“10am could be the new 10pm” – Katy Moses

KAM Media Managing Director Katy Moses explains why many pubs aiming to find a way to survive may turn to earlier in the day as a key time – and how wholesalers can support them

It won’t have escaped anyone’s attention that the new 10pm curfew comes as another huge blow for the hospitality industry. After the government’s announcement of a curfew and mandatory face coverings in hospitality last week, KAM Media ran a snap poll – speaking to a nationally representative sample of UK consumers – to find out their take on the new rules.

The general public are not sold on the effectiveness of the curfew, with 47% thinking the new 10pm curfew will make no significant difference to the spread of the virus. In fact, 23% think it will lead to an increase in large gatherings in people’s homes after 10pm.

The government keep commenting of the loss of “an hour” of opening times, but for many operators it’s a lot more than that. Only a certain proportion of venues close at 11pm. For the majority of pubs and restaurants, it could mean a loss of the second dinner seating – or the additional sales of cheese plates, desserts and highly profitable coffees and after-dinner drinks.

What about the loss in consumer confidence? The research also found the introduction of the curfew means 13% are now more nervous about visiting a pub or restaurant, while 14% said they will visit pubs and restaurants less frequently as a direct result of the curfew. Not good news for the hospitality industry as a whole.

So, what are operators doing to protect their businesses and how can wholesalers support them? Already we’re seeing positive and innovative operators bouncing back with new ideas trying to maximise different day parts.

There is no doubt that after six months, the way people live their lives has changed, meaning the way we consume will change too. This offers a huge opportunity to maximise footfall during off-peak times, and flatten the traditional peaks throughout the day, to keep a steady and safe stream of customers. Yummy Pubs, for example, have been advertising that “10am is the new 10pm” in their outlets – pushing breakfast and brunch throughout the week.

Although many operators are concerned about a fall in ‘workers’ visiting for lunch or post-work drinks, many consumers are still looking for a change of scenery now they are (back/still) working from home. Operators are already jumping on this opportunity with the White Horse in Harpenden offering “coffee and a desk” for two hours at quiet times of day. This means coffee will need to be a leading category, with unquestionable quality in order to compete with local coffee shops for ‘remote worker spend’.

Other daytime eating and drinking occasions which have and still can grow include opportunities for earlier family dinners, or the need to ‘escape’ for a morning coffee. As well as an alternative venue for work meetings, for example, or brunch/breakfast with friends instead of after-work drinks, the list goes on.

There is an opportunity for foodservice operators and suppliers to think differently. How does range, offer and comms need to flex to attract different customer occasions? For example, the current low- and no-alcohol range will need to be spot on for some of these daytime occasions. Customers still want a good experience and operators need the margins – a lime and soda or a glass of tap water won’t cut it for either side.

It’s  likely that both delivery and takeaway propositions will be massively important again to many businesses, as both can continue past the 10pm curfew. Operators will once again be looking for menu and packaging solutions to help continually improve their offer.

As “dining out at home” grows, operators will want support offering a more complete ‘experience’ for their customers. Some savvy operators will focus on takeaway dessert and after-dinner drinks. Sustainable packaging, on-brand cutlery and napkins, branded delivery bags etc will be in demand.

This is an incredibly tough time for hospitality and those who support it. We need to support each other in continuing to think differently and ultimately give customers every reason in the world to want to socialise safely in a pub or restaurant, whatever the time of day.

coronavirus covid-19 Foodservice hospitality KAM Media Katy Moses Wholesalers