Robin Rowland was a guest panelist on this week’s edition of The Conversation. He predicted a gradual return of consumer confidence within indoor environments, stating that wet-led businesses were more likely to benefit from the final stage of easing Covid restrictions.

Robin-Rowland

“There won’t be a mad stampede come the 19 July,” said Robin Rowland, operating partner at TriSpan, and Non-Executive Director at Fuller’s and Caffe Nero, as he joined MCA for this week’s Conversation.

Instead, he predicted a gradual increase in trade, which would be heavily reliant on people being confident about staying in hospitality environments for longer periods of time. He went on to state that any improvement in consumer confidence could take between three and six months.

In terms of maximising confidence and convincing those people that might still be reluctant to go out, Rowland said, “we just need to make sure the environments are as welcoming and safe as they possibly can be.

Ventilation is key,” he added, “this is the best time in the year to do this.”

When discussing the likely benefits of the final stage of easing Covid restrictions in England on pubs and restaurants, Rowland suggested different businesses need different responses: “Pubs do need upright drinking,” he said, whereas for restaurants the easing of restrictions is, “a very small marginal improvement on where we are today.”

Reiterating the point about consumer confidence, Rowland stated, “Any indication that it is unsafe being indoors will always put pressure on dine-in numbers,” before adding, “Hopefully the government can start publishing information about how safe it is. I am still baffled about how easy it is to walk around a supermarket and be close to people and yet you have to sit down in a restaurant or bar. It is incongruous some of the advice we have had over the last 18 months.”

In terms of assessing current trading performance, Rowland admitted: “I am pretty obsessed about tracking like for like vs. 2019 which is the only benchmark available right now.

Rowland compared the situation in the UK with the situation in the US. He stated: “Covid seems to be banned in every bit of communication right now. Every trace of Covid negativity is being encouraged to be taken out of the business.

“I just think we are lagging America by maybe a couple of months,” he concluded.