Time to pivot: How the UK’s hospitality sector can survive and thrive
By Rebecca Kelly, CEO and co-founder, VenueScanner
The past few years have presented challenge after challenge for UK hospitality businesses. From rising costs to staffing shortages and shifts in consumer behaviour, the hospitality industry is constantly navigating choppy waters. It is easy to see why data from UKHospitality shows that just 29 percent of hospitality businesses feel optimistic about the next 12 months.
But there is hope. We know the UK’s hospitality sector is incredibly robust – it is expected to reach $27.42 billion by 2028 according to data from Mordor Intelligence and a record 2.6 million people are now employed in hospitality, with the sector responsible for one in five new jobs.
As UKHospitality Chief Executive Kate Nicholls has said: “The ability of hospitality businesses to create more than 20 percent of new jobs in the past year, in the face of extraordinary cost pressures, is testament to its resilience and ability to battle against the odds.”
I couldn’t agree more, Kate. And data from our platform suggests venue demand is increasing year on year so for those businesses able to take advantage of current booking trends, there is real opportunity to grow in the face of adversity.
Major increase in party bookings
Party bookings have increased three-fold since pre-Covid days, with bars and restaurants topping the list of the most popular venue types for party bookings, while Christmas parties remain the most popular event type.
This means there is a huge opportunity for bars and restaurants to market themselves accordingly, focusing on party (and Christmas party) bookings that generate higher revenues to cover their increasing costs.
There’s also an opportunity to stand out from the competition by offering a wider range of activities – poker nights, games nights, or even pizza and sushi making – as a way of capturing the attention of party bookers.
Bars, restaurants and experience-based venues on the rise for business bookings
While hotels account for a portion of business venue searches, organisations are also increasingly looking for more unusual spaces to host their business meetings, conferences and company gatherings including experience-based venues such as Otherworld VR, and Swingers Crazy Golf, as well as bars and restaurants. In fact in Edinburgh, for example, bars and restaurants account for three times more business bookings than hotels do.
Given we are seeing a serious decline in consumer spending, especially in mid-range bars, pubs, restaurants and hotels, this data shows that venues able to diversify their space for business offerings can increase footfall and fill more of their downtime.
Company away day bookings up year on year
As businesses are employing more people remotely, the need for colleagues to connect in person has given rise to more demand for company offsites and one-day to multi-day events and overnight stays. This has led to significant growth in company away day events across the UK. In fact, we’re seeing 3.5 times as many bookings for company away days than we did pre-Covid.
This represents another huge opportunity for event venues, hotels and even pubs, bars and restaurants to diversify their revenue streams by marketing themselves as great away day locations, whether it be for creative workshops, scavenger hunts, exclusive events or immersive experiences.
Given the significant challenges facing the UK’s hospitality businesses, diversification will be key to future growth. Data from VenueScanner clearly shows that the opportunities are there – yes for party bookings, but the real opportunity lies in a venue’s ability to pivot to a business audience.
Whether that’s transforming their space to accommodate a company away day or turning their empty tables into hot desks, the UK’s hospitality sector is a resilient, vibrant and adaptive one and it will come out the other side stronger and more profitable as a result.