Just the very mention of 4 July is starting to bring me out in hives, writes guest blogger Katy Moses. We’ve being told that some of the hospitality industry might be able to begin to open, tentatively and with the right hygiene practices and physical distancing in place. We think (government is yet to confirm). But are we ready?
In a recent KAM research report, Return of the Pub (those of a certain age will sing a certain tune every time they hear this title – you’re welcome), we spoke to 1,000 regular pub-goers, and found that not only will all businesses have challenges, they are likely to all have different challenges. Maybe this is where we end up in different boats.
We know that food-led occasions are predicted to decline 12% – not really a huge surprise when you consider all the different contact points and the nervousness/understanding as to Covid-19 and the time it can survive on surfaces. We know that the impact on footfall will be felt more in town/city centre pubs than village/rural pubs, with the former looking at a 10% drop in visits; the latter, a smaller decline.
But I’m not here to tell you what we DO know. I’m here to ask: “what DON’T you know”?
The hospitality customer that walked through your door just 12 weeks ago has changed. They say it takes six weeks to form a habit – by the time we begin to open doors on 4 July (please, God), some people will have been (mainly) in their homes for well over three months. Some may have lost loved ones. Some may have suffered mental health challenges through the crisis. All will have changed social habits.
Now is the time to get obsessive. Obsessive about YOUR customer. Whether you THINK you know them or not – I can assure you, you don’t. There will be differences according to region (Northerners are apparently keener to get back to pubs, bars and restaurants than Londoners, for example), gender, age (obviously). But have you thought about those who have had the virus versus those who have not? They’ll behave differently. What about beer drinkers versus wine drinkers? Food occasions rather than drinks-only occasions?
If you’ve never conducted customer research – now’s the time to start – and if you have, well, now’s the time to start again, because the majority of insight that’s out there about the ‘old consumer’ is about as useful as my laptop bag has been since late March.
Research doesn’t have to be expensive; but it does have to be done properly. Here’s is a short checklist if you’re planning on finding out who the hospitality customer 2.0 is;
- It’s best if it’s independent (other agencies are available) as this lessens the risk of unconscious (or even conscious) bias. It means your customers (and/or staff) will be honest with their feedback. It will provide you with a different and a professional point of view
- Nail the brief (yes, that one): the better and more in-depth your brief, the more likely you’ll be to derive valuable insight from it. Start with “what’s the research going to be used for?” as a question and work out from there. Tell your agency as much as you’d tell your best friend. It’ll help, I promise
- If available to you, use a mixture of quantitative and qualitative research. The former will give you the what and allow you to measure the responses; the latter will let you dig into the WHY. These two methodologies are always greater than the sum of their parts when used together
- Don’t forget your team – they are out on the frontline every day, so involve them: listen to their thoughts and opinions. Whether it’s a sticky bit of tech that causes frustration or an item on the menu that just never works – they’ll know about it. Plus, their opinion should matter ANYWAY
- Don’t rely on sales data. The holy grail is sales data PLUS customer insight, staff feedback, competitor benchmarking and supplier feedback. Don’t forget that last bit – your suppliers have a valuable perspective: an outside view with a handle on your reputation and, importantly, who’s doing what you do, better than you
In the extraordinary situation that we all find ourselves in, it’s more important than ever that we are basing strategic business decisions on facts and insight; gut feel may not cut it anymore. Get out there – ask questions, ask the right questions, to the right people and you’ll stand a much better chance of making it through this crisis.
Katy Moses is founder and MD of KAM Media, the research and insight business with specialisms in hospitality and leisure, grocery and convenience. E: firstname.lastname@example.org
FSC and KAM are co-authors, together with a group of leading agencies, in the Pub, Restaurant and Coffee Shop 100-day Playbook – a 200+ page guide to brand, marketing and PR for hospitality businesses. To obtain a FREE copy visit www.100dayplaybook.com