On July 4th, pubs and restaurants in England were allowed to reopen after months of lockdown to stem the spread of COVID-19 – a day that the papers dubbed ‘Super Saturday’. While it’s recommended that people remain two metres apart to stay safe, the hospitality sector is now allowed to observe a ‘one metre plus’ rule and use measures such as table service to open in a way that’s as safe as possible.
Although the reopening was widely anticipated by pub-goers and businesses alike, some companies chose not to reopen for fears they would be inundated with revellers and unable to control crowds.
Two of the largest pub chains in England demonstrate the different approaches taken. Wetherspoons opened shortly after 8am and hiked the price of drinks by 10p, but Greene King instead chose not to reopen many of its pubs, instead conducting a phased reopening slowly over July and the rest of the year.
YouGov BrandIndex data shows that after the July 4th weekend, Buzz scores (a net measure of whether consumers have heard anything positive or negative about the brand in the last fortnight) for Wetherspoons plummeted from an already low -14.5 to -21.5 at its lowest point, indicating that Brits registered the negative press surrounding price hikes and non-socially distanced crowds. On the other hand, Greene King’s Buzz scores increased by 1.2 points over the weekend of ‘Super Saturday’.
However, although Wetherspoons did see decreases in Buzz, significant increases were seen in other metrics in the following week. Consideration scores (whether someone would consider purchasing from the brand in future) increased by 3.1 points while Value for Money scores increased by 3.4 points between the 3rd and 8th of July.
Mid-way through July, Wetherspoons also launched a cheaper menu with £1.29 pints ahead of the Chancellor’s new VAT cut which helped to boost Word of Mouth Exposure scores by 5.2 points (whether someone has talked about the brand with friends and family in the last two weeks) and Recommend scores by 3.1 points (whether someone would recommend a brand to a friend or not).
Previous YouGov data from before the July 4th weekend showed that just 4% of Brits who previously visited pubs would be visiting their locals the day they opened, increasing to 8% for the whole weekend. While these numbers are relatively low and customers appear to be taking their time to return, customer enticement schemes should help businesses to take advantage of the reopening hospitality industry.