The hospitality sector should invest in high streets across the country as well as local communities, Suzanne Baker, commercial director at the Stonegate Group, said at UKHospitality’s Summer Conference this week.

“The high street is woeful in some parts of this country,” she said during the ‘Pride in the Place’ panel session, which discussed the revival of communities through the levelling up agenda. “We need to invest in not just the South of the country.”

“We want to work in both high streets and the community, and also support the late night environment.”

Baker was in conversation with MCA contributing editor Peter Martin, who hosted the panel session. She added that the pub operator involves local community members before investing in new pubs to better understand “what works in the area.” She further called for a reduction in business rates and a “fairer system” to support the sector in contributing to post-pandemic recovery.

Hawksmoor CEO Will Beckett agreed that hospitality plays a role in enhancing communities’ reputations.

“I think Hawksmoor has its role in London’s reputation as a fine dining destination,” he said. “We exist only in the centres of the biggest cities but we think about enhancing the reputations of those cities.”

“We want to build ourselves into the fabric of this country.”

Beckett also mentioned Hawksmoor’s upcoming opening in Dublin is a new challenge for the steak restaurant group as they launch the business in a new country.

“Making yourself part of the local community is more challenging than for people whose businesses are contained to a geographic area.”

Karin Sheppard, senior vice president and MD at IHG Hotels and Resorts, said that big hotels and local pubs are similar in their “alliance to the community”.

“We have a positive uplifting impact on the community,” she said, adding that more investment into making the country an attractive destination for tourists helps both the sector and the community.

“We are a visitor economy…we need to be making sure visitors are spread across the country. We need that infrastructure in place.”

“Other countries are spending more on this.”

Sheppard said a tourism recovery plan will aid both sector and economy-wide recovery.