Andrew Orr, Client Partner Director at Shared Experience Agency TRO, discusses how brands can support the hospitality sector in a Covid world.

Everything that can be said up to now about the pandemic and how brands and marketing have responded has been well documented.  Experiential, particularly through the lens of physical activation, has had to pivot hard to remain relevant in a Covid world. This very much parallels with another key pillar of the service industry, hospitality: a sector under real pressure, even with easing of social distancing rules. However, it feels there could be an opportunity for each to support the other in the months ahead.

From tomorrow, pubs and restaurants in England will warmly welcome back punters, all of whom will be in desperate need for a cold drink and social interaction. The industry will play its part with all outlet operations limited to table service, with a minimum of one metre between all customers. However, due to the ongoing health updates that being outdoors is safer with a lower risk of catching coronavirus, pubs and restaurants with alfresco spaces will be the ones with the highest demand, with bookings for socially distant seats already full ahead of the restart.

So, whilst doors reopening is a much-valued boost to all, will it favour only the few, and in particular outlets with an existing outdoor set up? We have seen industry voices campaign hard for councils to relax licensing restrictions and allow outlets to operate an outdoor service, space permitting. We are seeing all types of bars, restaurants and hotels quickly adapt their spaces to offer outdoor operations – in car parks, on pavements, fields and more – all to try and compete with established outside terraces, rooftops and gardens.

And it is here where I see an opportunity for brands to support the hospitality industry. Following on from literally zero revenue for the last three months, the majority of outlets have little or no funds available to create a socially distant outdoor space, resulting in the creation of outside areas that don’t feel particularly welcoming or even functional, ultimately driving customers to look elsewhere.

Brands can support the hospitality industry reopening through investing in their outdoor spaces – helping take the financial strain and supporting creating safe and visually appealing spaces. From small outlets needing support with functional items like chairs, tables and gazebos, to more creative space design in bigger locations. This support could also factor in the colder months ahead, breathing continued life into pub terraces and gardens as the summer ends. And yes, brands will benefit from being visible to the punter again, and adding value, during a no doubt very competitive trading period.

Brand activation in pubs and restaurants is not new news, and there have been some brilliant examples of where outdoor spaces have been elevated, and customers delighted, through creative and considered visual experiences. Be it a sea of orange from Aperol, or dare I say it, our own on-trade visibility programmes for various premium brands including Grey Goose and Aspall Cider, that capture and bring alive the brand at the point of purchase through disruptive POS, installations and outlet takeovers.

There are a mass of outlets desperate to be supported this way right now, underpinning their real need to drive footfall over the next few months and beyond, so let’s help them where possible, and get your own brand visible through a sea of colour this summer.

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