Hygiene now over four times as important as customer service, according to hospitality customers

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With COVID-19 having sent infection fears skyrocketing over the past year, new research reveals that more than half of customers prioritise hygiene and cleanliness above all else when it comes to the hospitality businesses they will visit post COVID-19. 

According to the nationally-representative survey into 2,000 members of the public, 54% of Brits reported hygiene to be most important quality they look for from hospitality businesses, coming in as significantly higher than both overall service quality (13.1%) and customer service (12.5%).

In the wake of COVID-19, public attitudes towards hygiene and infection control have risen significantly for many, with 77% of the public holding greater concerns in this area than a year previously – attributing this change directly to COVID-19.

According to the research, 87.6% of Brits now deem it important that a business has a good reputation for hygiene and infection control, and 58.1% of these state a positive standing for hygiene to be “extremely important”. This indicates that hygiene ratings – traditionally a significant indicator of quality in the hospitality industry – are the most critical point of difference hospitality businesses must focus on over the coming months.

Highlighting the potential consequences in store for businesses that do not reassure anxious customers, the research also reveals that a staggering 98.7% of the public would be less likely to visit a business with a poor reputation for hygiene and infection control. Nearly a third (31%) would boycott these businesses altogether, and a further 34% would both boycott the business and warn others to also look elsewhere, furthering the financial and reputational damage caused.

Concerningly, thousands of hospitality businesses across the UK may be missing the mark in the eyes of the public. Only 38% of the public hold a favourable opinion of the infection control standards in pubs and bars as it stands, with hotels rating slightly more favourably at 45.8%, and restaurants holding the most positive reputation at 52.8%.

The research was carried out by infection control specialist JLA, a trusted partner to hospitality businesses across the UK, as part of its “Infection Insights” campaign to improve standards customer reassurance and peace of mind across the hospitality industry.

Ben Gujral, CEO at JLA, commented: “We are all looking forward to our favourite restaurants, pubs, bars and hotels being able to reopen their doors in the coming weeks. However, hospitality businesses must be mindful that customer expectations look very different to this time last year. 

“While providing a top-quality experience, backed by sterling customer service, will of course remain key, it is clear that effective hygiene and infection control practices are now the number one point of difference for businesses looking to attract and retain the loyalty of their customers. This in turn points to a major opportunity for hospitality businesses that have used this time to ensure that all measures have been taken to prioritise the safety of their customers – both walking the walk and talking the talk.”