Coronavirus: Bars, clubs lead hospitality industry back to normality - survey

A customer paying electronically.
The Restaurant Association says industry revenue is lower than the same time last year. Photo credit: Getty.

The hospitality sector may have been badly hit during the COVID-19 lockdown, but pubs, bars and taverns are experiencing a return to normal trading.  

According to a new Restaurant Association survey, trading increased after moving to COVID-19 alert level 1. Overall, year-on-year revenue was down, but the data also indicates that socialising is returning to normal. 

Referring to alert level 1 spending as "erratic", Restaurant Association CEO Maria Bidois, said that for just over half of the industry, revenue is less than in June 2019.

"Overall feedback from members indicated a better trading week than at level 2 but with 55 percent of respondents still indicating lower or significantly lower revenues than the same period last year," Bidois said.

However, over a quarter of pub, tavern and bar owners reported revenue to be 'better' or 'significantly better' than last year.  

"Kiwis were clearly missing bars, pubs and clubs with 35 percent of establishments in this category reporting higher trading revenues," Bidois added.

Overall, cafes and bars faired better than restaurants and takeaway outlets. 

"53 percent of cafes and 45 percent of bars report[ed] reduced year-on-year trading, versus 62 percent restaurants and 70 percent food-to-go," Bidois said.

Around three-quarters of business owners in Auckland and Southern Lakes (71 and 75 percent respectively), said their revenue was comparably 'less' or 'significantly less' than June last year. The remainder (around a quarter) said that revenue was 'the same' or 'better'.

"Auckland and Southern Lakes businesses are reporting a fall in foot traffic, currently sitting at 71 to 80 percent and 41 to 50 percent respectively, of typical levels," Bidois said.

Across-the-board, foot-traffic was similar, indicating that customers were spending less.

"Customer traffic is around 91 to 100 percent compared [to] the same period last year," Bidois said.

"In Auckland, we're seeing reduced weekday footfall, with reports of better weekend spending. The move toward working from home will be impacting those city centre establishments." 

Around half of hospitality business owners said they planned to apply for the wage subsidy extension, indicating 30-day revenue was down at least 40 percent.

The COVID-19 lockdown put significant pressure on the hospitality industry, with most businesses unable to operate for over four weeks.

From April 28, loosening of restrictions allowed contactless payment and delivery.  The move to alert level 2 on May 13 allowed cafes and restaurants to serve customers, but social distancing and single-server rules meant that most operated under capacity. 

As borders remain closed under alert level 1, the industry is forced to rely on domestic spending.

"Winter is typically slower than the warmer months but with so many Kiwis unable to travel internationally this year, we're hopeful that people will take advantage of the amazing eateries this country has to offer."