While June saw the reopening of many non-essential shops (dependant on the following of new COVID-19 secure guidelines), it’s now the turn of pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants in England to welcome back customers for the first time since lockdown began in March.

From tomorrow (July 4th) England will also see the likes of hairdressers and cinemas opening their doors once more. However, for the hospitality industry, as they start to resume operations, entering these establishments could be a very different experience from how it was before the coronavirus outbreak and much of the sector’s success will rely on technology to ensure the safety of both customers and staff.

To support the NHS’ Test and Trace initiative, the government is encouraging the likes of pubs to take records of customer data, including visit duration and name and number, when they enter the premises and maintain that information for at least 21 days. As well as having your pub session monitored, customers can also expect to be more widely using food and drink ordering apps to reduce contact with staff members.

Despite these safety measures, a recent survey from EY stated that more than two-thirds (67%) of UK consumers believe it will take months or longer before they feel comfortable going to a restaurant, with similar sentiments for visiting cinemas and bars/pubs.

Quite rightly, EY also identified that this reluctance to flock to the pubs when they open has caused a rise of the ‘anxious consumer’. With this in mind, it’s worth considering that while many backend operations have had to be put in place for businesses to integrate new apps and technology, in the months they’ve been closed, many establishments won’t have had the time to expand their own or their staff’s digital knowledge – particularly as the ONS found 80% of hospitality staff had been furloughed in this time.

Those new to this increased level of digital services also have GDPR to contend with which could become a legal minefield if not correctly monitored. Customer data is going to be pivotal to successfully and safely keep food, drink and entertainment businesses open, so handling this sensitive information correctly is going to be one of the most important aspects to a more digital hospitality industry.

As your time-honoured local is set to be a bit more tech-conscious, it’s probably inevitable that there will be some teething issues as they start to work with more app-based ordering and booking systems but hopefully they have used the lockdown time wisely by working with technology partners to help manage their capacity and safeguarding of data.

Ultimately it’s a positive step for England’s economy which has been hit hard since March 23rd, and as the hospitality sector is one of the UK’s biggest employers and contributes billions in revenue, hopefully this keeps us on a safe path to a ‘new normal’.


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