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We are in the midst of the first Christmas party season without pandemic restrictions.

This will be an extremely busy time for hospitality businesses, juggling multiple tables full of people wanting to let their hair down – and be wined and dined while they do it. For some teams this will be the first proper in-person event they have ever had, with no distancing or masks.

But some key changes from the past three years seem set to shape hospitality in the long run.

1. QR codes for ordering

QR codes are a pretty old technology at this point, but after years of not quite breaking into mainstream use the pandemic has made them ubiquitous.

Everyone knows how to scan a QR code now – even your boss who wants everything as a pdf.

And they are around to stay – particularly on menus and tables.

QR codes allowed hospitality venues to minimise the amount of visits a server would have to make to a table, or a customer would have to make to a bar or counter. Instead patrons could simply scan a QR code on their table, select what they wanted to drink or eat, and have it delivered to their table. If they paid on their phone this delivery could easily be the only interaction.

The obvious convenience of this approach has seen it embedded in all types of venues, although large pubs seem to be the biggest fans. The codes are especially useful for large groups, as each person can make an individual order and not have to worry about splitting the bill at the end. They are also great for customers who just don’t want to spend half their night queuing at the bar!

While useful, these codes have not entirely replaced in-person service, which many customers will still prefer – particularly at more upmarket venues. Still, you can see some venues that now seem to be able to seat what would have been an impossible number of people in years past now thriving.

2. Contactless everywhere

Contactless payment was not rare before the pandemic, making up around 19% of all payments in 2019, according to UK Finance. But as everyone wanted to cut down on interaction with strangers – and not handle cash – it too reached almost full adoption during the pandemic. The 2021 increase on the contactless limit from £45 to £100 helped this trend really bloom.

Nowadays many people don’t carry cash or even a card – relying entirely on their phone to make contactless payments. Around 32% of all payments in the UK were contactless in 2021, and that proportion will have increased in 2022. and they are in the most wide use with young people – 92% of 25-34 said they regularly made contactless payments.

3. More outdoor seating and more ventilation

It’s vanishingly hard to catch in anything serious in a well-ventilated outdoor space, while being quite easy to catch in a stuffy room.

This has led to many customers choosing outdoor seating, even when it is quite cold. And for venues without any suitable space outdoors, good ventilation has become far more important – especially if you want to keep your staff healthy.

Covid-19 led to innovation across the hospitality sector. If you want to keep an eye on what your competitors are doing in their venues – or make sure everything is ship-shape in your own – get in touch.

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