The hospitality industry experienced the detrimental impact of the UK’s lockdown restrictions. While most businesses could continue working from home, the hospitality industry was left dwindling throughout lockdown. Pubs, bars and restaurants closed their doors, and many companies lost irreparable amounts of revenue throughout the last year and a half.
Lockdown restrictions are beginning to lift, and the prospect of a new future for face-to-face customer service is emerging. However, even with reduced restrictions, there are still measures in place to make sure the hospitality sector is operating safely. There are limits on capacity, store closings, social distancing, masks, face shields and much more.
The government initially stated that all lockdown restrictions may be lifted by the 21st of June 2021. This date was then pushed back, and Sajid Javid later announced the 19th of July would be the target date. The government is aiming to reopen big events and performances, and nightclubs in the coming months. Some of these clubs have been closed since March 2020 – so it is vital to reopen them as soon as it is safe to do so.
There are perhaps a number of measures that may continue to remain a part of customer service in the UK for many months (or even years) to come. PPE like face shields may remain common in customer service, as they have been since the beginning of the pandemic. As the hospitality sector fully reopens, it will be interesting to see if face coverings will be demanded by customers and businesses alike, or if just businesses will continue to ask staff to wear face coverings as a courtesy to customers. Consistent and thorough cleaning procedures are very likely to continue to make sure venues are sanitised and fitted with track and trace systems.
Furthermore, many businesses have changed their cancellation policies to align with the unpredictability of the pandemic. Most hospitality companies offer free amendments, changes, and a degree of flexibility. The new flexible cancellation policies are likely to remain over the summer months.
Pre-arrival registration will also remain in place to optimise and utilise the NHS’ track and trace system. Guests will continue to check into venues upon their arrival via the Track and Trace app to ensure they are entering a safe environment. We could also begin using electronic locks, which use Bluetooth and RFID tech, to reduce the time guests spend in public areas.
While social distancing measures have been relaxed in the UK this summer, restaurant and bar table spacing may continue. It may be in the interest of restaurant managers to make sure each group of guests has ample spacing from other customers, both for practicality and comfort. Table spacing can also help servers remain somewhat distanced when delivering sauces, condiments, meals, and service checks. A one-stop delivery may be preferred to reduce contact between different social circles. However, it will be a tough choice for managers to impact their commercials further when not legally required to do so.
The hospitality industry experienced a major hit from the covid-19 pandemic. Customer service will have undoubtedly changed for ever, but how far will the new normal be from the old normal?