Without a doubt, hospitality businesses in Aberdeen and the north-east face a big fight to survive.
But I do believe we are beginning to see signs of confidence returning to our great city.
The past two years have been challenging to say the least, and as a result we sadly lost some good local businesses along the way.
The hospitality sector in Aberdeen has shown real resilience throughout Covid, with many businesses diversifying their product offering.”
But since the relaxation of restrictions I feel there is a renewed sense of optimism, with several new restaurants opening, Union Terrace Gardens projects under way and the Aberdeen City Council City Centre Masterplan making progress with the indoor market.
The hospitality sector in Aberdeen has shown real resilience throughout Covid, with many businesses diversifying their product offering.
Several have invested in their outside areas and many new collaborations have been initiated, highlighting a genuine desire to survive.
I am a board member of VisitAberdeenshire, whose latest business monitor survey found further positivity,
Participants in the study reported feeling optimistic, further boosted by the return of overseas customers as tourism resumes.
For The McGinty’s Group, the closures gave us time to evaluate and plan for the future.
The relaunch created six new jobs and strengthened our portfolio of venues.
We are also proud to say we managed to retain our 250 employees through the furlough scheme, and as soon as possible we reopened our venues so staff could get back to doing what they love.
Undoubtedly, our food-focused outlets bounced back quicker – perhaps customers felt safer in a restaurant environment.
And during the past few months our bars have returned to normality, which is a great sign that customer confidence is back.
We are also seeing a greater demand for food and drink events in our venues, and with many more people returning to their offices corporate lunches and dinners are returning.
Next tough test
Having overcome the challenges of Covid, we now face another tough test with a change in peoples’ social behaviour and spending habits, along with rising living and energy costs.
The rise in energy bills will significantly increase our business operating costs and we need to work out how we can combat this without impacting our customers.
It is vital the industry gets the appropriate support to ensure hospitality businesses can trade viably.
In the same vein, the Scottish Government needs to listen to the sector and bring down the business rates burden significantly.
The council’s “masterplan” is an opportunity for our city to recover, with multimillion-pound projects in motion such as the new city market, redevelopment of Belmont Street and revitalisation of the beachfront area.
These projects will become a key part of Aberdeen’s cultural revival and the hospitality sector will hugely benefit from backing them.
The improvements will help to make the city centre more vibrant and people friendly, not just for locals but also the tourists who will want to enjoy food and drink in the city.
We saw a great appetite for the cafe culture throughout Covid.”
These plans are ambitious and that is what I think the north-east needs in order to bounce back.
We saw a great appetite for a cafe culture throughout Covid. It was evident in lots of businesses investing in al fresco dining options and many now wish to continue these.
The plans for the Belmont Street quarter follow on from this and, of course, the city market is going to create a new food and drink experience.
All of this will transform Union Street and help to make Aberdeen a real foodie destination.
The road to recovery is going to be rocky, of course, but as a passionate Aberdonian I am very excited to be part of these transformative years.
The McGinty’s Group is going to use these city centre regeneration plans as a driver to continue developing our portfolio and provide the best possible food, drink, and service in our venues.
Aberdeen could have a real chance of becoming a modern cosmopolitan city – helping to put us at the forefront of the hospitality sector, supporting and creating employment opportunities.
So, despite the challenges, I remain positive and excited to see what the future holds.
Allan Henderson is director and co-owner of Aberdeen-based The McGinty’s Group.