The author Dennis Kimbro’s most famous quote was “Life is ten percent what happens to us and ninety percent how we react to it.” If taken literally this quote can seem somewhat trite, even facile. But as our sector grapples with the enormous impacts of coronavirus one begins to understand the broader sentiment behind it.
I have been massively impressed and inspired by the many in our sector who, in the face the biggest headwinds in a generation are putting themselves out there every day, championing the causes of our sector with determination, energy and positivity. There are way too many to mention here but the exemplar must surely be Kate Nicholls (CEO of UK Hospitality), who with her capable team have arguably achieved more success in rescuing our sector from the pandemic’s impacts than any other.
We have travelled a long way since late March, when in a matter of days hospitality and foodservice was pretty much totally shut down, taking operators to almost zero revenues, and dragging a long supply chain with it. We knew within days that this was likely to be a huge correction, which would eliminate a large number of businesses, and leave many others severely weakened.
Yet here we are, well past the 100-day mark and the sector is now firmly (if somewhat slowly) on the road to recovery. There remain many challenges ahead. The upwards only rent model is yet to be fully resolved, business rates are still a mess, there are already a basketful of CVAs and company sales out there (with more to come), there could be a second wave, and let’s not forget the haunting spectre of a no-deal Brexit which will soon be just 20 weeks away.
But that would be to ignore the enormous amount of innovation, creativity and desire shown by our operator community, and the supply chains that support them. As Mark Wingett of Propel observed “The disorder some media seemed to hope for never materialised, nor did a second New Year’s Eve trading splurge as some predicted. Venues that opened were given the chance, as were the consumers who tentatively came out, to get used to the new trading environment at their own pace.” To have re-opened an entire sector (as we have done in the past two weeks) under entirely new operating rules with such stability and success is testament to the many who have delivered it.
More will be required though. Our industry can play a huge part in re-creating the level of confidence and positivity about eating and drinking out that was cruelly stolen from us by COVID-19. As Dennis said, it is all about how we react to our circumstances, and this is not a time for the faint of heart.
Founder & Chairman