Imagesound talks to hospitality consultant Mark Wright on why the music that you play in your venue is more important than ever in setting the mood. In the first of a series of informal interviews Imagesound talks to Mark Wright of WHAM Consultancy about the effect that the current pandemic and the associated lockdowns have had on the hospitality industry.Effect of the current pandemic and associated lockdowns on the hospitality industryCB: Mark – thanks for your time, it’s great to chat with someone on the other side of things! Right let’s get going.CB: What do you think was the best idea of 2020?MW: The two ideas that have struck me as really innovative this year are Inception groups use of mannequins at Mr Foggs Residence in Mayfair. Cleverly placed to ensure social distancing and in period costume, not only did they give the idea that the space was full, they fitted in perfectly with the bar’s theme, and it kept things fun – let’s not lose sight of the fact hospitality should be fun even with the challenges we’re currently facing. Apart from that, I read of another late night operator who wanted to give customers a rubber ring for use on the dancefloor so that everyone complied with social distancing!CB: Who do you think has done well over lockdown?MW: Well – from my travels around the country I’d say the big chains have been positioned well to weather the storm, but it’s no surprise that those are fairly impersonal experiences. I’ve been into venues where the only interaction I had was to have my order handed to me at my table – I felt safe but a little uncomfortable; it didn’t feel like hospitality to me. Ultimately the small and single site operators have nailed it with personable teams who actually ask how you are and if you’re doing OK. That care and human interaction go a long way to feeling comfortable in a bar or restaurant after you’ve taken safety into account. When you’re travelling for business and that’s the only interaction you’ve had all day the time taken to have a quick chat is immeasurable.CB: Which operator has stood out over the whole pandemic?MW: I am really impressed by Roger Wade, the founder and owner of Boxpark (shipping container food and retail parks). As both landlord and operator Roger has a unique insight into the hospitality business and can offer a really balanced point of view, particularly with tensions between operators and landlords being high at the moment. What’s also struck me is how quickly new technology has evolved - some of the apps that are being used now to help hospitality stay safe would have taken 18 months or more to develop, road test and roll out in the past - they’re now ready to be used within weeks. Apart from that I think the industry has proved how versatile and creative it is, not only have restaurants turned their hand to takeout or become local food hubs, I have also seen events companies turn carparks into full on beach experiences complete with bars and street food service - all socially distanced of course! One of my favourite quotes is ‘Perfect is the enemy of good’ - this year we’ve not had time for perfection but we have been good!CB: Moving away from the here and now, what do you think are the biggest factors in creating a venue that’s successful?MW: Ambience really is the key factor – a venue can have the best beer and food in the country but if the music, lighting or temperature is wrong you won’t want to stay. You might only engage with staff for 2% of your visit but you’re engaged with your environment for 100% of that time. Despite the current situation there’s still room for new operators in the market – and I really admire those who have launched this year.A final thought – the current crop of CVAs have really highlighted how operators need to rethink their structure and business plans – to paraphrase Warren Buffet ‘When the tide goes out you can see who’s been skinny-dipping’.If you're looking for some help with your business then Mark's details are below. If you're thinking about a musical change then don't hesitate to give Imagesound a buzz on +44 1246 572990 and we'd be delighted to chat. Don't forget we do much more than music - from full AV installs to digital content creation!Mark Wright is the Managing Director at WHAM Consultancy, specializing in hospitality and leisure consultancy. With over twenty years’ experience in the industry Mark has worked with many of North England’s top operators in that time. Whether you’re looking for advice on operational matters, employment law advice, recruitment or just want an amazing event organizing, WHAM can help - contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org or via their website - www.whamconsultancy.com.