Author: By David Maisey, CEO at MultiPay Global Solutions
It has been an unprecedented 12 months for the hospitality sector. Except for the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme, there have been few glimmers of hope for the embattled industry. In fact, the sector has experienced over eight months of closure, costing more than 600,000 jobs, 12,000 business failures and lost sales of £86 billion.
However, there is light at the end of the tunnel. With restrictions lifting this week, the hospitality industry will once again be open for business. Moreover, it looks set to experience its own ‘mini-boom’ as friends and family make the most of being able to see each other once again – as soon as the dates were announced, pubs said they were inundated with bookings.
Capitalising on this demand will be critical for businesses looking to recoup lost revenues and mitigate some of the damage of the last 12 months. It also presents an important opportunity to gain trust with customers and encourage them to return, laying the foundations for long term success.
The mini-boom also presents a good opportunity to stress test COVID-19 safe processes and operations too. While the easing of restrictions allows for a return to physical hospitality spaces, social distancing measures will need to be enforced for the time being. Ahead of key events later in the year like the Euro 2020 football tournament and Christmas, businesses will need to ensure they can operate in a way that keeps staff and customer safe.
Customer expectations have changed
Looking to the future and post June 21st there is still uncertainty about what a full return of customers to pubs and restaurants might look like. However, keeping patrons and staff safe yet providing a first-class customer experience will be key.
Thanks to the impact of the pandemic, the customer experience (CX) has never been more important – even in this ‘new normal’ consumers will have no problem avoiding a venue where they are left feeling frustrated or unsatisfied by the experience.
At the same time, COVID-19 has forced us all to go digital, with e-commerce in the UK growing by 46 percent. For safety and convenience, ordering online via apps and websites has become the norm – whether that’s a supermarket delivery, a takeaway or any other product or service. Usage of food delivery apps especially was accelerated by the pandemic, in which millions of users ordered via apps for the first time.
The same applies to hospitality; customers now expect to be able to order from their mobile phone and pay at their table. Having a payment method that isn’t supported by a restaurant or pub for instance will create friction as customers are forced to change their habits and pay via a less preferred method.
To facilitate this, businesses need to ensure they have the right systems in place and can take any payment anywhere. Whether it’s a mobile payment, contactless or card payment, customers want to be able to pay with their preferred method and don’t want to have the experience impacted if their payment method is not supported.
This means that businesses need to ensure that as well as providing ample outdoor seating and social distancing measures, they are also meeting and providing seamless experiences for their customers. Having a single system in place that can accept payments regardless of currency, acquirer and payment method is key to maintain both safety and CX.
While the need for social distancing and outdoor only seating will hopefully soon pass, having a payment experience that meets customer needs is a trend that is here to stay. The pandemic has shifted expectations and the hospitality sector needs to adjust accordingly to capitalise on the mini-boom and lay the groundwork for a return to growth.
The good news is that technology is here to help. In the last 12 months, new solutions in the payment space have emerged that not only help keep customers safe but also maximise the customer experience too.