Adapt to Survive

It is no secret that the UK hospitality industry has been struggling under the weight of the pandemic, Brexit and more latterly the cost of living and energy crises. These events have further exacerbated the existing struggles with cost of overheads and products and the short shrift given to the industry by our own government. This year alone over 150 pubs have already closed down as their businesses became unviable due to the increased operation costs and reduction in footfall as consumers reduce the time and money they spend going out. However, despite all the challenges, it is still possible to build a highly successful hospitality business if you, the operator, are willing to adopt a flexible and reactive approach to your services and offers.

Whilst a business can attempt to weather the storm in the hope of a brighter future by increasing prices, cutting staff, sourcing cheaper (read lesser quality) produce, etc this should be considered the last resort rather than the first option. A hospitality business that degrades its own product and service will not survive long term. Instead, hospitality business owners should be studying their local market and identifying ways to increase the services they can offer, whilst also reviewing the efficiencies within their site, all  within the bounds of their original business and ensuring to maintain a high level of product and service.

A quick brainstorm generated these possible solutions –

  1. Alternative uses for disused areas on site – many hospitality businesses (especially pubs) tend to operate their business from the ground floor only with the upper floors of their property given over to manager accommodation or mothballed entirely. Is it possible for you to convert the upper floor to letting rooms, function rooms or flats to generate an additional income stream? Alternatively, your site may have a large garden or carpark, part of which could be parcelled off for development of residential or retail units or the installation of glamping pods to capture a piece of the “staycation” market. If your site has a large external area, you could consider creating your own allotment area and growing your own produce on site. This would both reduce costs on purchasing stock and is also a USP for customers coming to your venue.
  2. Conversely, can you mothball areas of your existing trade area during periods of slower trade (say mid week)? The installation of doors or movable screens , as well as ensuring heating and lighting is zoned correctly, enables areas to be shut off during quieter periods saving on energy bills.
  3. Diversify your offer – being all things to all people can be a double edged sword. On the one hand a wide range of offers can help you attract customers that might never have visited your site previously, however on the other hand there is a danger that the business`s core vision becomes muddied and levels of service and product fall as management stretch their teams capabilities too far. If done well though, these “chameleon” sites are able to capture chunks of the market that would previously never been open to them, effortlessly segueing from coffee shop in the mornings, fine restaurants through dinner and tea into vibrant bars in the evenings. Clever design choices can make this a seamless transition through the day.
  4. Change your menu – with the cost of everything from lamb and salmon through to fruit and vegetables increasing at an alarming rate it might be beneficial for restauranteurs and pub operators to source all produce from within their local area and only purchase products when they are “in season” rather than relying on a large fixed menu that is more dependant on stock being brought in from overseas. Set menus allow restauranteurs to manage how much stock they need onsite to deliver their menu which in turn helps in reducing waste. On that note, can parts of produce previously destined for the waste bin be instead incorporated into the menu, for example using chicken carcasses to make stock for the next day’s soup? Finally, consider dropping meat from the menu entirely, although there may be some backlash it is shown that the younger generations are leaning more toward a vegan or plant based diet. As the cost of fruit and veg is less volatile than meat a change to a plant based menu offers greater control over costs.
  5. Reduce energy usage and waste –Can equipment be replaced for more modern energy efficient kit, such as catering equipment or bottle coolers, to reduce energy use? Can equipment be turned off when not in use? For example chefs are often in the habit of turning all equipment on at the beginning of a shift in preparation for the service to come, however if not in direct use , then there is no reason for them to be on until required. Can external heaters be stripped out and replaced with warm woollen blankets or hand driers replaced with recyclable paper towels or hand sanitiser? Can your site reduce energy requirements through installation of solar panels or heat source pumps? Finally, can your site`s EPC be improved through installation of double ( or secondary ) glazing, LED lamps, PIR Sensors and insulation? There are even systems available that can transfer the heat generated from your catering kitchen into the trade area.
  6. Create a retail offer – can you package up ingredients and recipe cards, in a manner similar to Gousto or Hello fresh, to enable customers to recreate your restaurant’s dishes at home. This can be operated via internet sales and opens up your business to the whole of the UK rather than just the site`s immediate locality. For rural sites, can you partner with local farmers and growers and open a small “farm shop” offer selling the same products that you use in your menu.
  7. With a shortage of staff can pubs look toward becoming partly automated/self serve ? as chefs are at a shortage can menus be re-thought to offer predominantly cold food ( e.g. charcuterie boards) that can feasibly be mass produced / prepared without the need for a dedicated “chef”? Alternatively can pubs enter into partnership “residencies” with street food vendors – an approach that has been used to some success already, benefitting both pub and the food vendor via access to a new customer base. Greater use of app ordering systems reduces the number of staff required , consumers order from the table then get a notification to collect their drinks from the bar once ready. Do not offer table service. The shortage of staff can further be managed through intensive training and development of the staff you do have, increasing efficiency whilst developing a higher level of service to the customer and providing the staff with genuine growth opportunities within the business. The reliance on seasonal or part time staff ( such as students in areas with universities) should be minimised with a greater focus on developing bar and wait staff as a long term career prospect.

The above is just a selection of possibilities to aid hospitality operators in these turbulent times. Whatever the future holds, the hospitality industry is resilient and flexible enough to survive the upheaval and MGI will always be here, striving to deliver the best advise and design service to ensure the continued success of your business.

If you`d like to learn how MGI can assist you in every step of the development of your project, please get in touch.

three person holding clear drinking glasses