What will life be like after the Coronavirus? What will restaurants be like? What kind of holidays will we have? Who will be going to concerts?
I’m pretty sure it’s not what you expect… how do I know?
Well, at Ten Group – the world’s most successful lifestyle concierge service (“TENG” on the London Stock Exchange) – our business is typically all about booking tables at packed restaurants and organising holidays to places like Italy, Spain, China and New York. We also help our members to enjoy social entertainment in the right-up-close proximity of crowded theatres, intimate concert venues and sweaty sporting stadiums.
So, you would be forgiven for thinking we should be buggered and bust right now – unneeded and unwanted as a service and underwater as a business.
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In fact, you may be surprised to know that we’ve just had the best month ever (more members using our service, more often than we’ve ever done before). So how did we have a record month as the UK, and half the rest of the world, entered lock-down?
It’s easy to understand once you know our service. Some of our members pay to join Ten privately but most of our members are corporate members via major banks. Those banks then provide our services to their top customers as a value-add benefit and support. Those service-driven brands – like Coutts in the UK and HSBC Jade around the world – want us to meet the needs of their customers.
So, as an entrepreneurial service, we have flexed and adapted as those needs have changed. Instead of holding tables at Sexy Fish or Le Gavroche, we’ve been organising home delivery of groceries; instead of organising a safari to see endangered species, we’ve been suggesting effective ways for them to actively support ‘in-danger’ key workers; instead of reserving seats at our box, we’ve been sourcing comfortable office chairs for the home office. Result: damn busy March.
So, yes, we know a thing or two about our what our members want. And we know what they’re saying about the future of dining, holidays and entertainment. What’s more we’ve already had a glimpse of what the New Normal will look like, as our members in Hong Kong and China emerge from lockdown. So here’s three predictions for the early days of a post-virus world:
Firstly, in the delicious world of dining, I’m expecting that most of our great restaurants will open again fast. They are, to borrow a phrase, too good to fail – and the best chefs and world-class restaurateurs are too committed to allow that to happen. But they’ll be different: huge distances between tables and reduced menus.
The ‘table gap’ social distancing will calm the germaphobic mentality that has us in its grip, but why the reduced menus? Don’t think that’s because they can’t source the ingredients. It’s about logistics.
They won’t want to stock up on loads of expensive (and perishable) ingredients. A smaller menu means less to throwaway, as restaurateurs fret over the possibility of reduced bookings. It also means fewer staff needed in the kitchen, which will help the bottom line and make the recovery faster.
Secondly. in the world of leisure travel, many of you will have the best holidays of your lives in late 2020 or in 2021, even if your budgets, due to reduced income or fallen investments, are not what they were in 2019. Why? Because you will have planned them so, so well. In a normal year, our members who plan the best holidays are often those confined to a bed, convalescing from a long illness. It’s those people who have the time to plan and the fervent desire to have a positive, forward-looking project to work on. And we will be a nation of housebound desperates by the end of April, never mind June or July, all dreaming and planning.
Finally, in terms of live events, one of the most remarkable things in recent years has been that the age of the concert goer has gone up dramatically as the ticket prices have risen. So we’ve seen a lot of middle-aged and older audiences in recent years – the last big tour that we sold out, even as the virus struck, was Genesis at the O2 in November 2020. I’m going to guess that the big venues and promoters will put on acts for younger people in the first few months, post-virus. Because people in their twenties, and the acts they like, book with a shorter-term horizon than artists liked by the middle-aged and older. Plus, of course, the young are less concerned about heaving, droplet-rich crowds.
So life will be different and the changes being wrought now will echo for years to come, but you can be certain there’s always going to be fantastic restaurants, mind-blowing concerts and unforgettable travel on the other side.
Alex Cheatle is Founder & CEO of Ten Lifestyle Group