The latest figures from Fourth, the leading global software provider for the hospitality sector, and Wireless Social, a leading Wi-Fi solutions provider, indicate that the month of August brought positive signs of recovery to the industry, largely driven by the Eat Out to Help Out (EOTHO) scheme; however, the data also lays bare the impact of COVID-19 on the sector’s workforce.
Fourth’s data, which has been aggregated from analysis of over 700 companies across the restaurant, pub and bar, and QSR sectors, reveals a steady increase in the number of scheduled hours across the industry over recent months, with August generating a significant spike. The hours worked in August (20.1m hours) increased by 44% from July 2020 (12.9m hours) and by 119% compared to June 2020 (5.1m hours).
Looking at a year-on-year comparison of the data, the month of August (20.1m hours) was only down 41% on 2019 levels (34.2m hours). This is a significant improvement on July 2020, which was down by 63%, (12.9m hours vs 35m hours in 2019), and June 2020 which was down by 85% (5.1m vs 33.1m in 2019).
Echoing the reduction in hours worked across the sector compared to pre-lockdown levels, the data reveals that the hospitality workforce has significantly decreased as a direct result of COVID-19.
The total staff headcount recorded in August 2020 across the data-range was down by 15%, compared to August 2019. The QSR sector had the smallest decrease in headcount, with figures in August 2020 down by 12% on 2019, whereas pubs, restaurants and hotels experienced a 16% decrease.
The data also highlights the impact of the Government’s furlough scheme, with the industry experiencing a 53% reduction in those leaving the industry from March to July 2020 as they were placed on furlough. However, when analysing a year-on-year comparison of starters and leavers between January and February 2020 and March to July 2020, the figures increase from 1:1 to 3:1.
The data also reveals that the average number of hours worked per employee remained the same during August as the year prior, despite the fact that the average number of people scheduled had fallen from 16 to 10 – a drop of 40%. This indicates that businesses have reacted to the reduced capacity within venues and also sought to introduce productivity measures to improve efficiency.
In terms of footfall, Wireless Social’s latest data from its footfall tracker indicates that August saw the greatest uptick in traffic across the country, since lockdown began in March.
Despite still being markedly lower than pre-lockdown levels (February 2020), footfall in August, across a number of towns and cities, was the highest it has been since March. Visitor traffic in Liverpool on Sunday 30th August (-13% on pre-lockdown levels) had risen by 25% compared to the previous week, and by 46% compared to the re-opening of the sector on 4th July.
Similarly, Cardiff (-23%) beat its June (-89% on 6th June) and July (-80% on 4th July) figures; as well as Birmingham (-25%); Bristol (-25%); Edinburgh (-37%); and Manchester (-42%).
In London, footfall climbed steadily throughout August, with figures for Sunday 30th August (-38%) showing an increase of 17% compared to 4th July (-55%). However, much of the increased traffic was driven by the ‘London villages’ (Richmond, Wimbledon etc), where Bank Holiday footfall (-23%) had increased by 36% versus 4th July; compared to the City, Soho and Canary Wharf, where traffic was roughly 65% lower than pre-lockdown averages.
Max Tucker, Director of Analytics – EMEA at Fourth, said, “The month of August was very encouraging across the board for the hospitality industry. The rise in hours worked across the sector coincided with a number of key factors, including the continued re-opening of the industry, the success of EOTHO, warm weather and the Bank Holiday weekend – all driving consumers into venues.
“While this is incredibly positive for the industry, and a vast number of workers are returning from furlough, we are heading into the traditionally challenging autumn period.
'As many operators look to introduce new marketing measures to continue momentum from the EOTHO scheme, it’s crucial that they are taking a dynamic approach to their labour scheduling, to ensure they have the right number of team members in place to meet the fluctuating levels of demand and not compromise on the customer experience.
'In such a fluid market, continually analysing and reviewing data is the key to doing this effectively.”
Julian Ross, CEO of Wireless Social, said, “The fact that August saw such a significant rise in footfall across the industry is very encouraging indeed. People wanted to take advantage of the brilliant Eat Out to Help Out scheme and get back out with their friends and family in their favourite places.
“However, the next few weeks and months are going to be very challenging, particularly in cities like London where large swathes of the workforce will continue to work from home, likely meaning that many restaurants, pubs and cafes will continue to trade at far lower levels for longer than other parts of the country.
'It’s vitally important that the government continues to support our industry, which is why we’re backing UK Hospitality’s latest initiative, calling on the Prime Minister and Mayor of London to support hospitality businesses in the Capital, giving them the opportunity to stay afloat and get back to what they do best.”