Q&A with Brad Nobbs

Catering Today sits down with Brad Nobbs, the founder of Booked It, who shares the ways his business has helped keep the hospitality industry going during the peaks of the pandemic, and discusses his predictions for 2021.

How has the business adapted to Covid-19?

We actually started off mainly focused on nightlife and late night events. We only really started diversifying into the hospitality industry because of the pandemic. We originally provided a range of different services to clubs, bars and late night events that were essentially all aimed at increasing the spend per head and driving footfall.

Obviously when the whole late night market closed and there was no sign of when that was going to reopen, we realised we had a lot of good technology and solutions that we were just sitting on and wasted no time to offer those services to hospitality venues. So we just shifted our main focus from nightlife to other hospitality sectors and that’s what we’ve been doing for the majority of 2020.

What was the main way the company has helped businesses during the pandemic?

So recently we’ve been working with over 500 different hospitality venues that range from pubs, restaurants, cafes and hotels. I think there have been four main ways that we’ve assisted and helped those venues, one of them being mobile ordering, enabling customers to order from their phone.

The other big thing was a loyalty scheme. We’ve always run a loyalty scheme but I think loyalty in 2020 throughout the pandemic has become more important than ever because venues have had fewer customers than normal. So for the customers that they do have, it is really important that they keep them and ensure they keep coming back.

Another thing was table bookings which I think again have never been more important, so we supported a lot of venues – especially ones which traditionally would have liked the old school pen-and-paper diary scheme.

We also helped implement a really simple takeaway ordering system, where we provide delivery options for more local places like pubs, restaurants and hotels that have restaurants but have never done takeaway service in the past but have been forced to because of the lockdowns.

What are some of your predictions for 2021 and the upcoming months for the hospitality industry as whole?

I think the number of venues is obviously going to decrease, we’re already seeing a lot of venues that have closed and I think that will continue until things do get back to normal. But for the ones that are still around I think there’s going to be a big bounce-back and I think the demand for people going out, socialising and going out to eat, drink and see friends in
hospitality venues is still there.

People want to link up – they have had a whole year of going without and even though things were sort of open at the tail end of last year and parts of the summer it still wasn’t what it normally would be.

You’ll also see two sides of it. I think you’ll see on one side the number of venues is probably going to be lower, but the amount of customers out there will be higher. So in theory when the venues are open I think it will be a lot busier and hopefully they will be able to thrive and make back all the losses from 2020.

I think certainly when things get back to normal probably in the second half of the year, you need to look at what opportunities are available to the business throughout Covid and find a way to provide within the sector.

How has the company benefited from the past year?

Initially it brought our business to a complete standstill because we were mainly focused on late night, which all of a sudden completely stopped. I think we realised quite early on it’s probably not going to come back anytime soon. We had the option of either sitting around and waiting it out until things returned or focus on being proactive and trying to see the opportunity in this.

That’s pretty much what we did, at first not making money was a complete nightmare because we had lost the original core of our business. However, on the other hand we found a massive opportunity to work with venues that ordinarily we probably wouldn’t be working with. So I think overall it is probably in a weird way been a good thing for us as a business.

What do you think can be done to help the hospitality industry survive in this new world?

I think the obvious one is government support, which needs to be extended because it looks like normality isn’t going to be around until probably late spring or early summer. Businesses will potentially see four to six months of difficulty and I think the government needs to support that.

Once things are reopened I think what this whole pandemic has shown is that a lot of hospitality venues are slightly behind the curve with regards to technology than other industries. You’ve seen the likes of retail, travel, e-commerce they use data in a certain way the hospitality just never has.

I think it should be really important for hospitality venues to really use the tools around them to really sort of bring their overall business up. I think you’ve seen a lot of them do that already with the use of mobile ordering and table booking systems and stuff like that which has been a positive for the industry but that sort of innovation needs to continue.

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