2019 was a seismic year for many people in many ways. It brought a great deal of change, new perspectives and some huge challenges. The hospitality sector, like any other, was affected by the social, economic and political movement happening all around. So what kind of year was 2019 for the hospitality industry and what can we learn from everything that unfolded?
Profitability is a challenge – but possible
Many restaurants and bars faced increased costs last year, whether as a result of fluctuations in the Pound or relating to factors such as the basic expenses involved in hiring staff. Nevertheless, sales grew – in November they were up by around 5% compared to the same period the year before. Interestingly, restaurant and bar sales increased by more than those in the retail sector, which was a consistent trend over three straight months.
Issues still remain in terms of hiring and training staff
Particularly with Brexit looming, staffing issues grew in 2019. While the number of jobs in hospitality is on the rise, increasingly there are simply not enough workers available to fill them. In many businesses training programmes and the opportunity to progress are almost non-existent. A key lesson to learn for 2020 is the need for restaurateurs to evolve the way employees are hired and handled, experimenting with new models to find the right balance of job satisfaction and profitability.
Key to this is staff retention
The hospitality sector has one of the highest staff turnover rates of any industry. In 2019 this peaked at a five year high of 75% creating real concerns about consistency and the impact of staff attrition on businesses and their customers. Learning the lessons of this may require significant review of existing working practices, the way employees are treated and how safe they feel in their working environment. The #metoo movement, in particular, has created a new wave of intolerance when it comes to harassment in the workplace. As many of those who are leaving their jobs in the restaurant business are women, one of the solutions to staff retention may well be to reassess staff treatment and harassment tolerance levels within an individual business. Better career opportunities may also give businesses ways to hold on to staff – a career in the industry that is more appealingly defined for those who love food could attract a much wider range of passionate people.
The way consumers use restaurants is changing
In 2019, for example, the percentage of sales being generated by off-premise orders rose considerably – this upward movement is expected to continue in 2020. Partnering with third-party delivery platforms is an obvious way for restaurants to capitalise on this. Technology is also having a big impact. Customers now expect restaurants to offer a range of payment methods, for example, and to invest in tech such as ePOS, which improves the speed of order and payment and has a wide range of benefits, from better stock management to more effective marketing.
2019 in hospitality marked a shift towards a more open, tech-driven and profitable industry. The lessons of last year are key to learn for any business looking to thrive into 2020.