Anyone who has worked in hospitality knows just what a fickle mistress it can be. It’s such a tough sector of business to maintain a stronghold on, it really is. You can be the pick of the bars one minute, packed every night and feeling on top of the world, but could find yourself scraping by six months later. It’s a sector of the economy where trends are so vital to your existence, and you can’t create that trend, no matter how you try.
So what business owners have to do is constantly adapt. Be the chameleon of entrepreneurs to ensure you keep your individuality whilst maintaining relevant. Now, try to fathom just how tough this is do in the midst of this pandemic.
The hospitality sector is formed on the backs of family traditions and small business owners following their dreams. You can’t just throw money at it and be successful, you have to be on top of it constantly. You have to have passion. And unfortunately, it’s the very people that have put it all on the line for their dream that are hurting the most right now.
Lockdowns and Lock-outs
With the pandemic forcing so many governments to enforce lockdowns on the hospitality sector in Europe, it has spelt the end of the line for many. Advertising that subsidies will be provided and staff paid in your absence may sound enough to those on the outside, but it’s far from the truth.
The majority of establishments in Europe who are forced to remain closed this coming summer will never re-open. That’s the bottom line. With tourism being so widespread these days, you couldn’t find a bar or restaurant that hasn’t been affected by the lack of travel. And that’s just one part of the problem.
The locals. Known as your bread and butter in the industry. If you ask, they’re all happy to continue to give support to their community, but they aren’t being given the opportunity. They can’t stop in on their way to work, because they have to work from home. Yes, that doesn’t stop your neighbors from making the trip but humans are such creatures of habit that people don’t even think about it.
How Things Stand
As of the end of February, vaccinations are well under-way in most countries and things are finally looking hopeful. So we are told. On the other hand, further lockdowns have been implemented in nearly every country. Curfews are kept and restrictions tightened. So is there really hope on the horizon?
Of course, things are going to get better. But not in the short term and with so many in the sector literally on their last legs, they can’t hold out any longer. Most of the support that they are receiving is to cover the cost of their staff. Unfortunately, many staff have left as it’s a sector dominated by foreigners and travelers and new staff don’t receive the benefits.
So What Can be Done?
The only solution is for the governments to firstly realize just how this one sector props up the infrastructure of the entire society and invest heavily in it. When you look around, investment is still happening in every city, from transport to education to primary. That’s great but that won’t help when unemployment starts to get out of control and the general public cannot afford schools or petrol for their car.
Investment directly into small business is the only way we can dig ourselves out of this COVID-19 hole. Small business is the foundation of the economy but it’s the very place that seems to have been forgotten. No passionate restauranteur is going to take an investment from their government and not plough it straight into their dream, their birthright or their retirement plan. It just won’t happen.
Easy to say, I know, but if governments can find/borrow capital for other projects that will, granted, make our lives better in the future, then they can prioritize for the immediate problems. As the saying goes, look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves. Well, look after small business and the public can look after the large.
Contactless Payments Are Just a Start for Pubs, Bars, Restaurants and Casinos
There are also small ways things can be improved. The pandemic has also kickstarted a plethora of startups trying to resolve some of the basic issues in dealing with payments, employee health protection, distancing in places that are traditionally social etc. We can expect a lot of things in the future to work on a touchless principle and Corona made that come faster. For hospitality, other than serving, payments are another point of contact. Many new payment methods these days are touchless – utilizing mobile phone NFC chips or similar functions in credit cards. Other work over the internet.
Bars and casinos can use this for their advantage. Casinos rely heavily on people touching the machines, especially when it comes to payments. This can be avoided with new methods of payment where customers are awarded free money from the casino for using such apps. This has been a long-known onboarding practice in online casinos. If the internet is used, casinos can even create shared balance for land-based establishments and their online offering. Similar with bars and clubs. For years now some mega-clubs on Ibiza featured NFC bracelets for fast payments, now this might become reality everywhere. What government can do is support such endeavors in order to support faster reopening.
What is the only thing that can save this entire industry from major collapse? Governments need to support the business owners to remain open rather than trying to support them whilst they are closed. Because it’s an upward battle that can’t be won.
Grants given to allow them to adapt to the new way of life however, will give them the gift of adaptability that they need. To adapt their product to their new customer. To give them a chance. Most will never be able to do this without the capital needed to buy plant and really make a difference to how they operate.