Indoor hospitality 'fails to increase footfall' despite economy reopening

·3-min read
Customers returning to indoor hospitality at D&G's Bistro Cafe at Smithfield Market in Belfast, The latest easing of the Covid-19 rules in Northern Ireland has been hailed by the regionÕs economy minister as an Òenormous step forwardÓ. Picture date: Monday May 24, 2021. (Photo by Liam McBurney/PA Images via Getty Images)
COVID has forever changed the way many industries operate, as many venues were forced to come up with alternative ways to do business as restrictions and social distancing were enforced. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Images via Getty Images

The reopening of indoor hospitality has failed to reignite footfall returning to town centres, as customers frustration with queuing, QR codes and basic menus grows. 

New research, seen exclusively by Yahoo Finance shows the gap between footfall in May 2021 and the same time period in 2019 widened from 25.3% to 26.8% as the month went on.

This means while footfall increased after the reopening of non-essential retail in April, the much-anticipated return to hospitality has struggled to make the same impact. 

One potential reason for this is a reduction in casual walk-in guests, in conjunction with KPMG analysis that has suggested that the culture of browsing around shops and town centres has reduced.

While sales at indoor hospitality venues rose in the first week of reopening, footfall in town centres decreased as they fail to entice consumers who are still reluctant to return. 

COVID has forever changed the way many industries operate, as many venues were forced to come up with alternative ways to do business as restrictions and social distancing were enforced.

The resurgence of the quick response (QR) code has also allowed venues to offer minimal contact for customers, with 88% of respondents saying they would continue online menus after the pandemic.

Restaurant goers are now able to scan a QR code present on the table and be presented with the digital menu via their smartphone, improving both efficiency and customer experience.

A QR code is a machine-readable barcode that contains information about the item to which it is attached.

According to a study by Ubamarket LTD, the creators of hospitality tech app, NOMM (New Order Magic Menu) consumers have experienced "teething issues" with the rise of technology in the sector. 

Of the respondents, 44% (9,995,000) said that they found it frustrating that apps and QR codes at hospitality venues do not show the entire menu. A further 32% agreed that ordering from QR codes in venues was too unreliable.

Meanwhile, 17% said they were frustrated digital menus did not show all the ingredients in a dish. 43% said they did not want to wait longer than five minutes for their order to be taken, while 60% said they were most concerned about standing in long queues for the bar. 

Read more: How COVID changed the UK's hospitality sector

"Venues and technology providers have responded quickly by pivoting and creating an array of apps. However, as pinpointed in our research, there have undoubtedly been some frustrations that have surfaced," said Will Broome, founder of Ubamarket and NOMM.

Separate research from card payments firm Dojo, revealed that as a result of COVID, 95% of UK hospitality venues are looking to implement technology into their businesses

Catalysed by the events of the last 12 months, hospitality technology has gone from a niche product, to an absolute necessity. 

The crisis has propelled contactless payment and orders. From mobile apps to web ordering, 43% of customers have been using some form of order and pay technology since July 2020.

It is not only order and pay tech that has changed how the hospitality sector operates. COVID has also seen a huge rise in the number of restaurants using online menus, with 57% of them now offering physical and digital menus at their venues.

According to analysts at ING, social spending had already exceeded last summer's levels before indoor hospitality reopened in May, while the number of job adverts in hospitality is above pre-virus levels.

This confidence is, however due to be put under pressure by the Delta COVID variant. Although there is evidence supporting the fact that vaccines protect against it, it could be around 50% more transmissible than the previously dominant strain.

Watch: What UK government COVID-19 support is available?