We are proud to announce the return of our Mind the Gap research. It’s a completely free-to-access consumer behaviour research hub for the retail and hospitality sectors.
A year can feel like a long time, even more so in current times, and a lot has happened since we first ran our Mind The Gap research last year.
And it is for that reason why, as a leading partner in tech, music and experience with some of the best brands across retail and hospitality, we wanted to help in these challenging times, by discovering further, updated insights to support the continuing of retail and hospitality’s resurgence and bridge the gap that emerged post-Covid in customer experience.
Our new positive early findings come to light in a week when the hospitality sector has raised a cautious toast as UK pubgoers return. Pubgoers are flocking back to their locals. According to figures from Mitchells & Butlers, one of the UK’s biggest pub groups with 1,784 venues, sales have been at 97% of pre-Covid levels since the resumption of full indoor service*.
The retail & hospitality experience has improved markedly since last summer
Back in the Summer of 2020 after the first lockdown, over two fifths (41.3%) of retail & hospitality customers thought the experience was worse than pre-pandemic times. Now, some two months on from Freedom Day and the removing of most Covid protocols, only a quarter (27.6%) think that the experience was worse than pre-pandemic times.
Lots more people are now intending to visit just as frequently as pre-pandemic
Just over a year ago, well over half of retail and hospitality customers (56.2%) intended to visit less frequently than pre-pandemic. Yet in September 2021, this number has fallen dramatically, with less than a third (30.1%) indicating that they intend to visit retail and hospitality businesses less frequently than pre-pandemic times.
These two stand out stats on customer experience and intention to return could well indicate how the removal of Covid restrictions has put us back close to those pre-pandemic conditions, yet also the great job the retail & hospitality industry is doing in adapting to more challenging conditions and creating a better experience.
Adam Castleton, CEO Startle:
“I am excited to support the retail and hospitality industries by running our Mind The Gap research again, one year on. It is great to see that there are some really encouraging signs compared to last year. It is evident that both the retail and hospitality industries whilst facing huge challenges, have succeeded going a long way in bridging the gap in the experience of visiting a pub, restaurant or retail store. Since last year, we’ve found our conversations with our clients increasingly focussed on perfecting their customer experience and delivering this consistently across a multi-site estate, and helping them understand how their customers are likely to behave. From here it becomes easier to ensure that the atmosphere is working hard to create distinctive brand experiences and memorable moments.”
A view from the hospitality sector
Whilst there are positive signs and statistics to instill some confidence, there is clearly still a significant ‘gap’ to be addressed and overcome if the industry is to get back to pre-pandemic levels of trade, a gap shaped by various factors and challenges:
Pia Fairhurst, Creative Director, Azzurri Group:
"We’ve noticed that whilst many customers are keen to return to dine-in physical restaurant spaces we are still noticing a decline in our eat-in covers compared to pre pandemic levels. There are a number of factors influencing this for example the rise of delivery and take away, a change in working patterns impacting London and city centres, reduced tourism, more complexity finding team members, and supply chain issues restricting menu offerings. We’re feeling optimistic about returning to a more normal level of dine-in covers as these things settle down but cautious about the challenges winter will bring, we’re expecting a bumpy year ahead...”
A reminder on how our research works
The research is conducted continuously across the month with 1000+ UK-based adults aged 18 and over, and who go to a retail shop/pub/restaurant at least once a month. The sample is nationally representative of the UK and is split evenly across retail, restaurants and pubs, allowing for segmentation and comparison across sectors so trends can be identified across the ensuing months. This gives us a robust and up-to-the minute data sample with a 95% confidence level, with a margin of error of +/- 5%.
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*The Guardian: ‘Hospitality sector raises a cautious toast as UK pub-goers return’. 23rd September 2021.