Lumiere Consultancy is a London based restaurant consultancy providing operation solutions to restaurants and hospitality businesses. Director, Ben Floyd speaks with aleno about the effect of the Covid on UK restaurants, the future of the industry beyond the pandemic, the use of technology in restaurants and more.
Do you expect many restaurants to close forever in the UK due to the impact of the covid pandemic?
I think many will use this as an opportunity to ditch restaurants that haven't been performing for some time. Of course many have struggled, and many were already struggling due to crippling rent and wage demands. But those that have adapted will survive.
Do you think restaurants that inevitably have to close will be taken over by restaurant chains and large hospitality holding companies?
I feel this is perhaps an opportunity for the smaller operators to get ahead of the chains. Many of the chain restaurants have saturated the market, and whilst some remain ever popular, many have perhaps been slow to adapt. Large chains also have larger overheads too. Certainly there has been an imbalance in hospitality here in the UK for a while where only large chains can absorb the big rents of inner city sites. Personally, I can't see central London doing much until tourism comes back. So, the independent local businesses will do well in the meantime.
To what other extent will the Corona crisis have a lasting effect on the restaurant business?
I think corona has proved to the British public that its possible to work remotely, that people want home experiences and the flexibility to eat food from their favourite restaurants either at home or click and collect/delivery.
What will be the biggest challenge for restaurants after the lockdown?
I think it's paramount that customers are made to feel safe, covid will be with us for some time still and whilst people want to go out, they don't want to take unnecessary risks. Or to face quarantine/another lockdown.
Are there other expected changes for the restaurant business as a whole?
Personally, for the fast casual market I think the tech that allows us to click & collect or order from a QR code at a table is a real bonus. It allows the customers to order from their table, it allows the restaurant/bar to concentrate on service and payment is immediate so less danger of walk outs.
In general: How has restaurant business changed in the last 10 years?
I think eating out in the UK is constantly evolving, I've noticed a change towards restaurants appealing towards regular repeat customers. The fast casual market in particular has really grown, and at a price point where it is accessible for many people. I have also noticed whilst there are still many luxury establishments, the traditional fine dining restaurant is giving way to something less fussy, less formal and the focus on good techniques, great produce and provenance in a less formal environment. eg Brat, Elysian st, Muse by Tom Aikens etc.
How important is digitalization for restaurants?
I think information is key, it helps with the customer journey, we all expect in our lives, integration and information and of course the restaurant industry is no different. From an operators point of view, its critical to understand the data, customer habits, purchasing etc. Plus to have it all integrated with the software that runs your business. Saves time double handling information.
Thinking about usage of Artificial Intelligence for restaurants - what applications will become popular within the next few years?
I'm sure dark/ghosts kitchens use AI for optimising delivery times and routes, but across the board AI can be used to observe trends and see what people are buying/interested in.
What is the importance of data for the guest experience?
I think its critical, even subconsciously we look for suggestions of something new based on our preferences. Amazon has made a business based entirely on this.
To what extent does guest data help to make the restaurant business more successful - today and in the future?
Its about tailoring/personalising a guest experience. Guest data would allow an operator to know how many times a guest has visited, when they were last there. It certainly could be used to tailor their experience, upsell services they like, and make recommendations.
Restaurants across the UK are already receiving reservations for after lockdown, do you think there will be a slow return to normal or a rush to get back to restaurants?What are your expectations for the return?
What we have seen thus far is provincial or local restaurants doing very well against the central city locations. Peoples appetite for going out is still there
What implications does the No-Show-Phenomenon have for restaurants after the lockdown and do you expect no-shows become a bigger problem?
I think people are certainly more aware of the problems caused by no-shows, everyone realises that the hospitality industry in the UK has really suffered. There are of course ways of tackling this, taking deposits or cancelling bookings, but I know that many restauranteurs are against this.
What are the most common reasons that restaurants seek external advice?
Generally, it is change in management in my experience. They are looking to grow and need the extra support and competence, they are looking for refinement in their operation and need fresh ideas. I help a lot of businesses open for the first time, so taking those initial steps or that first Saturday night service.
Is it more start ups or more already well-established restaurant operators who want your support?
It's often a split between the two, many established operators see the merit in using external experience to help refine their operation. Often if a restaurant has been struggling I help to make changes.
If you could give one piece of advice to restaurants reopening after lockdown, what would it be?
I think it's important to keep your staff and customers safe, we are still living with Covid and there are no guarantees that there wont be another lockdown cessation of services. I would strongly advise to open with a limited menu and ease your restaurant back into full service. With limited numbers and potentially limited amount of staff its best to keep things achievable.
In his more than 20 years in the restaurant and carting industry, Lumiere Director Ben Floyd has cooked all over the world from the Olympics in Australia to the Central Africa as the Presidents of Gabon's Executive Chef. After working his way through the London restaurant scene he began working for London's top event carter's, catering events for Simon Cowell, Royalty, Presidents, and public figures. After opening his first restaurant, Bronte, in 2016, Ben started Lumiere Consultancy.
About Lumiere Consultancy:
Lumiere Consultancy provides professional food and chef consulting services, with a specialty in Menu Design, Hospitality Consulting and Event Consulting. Their mission is to work with people who share their for food and hospitality. Lumiere is primarily London based but works all of the UK and internationally.
Contact Lumiere Consultancy:
Phone: +44 (0) 799 905 8971
Office: 31 Godstone Rd, Lingfield