Saturday the 4th of July marked the biggest easing of lockdown in England, with leisure and hospitality sectors able to finally welcome the public back through our doors for the first time since March.
In our own estate; specifically The Grand Pier in Weston-Super-Mare, we found that we were significantly down on footfall on the opening weekend against the same weekend last year, although the weather wasn’t on our side this year. It was clear though that when we looked at the visitor numbers to our restaurants, they were much stronger against last year, perhaps specifically highlighting the lack of confidence within indoor attractions.
Fortunately however we found that customers who did visit us spent more. Food and beverage spend per head was up by almost a third and we saw retail purchases up by more than a quarter year on year. It was our rides that were the biggest winner with spend per head uplift of 48% which was most welcomed.
Having spoken to some of our customers that visited we found that a potential reason for the increase in spend per head is that people are less keen than before to visit multiple sites in one day. Whereas previously our customers may have visited us as part of their day out which would include a walk on the beach and perhaps eating elsewhere, they are now limiting the number of locations they visit.
It is also fair to say that it was our most ‘die hard’ fans that were keen to get to us on opening weekend, so having missed the attraction for the last three months they really did take advantage. We hope the spend per head trend continues beyond just the first weekend.
As well as at the Pier we also noticed a drop in footfall at our restaurant, The Old Thatched Cottage. The weekend itself was steady considering we had reduced capacity in the restaurant by 35% which made reopening much easier for the team to handle.
Particularly as our chef had not cooked the menu in anger in over three months. The hope is that we see customers spreading their visits to the quieter, typically less popular, times of week. Something that the Government may also have noticed hence introducing the ‘Eat out to Help out’ scheme on Monday to Wednesday dining only.
Speaking to some of our Regency Purchasing Group members they have taken the quieter weekend to retrain their staff; some of whom have been out of trade since March, and to introduce and establish new technology such as table ordering apps. It’s great to see a potential negative turned into a positive as businesses innovate and adapt to the new normal we’re all facing.
Standards seem to vary across the hospitality industry after the introduction of government guidelines two weeks ago, for example we’ve seen one restaurant putting up two posters and having a hand sanitiser station upon entry to another who has a full walk through temperature check for every customer to go through before entry. Both measures were signed off by the same local authority environmental health officer. Because there is no legal minimum requirement for venues to be measured against customers will make up their own minds as to where they feel most safe and therefore where they choose to dine again.
There’s a very thin line between customer safety and customer satisfaction and we ourselves are learning the balancing act alongside all our members.