Given recent events you could be forgiven for expecting Christmas to feature Santa ram-raiding a toy shop on a sleigh pulled by the three reindeers of the apocalypse. But it’s not quite that bad, yet. Businesses in the UK are facing unprecedented challenges, and in my area of legal expertise within hospitality they are facing more than most. As well as recovering from Covid restrictions, our industry faces rampant inflation on food and energy for both venues and their customers, with added pressure on the economy from the slump in the pound and rising interest rates.
The challenge facing hospitality is how to cut some costs and maintain margins where possible without compromising quality; not easy for many small operators already down to the bare bones. The final area of concern is shared by retail travel and other leisure pursuits in that ‘you just can’t get the people’ and by that we mean not just talent but even just bodies are in short supply. Some venues are closing early in the week due to lack of staff and we’re even at a point where there simply aren’t enough chefs available, truly a first world problem.
But, in some places there are some signs of hope amidst the gloom. Whilst the public have not fully reverted to pre-pandemic habits many companies are reporting decent like-for-like figures compared to 2019. There’s talk of growth and although there are less visits to venues, many customers are living their best life and spending more on a night out. One interesting trend is the move to earlier ‘start and finish’ for visits, probably a hangover from the early closing imposed during the pandemic, as opposed to the hangover from drinking a bottle of wine in your kitchen night during the pandemic.
I work predominantly with smaller independent venues and as they face this ‘new normal’ they don’t quite have the luxury reserves to offset weeks of bad cash flow. Some are succeeding, others have failed and some are just going to hang on for the ride and see where it takes them. But wherever they go, they need your help, and now. Covid 19 proved one thing to us beyond all doubt and that is that people need people and everyone in Birmingham need its independent bars and restaurants to thrive. So I would appeal to everyone to support them as much as you can over the coming months and especially over the festive period when so many of them will be looking for make or break revenue.