Comment by Amy Warren, Client Director at our US-based Nielsen CGA*
COVID-19 has been an extremely challenging time for our industry, with hospitality businesses and their staff impacted beyond what any of us could have imagined.
At their core, bars, restaurants, coffee shops and clubs (and many other on-premise businesses) are the result of organically grown passion projects. As a frequent visitor to many of them, and as someone who has developed a strong working relationship with many key brands and businesses in this industry, it’s hard to even contemplate that some of these establishments may never open their doors again.
Like many of us, many of my fondest memories were made there. I think back to my first nights out in the local bar, through to the celebrations of big life milestones over a meal and drinks. Bars and restaurants are an incredibly important vehicle enabling us to live fuller and richer lives as we connect with friends and family.
They are where we celebrate and laugh, where we have meetings and key conversations with colleagues, they are even where we mourn, cry and reflect on difficult times. It’s hard, if not impossible, to deny the utter importance and significance of this industry in our personal and professional lives. Consumers (much like me) have a strong emotional connection with their memories and experiences in bars and restaurants, and are desperately looking forward to enjoying some of that normality again when it is safe to revisit.
For our teams at CGA and Nielsen CGA, it has been a challenging whirlwind. In the early days of COVID-19, it was clear that it was going to have a significant impact on our industry. As a group who equally share my passion for the out-of-home market, we immediately put our heads and expertise together to see how we can help support and guide our clients and wider industry through this challenging time.
Over the last 12 weeks, we’ve done our best to really push the capabilities of our data, and on the US team have been able to track the dollar sales across individual states and key markets while also conducting custom consumer research (as seen in the COVID-19 On Premise Impact Reports).
Our aim from the beginning (and still is) is to help provide on-premise retailers, suppliers and distributors with as much transparency and information on the rapidly changing state of the industry as we can. Critical and difficult decisions towards recovery are being made, and we will continue to do all we can to support you through this.
As our latest reports show, green shoots are appearing, with many bars and restaurants reopening across the US. As a team dedicated to the out-of-home market, we are both encouraged and relieved to see evidence of success in these outlets. With incredible speed and with safety at the forefront, many outlets have successfully adapted their offering and methods of service to ensure a positive, hygienic and ultimately safe customer experience.
The numbers are reflecting growth, and consumer sentiment is positive, but we know there are many challenges for operators as they reopen in the midst of a pandemic. Normality has gone; the old ways of working are gone. We must all rethink our approach as we rebuild our strategies and approaches to doing business.
To specifically gauge what can be done to better support owners and operators, we recently spoke to over 100 independent and small operators to understand what they were facing, and to try and understand how the industry could help them. As expected, the results of the Owner Operator Report (https://www.nielsencga.com/covid-19/) revealed that there are several unique challenges and considerations that operators must work through to protect their employees, their customers and their long-term finances. But as much uncertainty as there is, these owners and operators were clear on how the wider industry can support them in recovery.
To help these businesses get through this time, it is essential that suppliers, distributors and partners of the industry lean in to as many operators as they can. Get to know them and their needs. Understand what unique challenges their businesses face. Figure out how your offering and expertise can help them. Build relationships. Build partnerships. Support them not just as a faceless business, but as a fellow business also navigating the changing momentum and needs of the industry.
Undeniably, bars and restaurants are the backbone of our industry – in case it wasn’t clear enough before, this has become so obvious during COVID-19. Historically, they have enabled on-trade businesses across the supply chain to thrive. Now, they are in a time of need, their livelihoods (and the success of all on-premise businesses) depend on us all getting this right.
As consumers, we need to support those outlets that have given us so many good memories over the years. We must commit to showing support in any way we can, whether it’s ordering take out / delivery or booking a table to visit them while following the safety guidelines they have to put in place. Our reporting over the last 12 weeks have shown just how critical this localised support has been to these brick and mortar businesses; every order, no matter how big or small, has made an impact.
Nielsen CGA, along with the CGA team in the UK, will continue doing everything we can to keep the industry and our partners informed. This period of uncertainty has led to us creating many new ways of reporting and unique resources to help uncover what operators need, what consumers want and what suppliers can do to bring the industry back to it’s vibrant self. There will rarely be times where the industry needs as much love and attention as it does now.
To contact a member of the team, or to suggest an area of research for our next report or study, simply get in touch below. You can also keep up to date with our latest COVID-19 reporting by visiting https://www.nielsencga.com/covid-19/.
*Nielsen CGA is part of CGA focusing on the North American market