OPINION: We look forward to welcoming you back - Simon Cotton, HRH Group

Despite the weather of the last two weeks, talking to industry friends and colleagues around the town and district, it appears that the five weeks of outdoor hospitality has been a great success overall. It was always going to be a big risk investing heavily to provide the public with an enjoyable area to eat and drink outside, however, those businesses that took that risk appear to be pleased they did.

Thursday, 13th May 2021, 1:33 pm
17th April 2021 Pictured Ales in the Dales at the Yorkshire Hotel, Harrogate. Picture Gerard Binks

Both of our Harrogate venues delivered something quite unique in the form of Podville at the Fat Badger and our ambitious project to bring a little pastiche to the Yorkshire Dales with our Ales In The Dales set up at The Pickled Sprout.

The main complaint if any, has been the fact that people haven’t been able to get booked in, it’s been that busy! It’s that business demand however that gives the confidence to continually reinvest and look to provide the best we can as it shows there is definitely a pent-up demand to get out and enjoy all that hospitality has to offer in Harrogate.

With Boris Johnson confirming the next stage of the roadmap out of lockdown on Monday night, we’re now finalising plans to open indoor hospitality in just a few days. The debate will forever roll on as to whether the roadmap changes are happening too quickly or too slowly, but I believe it’s bang on right so far.

Importantly, this next step means the opening of hotels which will bring the much needed tourists to Harrogate. The difference has been felt in the shops with sales no where near what they would be if we had more visitors so I know the news of reopening hotels will be welcomed by many more businesses than just those in the hospitality sector.

With Monday’s reopening comes another problem however; that of having enough staff. It’s been estimated that between 10 per cent and 15 per cent of staff have left the industry nationally through the course of the pandemic, as whilst furlough has done a great deal in protecting jobs, it has also meant some needing to find other work and some reflecting on a change of career.

This, coupled with the Brexit effect means that many hospitality businesses will be recruiting to fill vital roles right now.

Assuming as a town we can fill those roles however, then we can look forward to what promises to be a bumper summer ahead. Whilst international travel continues to be very restricted and many people still nervous at the thought of going to another country never knowing what rule changes may be imposed at the last minute, the UK Staycation looks set to be very strong and something that Harrogate, with its great reputation, can take full advantage of. Certainly, the average length of stay for the short break market of one-two nights, is already tipping two-three and a number of bookings are coming in for week long breaks.

This will please the retail shops and also the local attractions sector as the longer people stay, the more they spend in other activities over and above food and drink.

Finally, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who’s supported hospitality businesses in and around Harrogate during the five weeks of outdoor hospitality and for braving the weather and respecting how hard the professionals in this industry work and the extra they have had to put in to make projects like Ales In The Dales and Podville work.

And whilst it’s been very tempted to bow to public demand and keep at least one, if not both of these fun creations, they will unfortunately be turned back to car parks as of Monday coming. One opportunity from this however is that we’ll be selling off the amazing Akula outdoor furniture at some crazy prices so a chance to grab a bargain. In the meantime, we look forward to welcoming you back through our doors next week!