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A place manager’s guide to night time economy recovery during COVID-19

22 Jul 2020

With its partial reopening on 4th July, the evening and night time economy (ENTE) is one of the last sectors to reopen in England following lockdown. From 11th July some outdoor events have also been able to recommence, with all venues and events subject to social distancing measures.

The reopening of the evening and night time economy is gradual and recovery is slower still, as restrictions mean that operating is non-viable for many businesses, and a huge percentage of people are choosing to still remain at home.

As place managers and leaders, recovery is a tall mountain to climb and there is a clear need for an innovative and holistic approach now more than ever.

Current picture

Since the partial reopening, there haven’t been any huge rises in cases of COVID-19, indicating that the hospitality industry is managing successfully and responsibly.

However, city and town centres are not attracting the footfall that their businesses need to survive. The majority of businesses we speak with are seeing somewhere between 40% to 60% of normal footfall, with those who are based outside of town and city centres on the higher end of this spectrum.

A CGA Research Poll indicated that just over 30% of consumers had returned to bars, pubs and restaurants in the 1st week, which was led by the 18 to to 35 group. More than half (55%) of 25 to 34 year-olds have now ventured out, and nearly as many 18 to 24 year-olds (46%). If you attended our webinars you may remember we predicted this based on the diffusion of innovation model

This is further supported by ShopperTrak data published by the British Retail Consortium (BRC). For the week 28th June – 4th July it showed year-on-year footfall on the high street fell 55.7%. Slightly more encouragingly, total retail footfall went up 15.3% week-on-week in this period.

Disappointingly, however, on 4th July, so-called ‘Super Saturday’, when pubs and restaurants opened for the first time since lockdown began, UK footfall for shops only grew 9.2% week-on-week.

No-shows also appear to be becoming a frustratingly common practice, with up to 25% of people not turning up for their restaurant or bar booking.

Most events, nightclubs and the theatre industry remain closed, although there are indications that, with the exception of nightclubs, reopening with restricted measures can take place from 1st August.  However, the outlook from theatre insiders is not a positive one, as social distancing will make most performances unsustainable and such a short notice period means there isn’t enough time to get a production ready for an August opening.

Potential approaches for place management and leaders

From the current picture, it’s clear timely work is crucial for the evening and night time economy to regrow and begin to flourish once again across the UK.  We’ve examined seven key areas for area leaders and place managers to address immediately.

1.   Become familiar with the challenges facing the hospitality and night time industries.

Nationally, social and physical distancing is having a catastrophic effect on businesses, with 30,000 pubs and restaurants that might never reopen. A further similar number may potentially cease trading as recovery from cash flow issues is so difficult in the current climate. 

Risk assessments, strategic planning and cash flow analysis now need to be essential parts of every ENTE venue, but these are alien concepts to many small businesses. In the face of such huge financial challenges where owners may be struggling to even pay their staff, there needs to be a true understanding of the tightrope being walked by many.

Industry challenges

  • The hospitality industry fulfils an inherently social function, but limits on mixed households and physical distance measures make visiting pubs, bars and restaurants a different and, for many, less appealing prospect.
  • A variance in premises size and available operational support creates an uneven playing field for venues.
  • New hygiene and operating measures for customer and staff safety requires extensive planning, skills and additional financing.
  • While minimising virus risk is a priority, there is also a pressure to provide an attractive, on brand experience to customers that leaves them feeling positive about their visit and trusting in the venue.
  • Managing and training staff in new measures, together with implementing new procedures such as distanced work spaces and staggered breaks, presents unprecedented logistical challenges.
  • Additional time and resources must be spent on managing and adjusting staff furlough arrangements, as well as dealing with staff health issues and supporting safety concerns and anxiety from staff about risk in the workplace.
  • Although we understand there is actually less disorder in city centres following the easing of restrictions, there is a fear from some local authorities of problematic behaviour. Many ENTE venues are facing inconsistent messages from local authorities around license practice, causing additional hassle and headaches. 


