What's Next For Hospitality & Leisure?
The At-Home Hospitality Revolution.
Right now, every brand is in the business of public service. But what happens when hotels can’t receive their guests, your ‘front of house’ team can’t serve from home and public galleries are closed indefinitely? Brands can turn their skills to what they know best; serving customers but in a whole new way.
With everyone staying at home for the foreseeable future, brands across all sectors are re-thinking how they cater to their customers. But when bringing people together in real life is your currency, lockdowns, isolation, and economic uncertainty present a whole new set of challenges.
Brands have the opportunity to embrace innovation and reconsider how they operate to find new ways to deliver value. In Part 1 of our series we’re looking at the inspiring steps leading Hospitality and Leisure providers are taking right now.
At the same time as delivering short-term value for the people they serve, actions taken during the pandemic also lay the groundwork for the next wave of transformation, breaking down the ‘four walls’ of the rapidly evolving experience and service economy. These actions have the potential to safeguard their brand for years to come.
Brands as forces for good
The immediate impact of the pandemic has seen the hospitality industry grind to a halt. With ‘year-over-year decline of seated diners in restaurants worldwide a staggering 100%’ on April 7th 2020’ (Statistica) and hotel occupancy rates falling fast. This loss of footfall has had a huge knock on effect on both the economy and employees. As the situation evolves, there are a number of ways that brands can respond. By building new relationships, transforming their service model – and the sector, in the process.
With bars, restaurants and hotels closed indefinitely, quick-thinking brands are shifting their business models to deliver more immediate support to those on the front line. Taking a load off the supermarkets, café owners and restauranteurs such as Leon are turning their dining spaces into convenience stores and mini distribution centres to ‘Feed The NHS’. Others, such as Brew Dog are switching up their production lines from manufacturing drinks to creating hand sanitiser to bolster dwindling healthcare supplies.
But what about those who rely solely on people, not product, occupying their spaces? With global travel bans imposed, accommodation providers have the opportunity be more philanthropic with their space - offering up their empty beds to those in need. Supporting the NHS, former footballer Gary Neville has opened Hotel Football and The Stock Exchange free of charge to health workers whilst Best Western have pledged rooms to the NHS.
‘Eating-out’ at home
Whilst the situation outside is very real, the majority of us are staying in. As we are forced to slow-down, and experience the world within our four walls, our perspectives are shifting. Where previously our hectic schedules meant food was ‘grab-and-go’ with 19% of our main meals at home being ‘ready-to eat’ (Kantar Worldpanel, 2019). Now our daily rituals have been taken away, and we’re ‘dining in’ for extended periods, we are seeing a re-appreciation of the ritualistic, simple and social side of cooking at home; which provides comfort and solace in uncertain times.
Seeing the opportunity to reinvigorate the home dining experience, hospitality and F&B purveyors are finding new ways to inspire us, virtually. Whilst the influence of social media on our diet isn’t new, it’s taking on a whole new significance as cooking becomes a means of entertainment and education. As we seek ways to be more savvy with what we have in our store cupboard, we are looking online for inspiration; simultaneously satisfying our craving to be connected beyond our four walls. For hospitality providers this presents a fresh opportunity to build new bonds with their customer, and create new connections, ready for when they re-open. This is resulting in inspiring new collaborations between F&B brands and media platforms, and the doors to previously exclusive spaces being virtually opened.
Great examples of this include Massimo Bottura, the chef behind the Michelin starred Gucci Osteria, who is hosting a #KitchenQuarantine series, live streaming the prep of his family dinner and Q&A. Whilst curious connoisseurs can tune in for ‘by appointment’ virtual tastings from the likes of Acme Fine Wines and try virtual mocktails whilst exploring new bars and restaurants through Loosid’s ‘Boozeless Guides’.
Socialising together, alone
Tapping into the pleasure centres of ‘going out’ at home is no mean feat. As brands look to provide the solution we are seeing the parameters of the sector redefined and a revolutionization and democratisation of cultural experiences which sets the tone for the coming years.
There are a number of hacks appearing which allow friends to socialise together, from the comfort of their sofas. Alongside, setting up their own ‘virtual pubs’, consumers are utilising media platforms such as Netflix, to build their own virtual reality ‘IRL’. We are also seeing the effect of ‘8D’ audio, which “tricks the brain into perceiving the sound as coming from….3D space” ramp up in popularity, as people look to recreate the immersion of live events.
Cultural institutions and event organisers across the globe are seizing the opportunity to break down the metaphorical walls by taking their experiences online. Tapping into the growing Chinese live-streaming market – which is set to reach $6.14bn this year (iResearch) – institutions such as Shanghai Symphony Orchestra are live streaming shows on Facebook, whilst JD.com has collaborated with alcohol suppliers to create virtual club nights. Both of these are great examples of providing mutually complicit commerce by driving new distribution channels for the brands, whilst entertaining their fans. The JD.com initiative alone led to an increase in sales of the products ‘two or three times compared to the same period of the day before when there was no live stream’ (Stylus, 2020).
For those, who require a more tailored experience than mass platforms can offer, home delivery kits, which teach people how to enjoy their products, are a great solution. Alinea – best known for fine dining and experiential gastronomy, are offering food and cocktail kits to-go. Far from being a short-term strategy this signals the future of democratised dining and elevated, co-created experiences. As co-owner Nick Kokonos said “Interestingly we’ve sold $5,600 worth of Margarita kits from Alinea. We’ve been doing this all wrong for years”.
What does this mean for the future?
The co-operation of the home and digital culture will play a key part in defining the future of leisure and hospitality experiences; influencing the way we socialise and connect – in and out of home.
As consumers find new ways to engage, brands are forming new collaborations and revolutionising their offering. Simultaneously delivering essential products and services out-of-home and elevating the experience at-home.
We predict a re-appreciation of home dining, accelerated virtual experiences and a yearning for human connection will lead to a heightened expectation, and revolutionising of the IRL hospitality and leisure offering. ‘Hospitality’ as we know it won’t be the same again. We explore some key strategies for brands to prepare for this new era in Part 2.
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