“We’re by no means out of the woods yet, but there is a more positive horizon.” That was the message from CGA business unit director for hospitality, Karl Chessell, to attendees at MCA’s Restaurant Conference.

In a presentation titled ‘Surviving, evolving and reviving,’ Chessell shared some of the latest insights and trends affecting the industry from consumers preference for restaurants over pubs following the first lockdown, to the rise in localisation, delivery and the digital journey.

Following the significant rise in homeworking prompted by the pandemic, CGA’s consumer research revealed that 36% of people plan to work from home more frequently going forward. Related to this trend, by October, 46% of consumers were visiting venues more local to where they live more often, and 30% plan to continue staying local for the foreseeable future.

This had a direct impact on share of market sales last year, with 6% of market share shifting from city centres to towns and suburban areas.

“Previously, one in two city centre workers drank or ate at a venue close by three or more times a week,” Chessell said. “They were a key driver of footfall and sales, and now, for the most part, those workers aren’t there.

“We expect that many of those will stay working from home, or certainly move to a more hybrid model. That offers a challenge to high streets and cities in terms of how they might reinvent themselves, but it also offers opportunity for operators in more local areas.”

Though the extent of the post-pandemic recession is yet to be determined, Chessell added that the “spectre of financial hardship isn’t too far away,” with 44% of consumers having experienced a decrease in household income because of the crisis.

In 2020, 6% of restaurants were lost permanently, 16% had not reopened by September, and it is expected that 43% of closed sites may never reopen. However, Chessell reassured operators that with 44% of business leaders planning to open new sites in 2021, there were reasons to be positive.

“The size and shape of the market is going to be different, but the sector is remarkably robust and remarkably innovative,” he said. “Operators are still looking for the right opportunities, so it’s not all doom and gloom.

“Whilst there is financial uncertainty, hospitality is in our social DNA. It’s part of our nature as humans to be social and go out, so the demand is there for revival.”

To watch all the footage from the event please click here.

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