To get a true local picture in your area, a survey could be sent out asking operators what local challenges they are facing. This could also be achieved by sampling operator experience through door to door visits or an esurvey.

You can find out  more about reopening challenges facing licensed premises here or on our YouTube Channel here

2.   Run help sessions

More than anything, your local ENTE businesses need practical answers and guidance to deal with their challenges. This can be done in a number of different ways and, once you’ve gathered information on the challenges facing ENTE businesses, you can offer support to overcome them.

Webinars

Inviting experts to run a webinar can be an efficient and effective way to answer common questions and resolve issues.

Popular webinars include:

  • HR Support: Supporting businesses to manage their staff and covering issues such as returning from furlough, managing redundancies, managing sickness and absences, scheduling rotas and supporting staff mental health.

  • Industry-specific training: Covering new operating procedures and rebuilding skills.

  • Finances: Budgeting, cashflow, financial planning and financial support available such as grants, discretionary funds and loans.

  • Rent issues: Support around conversations with landlords, providing access to a mediator, or raising awareness of campaigns such as #RaiseTheBar

  • Recruitment: Many organisations are struggling to recruit due to staff being lost to other industries or staff not wanting to return from furlough. This is particularly prevalent in the security industry.

  • Marketing, PR and Social Media: Innovative ways for ENTE businesses to promote their offer and communicate clearly with customers and media about ways in which the venue can provide a safe and enjoyable experience.

  • Conflict Management: Managing issues with non-compliance and problems with customers or staff.

  • Risk assessments: How to write a Covid-specific risk assessment and how to effectively deal with an outbreak in the venue.

  • Advice sessions with trade associations: Opportunity for businesses to ask questions and seek guidance on specific issues pertinent to successful operational management and growth.

Training

Promoting training can be beneficial to many businesses who may not be aware of or have time to research suitable courses. Some notable examples are ‘CPL Learning Managers – Ready to Serve – Reopening Following Lockdown’ e-learning course or ‘Team: Ready to Serve’ team member programme, as well as courses covering Vulnerability Training and Customer Service Training.

Available advice and support from suppliers includes Diageo and Unilever, who are providing support with profitability. Barclays Bank have been offering advice to local businesses on request and allowing them to promote themselves to their customers using Next Door.

We’d also advise promoting and getting behind campaigns such as the ‘No More No Shows’ campaign around people not turning up to bookings. More information can be found here and at Pulling Together, Beer is Here and Brew2You.

Independent advisor

Some local councils, for example Gedling Borough Council, have recruited a temporary independent advisor to provide specialist help to independent businesses and retailers one or two days per week. This can include mentoring, coaching and mediation support for businesses to address the specific issues they are facing in the wake of lockdown.

Here at Night Time Economy Solutions, we provide this service as well as ad hoc support sessions, having done so in over 40 locations around the UK. Do get in touch if you would like us to run a session or provide support in your area.

3.   Place management

Some areas are now wisely reassessing their ENTE offer, to inspire local residents to spend more time out and about. It is the willingness to do things differently and responsively that can have the biggest impact on the ENTE recovery in your area.

Many towns and cities are designed for day use rather than night use, so do take time to experience your town or city centre at night time and consider performing an audit with partners to ensure it is welcoming, clean, accessible and diverse.

Think about what connects local people to the area, and how this can be positively exploited to encourage residents to spend more time in it. We would recommend doing a public consultation via an eSurvey to ask residents what they would like to see, and our other recommendations of potential steps to take include:

  • Use the Institute of Place Management toolkit to access their fantastic Covid-19 recovery framework. This is a suite of materials designed to support places through crisis, pre-recovery, recovery and transformation. We would recommend that you gather your stakeholders and work together to review and bring to life for your area. Having a strong place management plan and marketing strategy in place will make it much easier to attract customers back on to the high street.

  • Consider how your high street will be used at night and how you can make it more usable in the evenings with social distancing. Ensure floor stickers are visible at night as well as during the day and that signage is well lit and readable after sunset. You could also consider employing ambassadors during the evening and night time as they can support effective and conflict-free social distancing, something that can be trickier for individuals to manage after a few drinks.

