Reflections on ‘outdoor only’ hospitality

Outdoor hospitality has been re-open a matter of weeks in England and has slowly been re-opening across the UK. Katy Moses, managing director of KAM Media, reflects on her experiences visiting hospitality in the first weeks of the re-opening roadmap stressing that right now, every single detail really counts.

“Well, it seems hospitality is well and truly back… well, 28% of it that has outside space is back- but the government and other interested parties need to understand that the majority of hospitality sites DO NOT have outside areas that make trading viable, and for those who do, trading is still immensely tricky and nowhere near the levels that they need to be working to to turn a profit.

Having been into a pub/bar or restaurant most days since opening (for research purposes, you understand!), I’ve been reminded of a phrase that an ex-boss once said to me- “People don’t trip over mountains, they trip over molehills”. Nothing could be more accurate when talking about customers and the hospitality industry right now.

Combating the cold to increase dwell time

We know from previous research that 26% of UK adults aren’t planning to come back to hospitality until there is the option to sit indoors. Although the weather gods have been generally kind to us over the last two weeks, we can’t guarantee that they will continue to be. No matter what, it’ll still always be cold after sundown. Where possible, operators have been putting in heaters and putting up umbrellas, but what else could be done to extend customer dwell time?

  • Blankets?
  • Hot water bottles?
  • Making sure food is served on warm plates (like your Grandma used to do!) will help prolong the time it takes for your food to go stone cold.

And my pet-favourite ‘molehill’? Washing my hands after going to the bathroom and then having them blown dry by cold air, ready to be re-frozen outside. If hot air isn’t an option, paper towels need to be.

Like it or not, the hospitality industry is going to have to work harder than ever.

Focusing on the detail

Other than keeping patrons warm and watered and fed, what other small tweaks do we need to be making to encourage dwell time?

  • ​​​​​​​Swift, efficient service- waiting 20 minutes in between rounds is more miserable when that wait is outside.
  • Ensuring that, even outside, there is a smoke-free environment available- non-smokers who have become used to a fresh fag-free pub won’t want that taken away just because they’re having to sit outside
  • Making our outside space dog-friendly, but not dog centric- many people don’t want to be surrounded by others’ pets
  • Sit down outside the venue- what do you see? A busy road- can temporary fencing or screening be put up? A blank wall- wall art? Customers won’t spend long in an environment that is no better than a backyard.
  • Is furniture up to scratch- wobbly tables, rubbish chairs- both will mean the customer is eager to leave earlier than you’d like them to.
  • Lighting- yes, all is fine in the day, but come the evening are you relying on a couple of strip lights? Fairy lights, candles in windproof holders and lamps are all cost-effective ways of making sure customers feel comfortable.

Like it or not, the hospitality industry is going to have to work harder than ever to provide the right experience to keep customers coming back whilst we can’t open fully and without restrictions, so every little detail counts.

Good luck to everyone who is able to trade over the next few weeks. I hope the sun shines for you.”

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Blake Gladman

Hi, I'm Blake, Strategy & Insight Director at KAM. I look after all our research products and manage the collection and delivery of insight throughout KAM. I love long runs and good food (the perfect life balance).