As people continue to return to pubs, bars and restaurants after lockdown, it’s more important than ever to understand their habits and expectations. CGA’s ‘Catching the new wave of consumers’ webinar with Yumpingo brought together CGA experts and top operators to discuss how to win back hesitant guests and keep them returning. Here are ten of the key messages.

1 Avoid complacency on safety

The We Hear You survey from CGA, Yumpingo and UKHospitality shows that most businesses are doing an excellent job on precautions, with 97% of consumers satisfied with the hygiene and cleanliness of the venues they visited. But with consumer confidence so fragile, all operators need to remain ultra-vigilant on precautions and crystal-clear in communications. Evidence in the survey of small but steady drops in Net Promoter Scores is a warning that people won’t tolerate a fall in standards. “It reinforces the message that now is not the time for complacency… it could undo all the good work that has been done to this point,” said Charlie Mitchell, CGA’s Research & Insight Director.

2 Support frontline teams

The task of reassuring guests about safety has largely fallen to frontline teams. And with the proportion of respondents to CGA’s Consumer Pulse survey who think their interaction with staff is better than before lockdown (29%) running twice as high as those who say it is worse (14%), they have clearly been doing a very good job so far.

A lot of credit is due to frontline staff for all the hard work they’ve put in [on safety]… it’s really been appreciated by consumers,” said Charlie Mitchell. Rising guest satisfaction is reinforced by data from tipping platform Tipjar that shows a 50% rise in the value of tips in recent weeks, said its founder James Brown.

 

3 Target hesitant consumers with Eat Out to Help Out

More than a quarter (27%) of British adults used the Eat Out to Help Out scheme in its first five days alone. With 39% of those making their first on-trade visit since lockdown, it has proved to be a good nudge for people who were previously wary. “It’s been very successful in tempting customers… to make their first trip out,” said CGA’s Consumer Research Executive Jess Walsh. CGA’s MATCH segmentation shows the half-price deal has motivated value-driven consumer groups like Cost Conscious Champions and Family Pit Stoppers in particular. “We can expect to see more waves of first-time visitors engaging with hospitality over the rest of August,” Walsh said—and it’s a great chance to show that they are in safe hands.

4 Respond to changing work habits

While so many people work from home, the Consumer Pulse survey shows that one in three consumers are visiting local businesses more often than before lockdown. That is good news for many suburban and rural operators, but a challenge for those in town and city centres, where footfall is still low. It is also important to remember that nearly a quarter (23%) of people who previously ate out at least weekly have either lost their jobs or remain on furlough on lower-than-usual pay.

5 Find the balance between safety and experience

As consumers grow more comfortable in restaurants, pubs and bars, the Consumer Pulse survey suggests their expectations are rising, and factors like atmosphere are gradually rising up their list of priorities.

We’re seeing consumers starting to look for new experiences again… It’s still safety first, experience second—but if you can blend the too, that’s even better,” said Charlie Mitchell. “Finding the right balance between reassuring consumers… and giving them a great experience is a fundamental challenge… we’re walking a tightrope,” said CGA Vice President and webinar host Peter Martin.

6 Embrace technology

"Post-lockdown safety precautions have accelerated take-up of smartphone-based functions like app ordering and payment", said Gary Goodman, CEO of Yumpingo. Technology offers customer-friendly solutions to some big challenges at the moment, and now is a great time to embed them in people’s habits and enhance their experiences. “It’s sometimes been hard to marry technology with hospitality, but there’s a big opportunity now,” he said.

7 Tailor the approach

CGA’s data shows the importance of understanding the nuances in consumers’ behaviour at the moment. For example, city centre residents currently appear to be more driven by price and atmosphere than visitors in rural and suburban areas, who prioritise hygiene and convenience more. Likewise, the needs of Monday-to-Wednesday guests are very different to those going out at weekends. “It’s clear that a one size fits all approach isn’t going to work—it needs to be tailored,” said Charlie Mitchell.

8 Tread carefully in London

With its dependency on office workers, tourism and public transport, central London has so far lagged behind the country on reopenings and sales. “London is a huge concern… it’s very tricky at the moment,” said Gavin Adair, CEO of Rosa’s Thai Cafe—though he pointed out that ‘villages’ like Clapham and Brixton were trading well, due to more residents working from home.

9 Stay alert to crowding

The success of the Eat Out to Help Out initiative has led to some crowded venues—positive for operators but a situation that some in the media have portrayed as a risk to health. William Lees-Jones, Managing Director of JW Lees, said it was crucial to ensure that crowds don’t diminish the safety or experience of guests.

It’s a real challenge.” Caution on crowds is especially important in areas at risk of local lockdowns—as in Aberdeen, where BrewDog has had to shut three bars. “Don’t underestimate the impact of closures on your teams,” said its Retail Director James Brown.

10 Keep a united front

The Eat Out to Help Out scheme shows the government is listening to the sector’s needs, said UKHospitality CEO Kate Nicholls. It’s crucial now that operators stick closely to safety regulations and keep pressing their case together.

We’ve got government to focus on hospitality like never before because we’ve shown a united front with a clear set of messages,” she said. “The more we comply now, the quicker we will be in helping other parts of our industry that are not yet able to open again.”

To access the webinar presentation slides, click here.

CGA’s ‘Catching the new wave of consumers’ webinar was hosted in partnership with Yumpingo. All operators are invited to take part in the We Hear You campaign, and you can sign up here. To watch the full webinar recording, download here. 

For more information about CGA’s Consumer Pulse survey and other resources that are supporting hospitality’s road to recovery, please contact Jess Walsh at jess.walsh@cga.co.uk.

     

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