practically decimated by the pandemic. Despite a low percentage of the population contracting Covid in a hospitality setting during the pandemic, pubs and restaurants bore the brunt of many political U-turns.

Close your doors. Open again, but with a raft of social distancing measures and restrictions. Close again. Open, but only outside. Now invite people in, but at the expense of any atmosphere or mingling…

There’s little wonder why so many people nowadays choose to buy booze from their local supermarket to enjoy at home/in their gardens with their family and friends, rather than going out for a drink. If you can’t mix and mingle, what’s the point? Sitting at a table with, likely, the same people you see all the time, not allowed to even go to the bar to order, makes for a damp squib of a night.

Employees in the hospitality industry have spent the last year or so on elastic, back and forth, between working their job and whiling their time away on furlough. This period, stressful as it already was, made some people realise that the long and unsociable hours were not conducive to family life—causing some to change careers. And with almost half of hospitality workers coming from overseas, Brexit has presented pub and restaurant owners with a huge staffing challenge. I’ve even heard of some recruiters refusing client contracts from the sector, knowing that it will prove extremely difficult to fill the vacancies.

Some venues have thrown in the towel. The BBC claims that 10% of the entire restaurant trade has disappeared due to Covid. Faced with never-ending uncertainty and a lack of trade when allowed to open, the significant losses encountered during the pandemic proved the impetus for many pub managers and restauranteurs to call it quits. Grants and rates relief were available, but they didn’t always meet the needs of these small businesses. The investment many made into signage and systems in the first lockdown just added insult to injury. And though being able to provide takeaway food might have helped them to exist in the short-term, this wasn’t any compensation for opening as they should have.

When eateries were finally allowed to open again on April 12th 2021 it became a bit of a let-down. In recent years, there’s been decent, dry weather over Easter. Not so this one, which saw one of the coldest, wettest Springs on record.

Of course, in every sector, there are new openings to counteract the number of closures—at least under normal circumstances. Few people would consider it a good, safe bet to open a new restaurant or take over a pub management contract after everything that has happened during the last year-and-a-half. According to the BBC, ‘The restaurant sector was already shrinking before the pandemic. The number of pubs serving food has fallen by 4.2%. Restaurants are down 10.2%.’

Without an influx of new places to eat, the sector could face further trouble. If people have little or no choice when it comes to eating out, they may simply not bother, which will do even more harm for the hospitality sector over the long term.

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