Operator insight on COVID-19’s challenges and opportunities

The leisure and hospitality sectors have been disrupted like never before in recent months, with operators needing to adapt their businesses in order to operate safely and give customers the confidence to return. UK procurement businesses Regency Purchasing Group has gained insight from its members on trends emerging in the market since reopening last month.

Alex Demetriou, managing director of Regency Purchasing Group, explains: “Leisure and hospitality businesses have and continue to face a great number of challenges, from introducing new safety measures to staffing, forecasting trade and managing stock levels.

“Arguably the biggest challenge and indeed change, hospitality businesses have had to face in recent months has been adapting to the new safety measures. Navigating the changing status of creating a Covid safe environment has also been difficult, with masks not initially required but then expected once the public were asked to wear them in public venues, changing the landscape of how customers view their business.

“Furloughed staff not being keen to return to work has been a notable challenge, whether the reason be staff getting used to being at home and getting paid, fear of working in a customer facing business, or issues with childcare. There has also been instances where staff had got second jobs and had decided to stay in the new role they had found. The good news for operators is that there people out there looking for work, so they can replace the staff, but they still need training.

“Finding the right staffing level in order to provide the right service has also been tough for operators, as forecasting customer habits has become increasingly difficult. We have also seen this vary across the country, with consumers rushing to the coast and open areas and the city centre suffering disproportionately.

“Supplier deliveries have also been impacted due to furloughing of supplier staff, meaning a five-day week delivery service is sometimes reduced to only two or three times a week. This creates another challenge for operators to ensure they have adequate storage to accommodate less frequent, larger deliveries or they have to change suppliers.

Whilst overcoming these challenges remains an everyday battle for businesses, Alex is keen to point out there are also some notable positives.

“The introduction of new booking systems and apps can help to reduce labour costs, while leisure activities that lend themselves to social distancing and offer outdoor attractions and activities are performing well, such as golf clubs and zoos.”

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