If you run a hospitality business, you may have become used to surviving, rather than thriving over the past couple of years. It’s been a tough slog and huge challenges remain. However, for those who have managed to come out the other side with a reasonably healthy business, the year ahead offers significant opportunities for growth.
Although much of the direct government financial help has been removed as of the end of September 2021, indirect help continues, in the form of lower VAT rates and a reduction of business rates for the sector, to name just two. As a result of these measures, some businesses may feel that their costs are significantly lower this year and their prospects for growth and investment have improved.
It’s important not to ignore this opportunity as we move into 2022. Here’s our guide to making the most of the lower-cost year ahead and growing your business while the going’s good.
Being agile is key to success in 2021
The 50% cut in business rates for hospitality and retail businesses was widely welcomed when it was announced by the Chancellor on 27 October 2021. Having said that, a return to full business rates would have been a serious kick in the teeth for those running pubs, restaurants, cafes and hotels, in light of other challenges we’re all facing.
If the last two years have taught business owners anything, it’s to be ready for the unexpected and to not fear change. Those businesses that have emerged from the difficulties of the pandemic with the brightest outlook are those that have embraced change and looked at ways to create opportunities in the post-pandemic world.
For some, this was extending their outdoor seating area, allowing more and more people to enjoy their food and drink outdoors. This allowed these businesses to start trading as soon as doors were opened. It could be as simple as promoting your outdoor space on social media, after dressing it up with inexpensive fairy lights, cushions and heaters.
Others simplified their menus to survive major staff shortages in their kitchens and among waiting staff. A pared-down menu that’s quick and easy to prepare – even for those with limited training in the kitchen, might have saved the day for many pubs who found themselves lacking key talent over the past few months.
Fundamentally, business over the past couple of years has been about having the flexibility to survive. It’s important that we take this open-minded approach into 2022 in order to ride the wave of lower VAT and business rates. Here are some progressive ideas to help your business grow over the next 12 months:
Enhance your user experience
User experience isn’t just something for tech firms to worry about, it can apply to a number of customer-facing industries, not least hospitality. Consumers are much more engaged with the businesses they interact with these days and they want to feel that they are getting a memorable experience when they come to stay, drink or dine with you.
You can improve user experience in lots of ways, but think about details like the visual impression of your premises from the outside and the inside. Does it have the wow factor and is your presentation as good as it could be? Consider little things like your glassware, your toilets, your handwash, your cutlery, the music you play and your lighting. Spending a little money on these smaller details can have a huge impact on your user experience, making diners and guests far more likely to return for a repeat visit.
Adapt your marketing
If you want to grow your business and attract more customers into your premises, establishing a really strong online presence is essential. We all know about the importance of reviews and having a Tripadvisor presence, but also invest time and money in your social media and organic search marketing.
Take steps to make sure your restaurant, pub, hotel or cafe is ranking well for key search terms that people are using when visiting your location. Local people are likely to use the same search terms as tourists or non-locals. Speaking to a digital marketing agency can help you get to grips with what’s required to shoot up the search engine results pages.
However, if money’s tight, you can boost your SEO by writing regular blogs for your website and investing in some high-quality content and photography that shows your business in its absolute best light.
Digitalise your menu and ordering process
Another major change to come out of the pandemic is the way consumers like to choose, order and pay when they visit an eatery, or even a bar for that matter. Diners no longer expect to wait. They like to see the menu on their mobile device, make their selection and order autonomously, in their own time.
Leslie offers a hassle-free way to order and pay, with digital menus that you can adapt and change at the tap of a button. Your consumers can see your menu on their phones, with no need to download apps or sign into websites. It’s easier, quicker and leaves you able to adapt your menu whenever you like without the need to budget for reprints.
Whatever you did to get through reopening, we applaud you. And we’re here to support you as we move into a bigger and brighter new year.