  • Consider how you could best manage hot spots, for example with lighting, tactical urbanism, greenery, clear queuing systems and employing taxi marshals or ambassadors.

  • Ensure public transport runs late and often, that timetables and stops are easy to find and that routes go to frequently used locations.

  • Check businesses have signed up to accreditation schemes such as the AA COVID accreditation scheme or Visit Britain Accreditation Scheme. Or, consider creating your own local scheme. We are currently developing some local accreditation schemes for areas for Business Improvement Districts (BIDs), Council’s and Police and Crime Commissioners.

  • Consider enhancing your public realm or parks to make them welcoming and unique.

Further ideas and approaches

Making your town or city as appealing as possible:

  • See how other cities are managing social distancing, for example Baltimore in the US have designed some fantastic ideas.
    • Consider repurposing squares, greens and parks as outdoor seating to be used by hospitality businesses.
    • Promote the use of pavement licenses and reduce fees in line with government guidance, for example Nottingham City Council are currently issuing them for free.
    • Make use of tactical urbanism, considering art, light and sculpture trails to entice customers back on to the high street and increase the likelihood of spending locally.
    • Many of the creative industries are still on furlough, consider paying them to revitalise your town or city centre with outside performances or creative projects with art, lighting and sound.
    • Consider outside markets to give space to local businesses who are finding it hard to reopen due to space constraints.

Ensure your town or city is as accessible as possible, in a range of ways:

  • Ensure you are promoting the Eat Out to Help Out scheme, as this is a great way for people who have reduced finances to still enjoy the hospitality industry.
  • Consider free parking, free parking apps or reduced or subsidised parking fees in the evening to reduce costs but also to make going out accessible to all.
  • Promote the CocaCola designated driver scheme which offers two free soft drinks for designated drivers.
  • If you are closing off streets to enable outdoor drinking and dining, ensure disabled people can access businesses by being able to park nearby and can still use the pavements and public transport.

4.   Building Footfall

The diffusion of innovation model provides us with a useful indication as to what we are likely to experience when it comes to building footfall.  To entice the next 30-35% of people, offering reassuring communication to people is key, through:

  • Showcase positive consumer reviews
  • Highlight safety measures in place
  • Promote accreditation schemes
  • Enhance outdoor dining and drinking experiences
  • Highlight increases to footfall
  • Confirm low levels of virus spread
  • Create and promote new reasons to visit

As part of this we would also recommend collecting positive consumer experiences in the form of videos or written testimonies and using these widely on social media, radio, written press and via influencers or well known people in the community. Reassurance from others will increase confidence and encourage consumers to return.

Help businesses understand the diffusion of innovation model so they know what to expect. I.e. 30% want to go out asap, if these people have a good experience and the virus doesn’t spread then a further 30% want to wait a week to a month before heading out and the final 30% will not go out for a month, a few months or longer. It’s also more likely people will feel most comfortable having a quick drink as a ‘dip a toe in the ocean’ approach than they will eating out, as this presents more potential risk of infection as far as some consumers are concerned.

Customers will be looking to the companies and organisations they rely on for guidance and clarity, so using words, photo or video as a narrative to demonstrate steps you and businesses are taking to ensure safety and protection will help. These are powerful tools at your disposal, which will allow you to take consumers on a journey from arrival to departure, helping them know what to expect and letting them visualise how positive the ENTE can still be.

5.   Provision of equipment and services

We are seeing many BIDs, Chamber of Commerce and Councils support businesses by centrally purchasing items such as floor stickers, posters and window vinyls for empty shops. Other helpful purchases include seating and tables for communal use, barriers for queueing, canopies, umbrellas, hand sanitizers, masks and other PPE and solar heaters.

