Evolving consumer habits
Two and a half years on and we are still seeing the effects of the pandemic on guest behaviours and expectations. In the lock down period many outlets switched to delivery models to keep the stoves burning and the teams active. Guests were able to order-in a taste of their favourite restaurants with creative packaging and immersive experiences being delivered to their door.
This filled the initial guest desire for their favourite dishes, however as human beings, by nature we are sociable animals and as soon as the lock downs were eased our guests could not wait to get back into their usual haunts. In the early days we saw a huge boom in comfort foods and dishes that reminded our guests of home, record sales of roast dinners on weekends as people looked to the familiar as they started to venture out again.
Over the last 18 months as we have seen protocols relaxed in line with the improvement in cases and effects of the vaccine programmes and such our guest’s behaviours have also relaxed alongside, although there has been a behavioural shift in embracing certain aspects of health and hygiene.
The use of hand sanitiser in daily life and keeping distances where possible might never disappear fully from our lives, however, the former are no longer seen in surgical looking containers and are now presented in attractive bottles often branded that blend more naturally into the restaurants aesthetics and thus sitting more comfortably as part of the overall guest experience.
The most noticeable behaviour displayed by our guests is a simple desire to return to “normal” and as we start to see what we all hope is the end of the pandemic this resounding message is seen and heard in all our venues, awkward first meetings which were replaced with the now common fist pump are in turn being replaced with traditional handshakes.
As Covid cases drop around the world and more significantly the severity of the cases and consequences, so grows the desire to lose the face coverings, social distancing and similar protocols and to take a step back towards the more familiar “norm”. To dine with groups of friends and to celebrate memorable events surrounded by our families. To eat, drink dance and be merry with each other and to enjoy being the sociable animals that human beings are meant to be.
* The writer is Director of Operations at Gates Hospitality