There’s no question that we’re all glad to see the back of 2020, but it’s clear to see we haven’t escaped these ‘unprecedented times’ just yet! I logged onto Lumina Intelligence’s ‘Hospitality in 2021: An Industry Perspective’ webinar where they examined the findings of their recent hospitality and retail leaders survey and sat down to discuss the impact last year had and what it means for 2021. Here’s my top take outs from the session (with data broadcast in December 2020 pre lockdown no3 & Brexit deal):

Despite the enormous success the retail sector experienced last year, a majority of leaders don’t anticipate the same success for this year with just 23% expecting 2021 trading to be in line with 2020. Hospitality leaders were divided on how the sector will cope this year. Covid restrictions have had a detrimental effect on the hospitality sector but despite the ever-changing rules and numerous lockdowns, it is Brexit that tops of the list of concerns for 2021 with 56% unclear on what the impact will be.

When it comes to trends, the top three due to have long-term impact for both grocery and hospitality are:

1) Delivery: lockdowns, tiers, social distancing and shielding has accelerated the success of the delivery market and enabled access to an older, previously less tech-savvy demographic.

2) Budgeting: in the midst of another recession, consumers have been more conscious of their spending habits and household budgets have decreased.

3) Younger demographics less of a priority: with millennials coming of age and older demographics adopting digital behaviours, consumers as a collective are behaving in similar ways, removing younger demographics as a priority.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom last year. For the 11th year running, Pret topped the list of most admired foodservice brands, thanks to their continued focus on quality, their commitment to their customers and adaptable business model. McDonald’s joined Pret on the list of most admired brands having rolled-out their highly anticipated delivery option across sites, as well as their support for Marcus Rashford’s food bank initiative. Another new addition to the list was Dishoom. Whilst many sites pivoted towards takeaway and delivery last year, the Indian restaurant group led the way with exclusive meal kits, inviting customers to explore their popular dishes, by enabling them to enjoy the Dishoom experience in the comfort of their own homes. Ocado stood out as the most admired retail brand, having successfully managed and met the demand for online grocery fulfilment, whilst also introducing a joint venture with M&S.

When it comes to 2021, the consensus is to manage expectations. This week’s announcement of Lockdown 3.0 means a much slower start to the year than we’d all hoped for. Throughout summer 2020, the demand for hygienic, disposable products and packaging to limit contact sky-rocketed, but plastic concerns will return once normality has been restored and sustainability will once again be high on the agenda. Using self-service checkouts and ordering via apps whilst on site has made consumers feel a little safer during these weird times, but technological interactions won’t replace face-to-face. Whilst we can anticipate sites adopting a more digital approach, human interaction is integral to hospitality and something many consumers are eager to have back.

The good news for city centre operators is that whilst working from home has become common, workers still want to go back to the office but on a more flexible basis. Custom will be lower, so operators are advised to find new ways to reach their customers as oppose to simply waiting for their customers to come to them, such as hosting dark kitchens. 2020 was also the year for exploring outdoor dining experiences, but the British winter weather has created a vast amount of dead space. Innovative solutions from tee pees to pods will enable outdoor dining to flourish throughout the year.

We’re not out of the woods yet, but with the learnings from last year and the government’s £4.6 billion fund to support the retail, hospitality and leisure sector, the industry remains resilient and stable coming into the strong headwinds of 2021.

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