Alex Demetriou, Managing Director of Regency Purchasing Group

Member Article

The changing behaviours of leisure and hospitality customers: reopening weekend initial analysis – footfall down but spend up

This weekend saw the biggest easing of lockdown measures in England, with the leisure and hospitality sectors finally able to welcome guests back for the first time since March. With much anticipation from business owners and the public alike, ‘Super Saturday’ appears to have got off to a good start, but did it live up to its ‘super’ expectation for operators?

Alex Demetriou, Managing Director of Regency Purchasing Group who also own and operate a number of leisure and hospitality businesses, including The Grand Pier and The Old Thatched Cottage in Weston-super-Mare, said: “The Grand Pier was significantly down on footfall on Saturday (4th July 2020) against the same day last year, although a proportion of this will also be weather related, as the weather was better on the same day last year.

“Very interestingly, however, customers who did visit, spent more. Based on spend per head on Saturday versus the same day last year, food and beverage purchases were up by almost a third (32%), while retail purchases were also up by more than a quarter (26%). However, it was spend on rides where we saw the biggest increase, with visitors spending an additional 48%.

“Based on feedback from customers, the reason for this could be that they are not keen to visit multiple sites. Where previously, customers may have visited The Grand Pier as a leisure attraction and eaten elsewhere, more people are wanting to only visit one venue. So, whilst leisure businesses may see significantly less visitors, early indications suggest that of those that do visit, they are willing to spend more.”

It wasn’t just The Grand Pier that saw a reduction in visitors this weekend – one of the Group’s restaurants, The Old Thatched Cottage also welcomed fewer guests. However, Alex surmises this could become the new norm as people avoid the typically busiest times in favour of mid-week dining out.

Alex continued: “At The Old Thatched Cottage, we saw a capacity reduction of 35%. Whilst the weekend was steady, it has always been the case that the real acid test is Monday to Thursday. The hope is that people will spread their visits to the quieter times of the week to even out the loss of capacity on a Saturday night and Sunday lunch, when we’d ordinarily be full. With bringing back chefs, bar supervisors and a restaurant manager, the staffing costs remain very similar, so without an uplift on the quieter days, it is difficult to see how businesses will survive medium term.

“That said, the reports I’ve received from Regency members is that the quieter weekend allowed them to establish new technology, such as table ordering apps, which we’ll see more of as businesses innovate and adapt.”

Alex also believes customers will be seeking venues where they feel the operator considers their safety a top priority but acknowledges there is a balance between safety and satisfaction.

Alex said: “We have seen varying operating standards in the hospitality industry, from 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. Therefore, with no minimum requirement for venues to be measured against, it means that customers will make their own minds up as to where they feel most safe and where they choose to dine again. Interestingly, the restaurant monitoring customer temperature turned away seven customers this weekend, which resulted in the loss of five tables that were booked. Most customers who were turned away understood, but one took it particularly badly and caused a scene.

“There is a very thin line between customer safety and customer satisfaction. Everything seems to be a very tight balancing act at the moment that operators will need to continue to learn from and adapt to as we navigate through the coming days and weeks.

“We also received feedback from customers that they were quite apprehensive about dining out or visiting an attraction, but having seen the measures we had put in place across our businesses, it helped them to enjoy their experience more.

“On reflection, while the first weekend may not have elicited bumper sales for all, I think it should be seen as a success. We at Regency operate and work with hundreds of businesses that opened and implemented very detailed and comprehensive measures to ensure customer safety and they were managed very well, even at the detriment of takings. I believe this is what the majority of the industry did, but it’s a shame there was very little coverage of the great work the industry did.” Regency Purchasing Group services more than 3,000 businesses across the UK and specialises in sourcing produce from various markets, locally, regionally, nationally and internationally.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Regency .

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