BigHospitality puts one reader's question about restaurant and hotel trends to Renato Fantoni and David Battersby of the Best Practice Forum, in our new bi-monthly advice feature Ask the Experts.
Problem: "As a business we’re always on the lookout for trends in the industry, but we’re trying to get a real time representation of what’s happening in terms of business levels amongst London restaurants and hotels. Have you come across any resources by any chance?" Angela Morris, Fifteen London.
Solution: Your quest for up-to-the minute data about current trends is a difficult one. It can often take several weeks, months or even years before a real trend emerges. All too frequently trends can prove to be little more than short term fads, and often change by the weeks. Economic or political factors affect, for example, consumer spending but it can take time before a trend emerges.
Speaking to colleagues or to other operators is often a good way to pick up a potential trend. Membership of a Trade Association, such as the British Hospitality Association (BHA), can also provide you with a picture of emerging business trends.
The BHA's Annual Trends and Statistics Report or Food and Service Management Survey are both excellent sources of authorative data. You can also pick up a trend by comparing your business performance with others of a similar type, size and location using the Best Practice Forum’s on-line Benchmarking Database. Your Regional Tourist Board, VisitLondon and VisitBritain also publish trends data through their Insights reports. Trade magazines are also an excellent source of trends data.
Research the market yourself
If you want to look at trends you can also analyse existing information, or conduct your own research. This can include carrying out some simple surveys, sending out some short questionnaires or chatting to customers. You should also look at what your competitors are doing; they may well have spotted a trend. Better still, pick your own future. Don’t always try and anticipate what lies ahead, create it. Be the one who sets the trend.
But there are some very real dangers in trying to base business decisions on ever changing day-to-day data. You cannot always spot trends or forecast the future; the skill is in being prepared, whatever it may bring.
Our top tips for preparing for change:
- It can often help to do some scenario planning for a number of contingencies.
- You should recognise opportunities and take them whilst they are there. Even in adversity there is an opportunity. Keep your business agile, lean and ready to respond quickly.
- Don’t base too many of your business decisions on what might prove to be short-lived fads. Look for the patterns emerging from surveys conducted over much longer periods of time. You can equally learn to trust your instincts and the gut reactions of your peers to make a reasonably informed decision.