5 Key Insights for a successful re-opening of the Hospitality sector

We spent time chatting with former BBC MasterChef Judge and Consultant Chef John Benson-Smith last week to find out what his thoughts were on the re-opening of the hospitality sector, and how restaurants and catering businesses can ensure they are successful once restrictions have been lifted. Here are his five key insights:

John Benson-Smith

1. COVID-19 has forced people’s eating habits to change, they will not simply go back to what it was pre-COVID-19

A point that is backed up by a recent report from Lumina Intelligence that states the value of the UK restaurant sector is expected to grow by 32.1% to reach £11.7bn in 2021 on the back of market contraction of 53.1% last year. This means that the Restaurant Sector is only expected to reach 58% of the value it was in 2019.

Money has flowed out of the traditional restaurant model. For a year, consumers have adapted with more people enjoying food at home or in their gardens. Home delivery has become the standard, with meal kits, takeaways and food boxes making some businesses more profitable now than they were a year ago.

A new relationship with how people eat will emerge once restrictions are lifted but it won’t simply go back to what it was pre-COVID-19. These new eating habits will remain and there may be less people eating out, and those that do eat out are likely to have higher expectations. Consumers have had a year to romanticise the restaurant visit of sharing food with friends and family, they will want it to be exceptional and are likely to vote with their feet if it does not meet their expectations.

2. The mindset and attitude of hospitality needs to shift.

Opening the doors post lockdown and expecting to do things in the same way as previously will probably result in dismay. The market has moved to meal kits, takeaways and shops in pubs; so now great products and service can be transferred into a meal in a box. There is a choice for people now that wasn’t there before and restaurants need to do more to offer an at home solution.

Caterers and Restaurateurs need to be obsessed with understanding the impact that the industry changes have had on their business; what are the trends in their market and what are their competitors doing?

Profile your consumer and identify your core brand, asking yourself: What you are doing? What could you be doing? Where do you sit in the market? Without this clarity of vision it will make returning to the new ‘business as usual’ muddled and disjointed not just for you as the business leader but for your team and your consumers.

3. Prioritise planning

Use time effectively to plan and create a better tomorrow. Based on the insights of how you and your business model needs to change, question every single thing about your business, from offerings, to overheads, to the technology that you utilise. You need to think, review and renew your business as if you were starting from scratch and then create a robust plan to bring your vision to reality.

4. Get to know your financials inside out

Years ago stock taking or financials would have been done once a year, now it needs to be daily; working out staffing ratios and costs, product costs, overheads. You need to be familiar with the minutia of your costs and cash flow, it is more important now than ever before.

5. Supporting and training your staff

Hospitality is a tough, difficult industry and some staff may not end up returning as they don’t want to work in the industry any more. Staff need to be supported when they return to work, they may have been furloughed for some time and they will often be returning to a new business model. Time will need to be allowed for training and the team to reintegrate.

Staff training should be prioritised not solely focused on the changes that have been made whilst they have been furloughed but incorporating a refresh of basic systems, processes and procedures. Staff need to feel confident in what they are doing and be able to communicate with professionalism how the offering and consumer journey has changed. It is only through consistency of management and execution that you will retain control of your brand and offering.


John’s food and beverage consultancy has a huge amount of experience if you would like to speak to John about your business please do reach out to him via LinkedIn or his website www.johnbensonsmith.com mention Marvel FMCG and get 10% off John’s fees.


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