It was great to be back at CONFEX this week. Everyone in the leisure, entertainment and hospitality sectors have had a horrible time over the last 18 months, so it was great to visibly see the industry getting back on its feet at the ExCel in London.

Alongside all the joy at seeing venues and live events come back to life over the last few months, I have started to hear a repetitive narrative which quite honestly is starting to irritate me. First it was Brexit led, and now Covid – but both are being put forward as an excuse for reduced and mediocre customer service and experience. ‘We can’t find the staff’ seems to be a continual statement to justify long queues, poor quality hospitality and an average experience. Customers want to go out, they want to go to venues and seem happy to pay for it. They also seem to accept that a mediocre experience is ok based on the times we are in. But that acceptance won’t last – and quite frankly, it should not be tolerated.

Things change. Operating models change. The world has changed. So don’t think that what worked before is going to work now. It might to a point – but really is not the way forward.

Venue Owners and Operators need to be creative. The new venue management solution needs to be based on creating a new model that works for now. Not putting sticky plasters on old models that now seem very redundant.

Technology is there to help drive that change. At the Headingley Test Match last week we saw the Ebar – essentially an electronic bar. It’s a quick dispensing solution without having a physical person needed to administer the pour. Sceptics might argue it’s not the same – but it is – and it works. Sales were exceptional as was customer satisfaction. We might not be able to find the staff – but this was one clear solution to selling drinks that involved minimal labour – just oversight. And that’s just one example.

We’ve all heard the catchphrase ‘if it ain’t broke – don’t fix it’. Right now many standard operational practises are broken – and desperately need fixing. And now is the perfect time for new solutions. The world is a different place, consumers are behaving differently and changes to the customer journey and experience are quickly embraced.

So the message to operators – let’s think differently. Let’s get creative and let’s get back to delivering amazing customer experiences right across the leisure and entertainment world.

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