Useful software

Thyngs

Norwich BID and a local software company Thyngs have launched an easy-to-use customer Check-In solution that is not only fully compliant with NHS Test & Trace legislation but also enables marketing opt-in, turning a headache into a commercial advantage. Other BIDs are now picking this up to deploy across businesses to ensure safe and efficient responses to NHS Test and Trace should anyone test positive for Covid-19.
Thyngs contact-free check-in system doesn’t require an App download, is quick to set up, and takes a matter of seconds for customers to Check-In using nothing more than their smartphone.
Merchants have online access to a portal that will search and extract data to support NHS Test & Trace enquiries, immediately – keeping customers, staff and the public safe. The system is already actively deployed in establishments, who are also benefiting from the marketing data opt-in feature, which is seeing over a 30% conversion rate. The ability for establishments, looking to survive, to reach out to their customers in a GDPR compliant way has the potential to make a significant impact. Setup of the software is free and costs between £10 – £30 per month (depending on the package and size of business.)

Yoello

Nottingham BID has purchased Yoello for 6 months on behalf of their businesses. Yoello is a mobile platform which enables customers to order and pay for food and drinks directly from their table in a venue on their mobile phone via a QR code. It also has a built-in Track and Trace system, which means if anyone who visits a venue is later diagnosed with COVID-19, they will have a full list of people who were there at the same time for Track and Tracing purposes.

Seatd

Seatd is a secure in-venue food and drinks ordering system initially developed for Welsh businesses. There is no download required, users just need to simply scan a QR code which links back to a personalised menu. There is no set-up fees or subscriptions for it’s just a 1% commission amount. The app is suitable for any hospitality industry businesses and offers the ability to upload a venue’s logo and imagery. COVID secure technology ensures the privacy of customer data while adhering to the track and trace guidelines. If the venue receives an NHS test and trace request, Seatd will be able to provide the data they need for a specific date and time, ensuring compliance and safety. The cherry on the cake for Seatd is it is working with charity partners to put some of its profits back into the hospitality industry and other worthy causes

The Locale

We are also seeing many BIDs and Councils adopt the fantastic new app (which we’ll fully review soon) called The Locale. This enables people to experience an area like a local person. Individuals can see venues in their chosen area, check capacity and search and filter to find their perfect experience throughout the day. They can also view a venue’s Covid procedures, as well as offers, menus and reviews.

6.   Signposting to relevant industry organisations.

The following organisations have excellent online support, specific to hospitality, events or the evening and night time industry. By encouraging local businesses to join their most relevant industry association, they can access relevant and up-to-date support and advice.

  • UK Hospitality: Support hotels and accommodation, food services management, attractions, leisure, pubs and bars. They work to ensure proportionate regulation on businesses and full representation of the industry’s needs.
  • NTIA:  Trade Association and membership organisation promoting the unique contribution of The Night Time Industry. It was formed by independent pub, bar, nightclub and restaurant owners, and music managers and festival and live music event operators.
  • BBPA: Work to champion issues that matter to the beer and pub industry, representing around 20,000 of the country’s pubs, including international companies, family brewers, managed locals and the nation’s largest tenanted pub estates.
  • BII: Exists to support, inspire, celebrate and promote the diversity of talented individuals working in the licensed trade. They have a national network of over 8,000 members across all areas of the sector.
  • UK Theatre: UK Theatre supports organisations and individuals in the performing arts at any stage of their career, through a range of training, events and other professional services.
  • The Association of Event Organisers: AEO is the voice of the event organising community, serving a collective need, and promoting the interests of event organisers and the industry at large.
  • NEXSTART: National Exit Strategy Advice & Response Team for the Hospitality and Entertainment Industry

7.   Signpost businesses to relevant government organisations

The following can offer specific, expert support and answers to queries.

  • Central Government Hospitality Guides
  • HSE
  • Environmental Health
  • Local council or police website
  • Local growth hub or enterprise partnership
  • Local Business Improvement District or Chamber of Commerce

If you would like support to develop a Covid-19 Night Time Economy Recovery strategy or help with developing a local COVID-19 Aware accreditation scheme please don’t hesitate to get in touch with Jo Cox-Brown at jo@nighttimeeconomy.com or on 07734255807 or you can find more information on these here https://nighttimeeconomy.com/services/covid-19-recovery-services/



Written by the Night Time Economy Team ©2020 | Share this article link
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