The latest Around Arena Webinar saw CGA Insights take centre stage with their wraparound consumer, operator and market view on ‘Out of Home – The Next Phase’. As a leading foodservice agency we logged on to hear what’s ahead for the world of hospitality and foodservice.

With the introduction of a number of measures to help the hospitality sector including business rates relief, VAT cuts and of course most recently the headline-grabbing Eat Out to Help Out campaign (EOTHO), the good news is there are definite signs of recovery. With 55% of those surveyed by CGA saying they have eaten out since the opening up of the eating out market on 4th July things are looking up. Indeed, 27% had used EOTHO in the first 5 days of the initiative being launched and 26% are likely to take up the offer before it ends. Crucially 60% felt more confident about eating out which bodes well for the recovery of our industry, as quite frankly, consumer confidence will make or break it. However, as the shape of our world continues to stay somewhat altered we’re staying far more local when it comes to eating out, which is good news for country pubs and London ‘villages’, but bad news for the business districts of our big cities which are reliant mainly on a working population that is currently working from home. With lots of great insights from their consumer panel and operator surveys the CGA presentation was highly informative and generally took a positive take on the road ahead.

The session then moved on to CGA’s Peter Martin’s interview with the Founder and Chairman of Oakman Inns, Peter Borg-Neal, to see how his business is faring in the new norm. The home counties pub group has, it seems, faired incredibly well and plans to not only give bonuses to reward staff who have work incredibly hard, seeing Christmas levels of customers over the EOTHO period, but also share the staff retention bonus with all staff who are still with the company a year from now. This reflects the huge success EOTHO has been for the business. When lockdown hit they stopped all payments and worked with supplier partners to navigate the situation prudently, making use of the government schemes in place as they were introduced. They were open for 4th of July and are currently 18% up on last year, mainly due to EOTHO and the fact that their locations have helped them leverage the trend for staying local as consumers avoid going into London in favour of their favourite local foodie pub.

Previously anti-promotion and discounting, Peter Borg-Neil even put forward the idea that this scheme may change how operators price menus in the future, with lower pricing for Monday to Wednesday ongoing even after EOTHO. As to what will happen when it ends, or if it will be extended, who knows? But it has certainly done what it set out to do by driving footfall into hospitality and helping to rebuild consumer confidence around going out again. With Christmas on the horizon (I know!) Peter is realistic about the drop in office Christmas parties and the fact that it will be a strange one this year but if things continue to go on as they are it look like Oakman Inns will fare well in the post Covid world.

Of course this year has been the perfect example of how we never really know what is around the corner, but with the help of insight bodies like CGA we continue to keep our ear to the ground and help guide our clients through these ever changing times. The good news is things seem to be moving in a positive direction, so if everyone can keep up with Covid precautions to avoid the dreaded second wave we’re headed for better times ahead.