Without a doubt the hospitality industry has been one the most affected industries by the Covid – 19 pandemic. Some restaurants had to close their doors as they did not have a single penny of income for three months or even more. On the contrary, many others have managed to survive by providing delivery and takeaway services and are hopeful to open their doors for the public on the 12th of April.
Opening of restaurants comes as part of step 2 in the government’s plan of easing the current lockdown and hopefully the last. However, the PM has stated that nothing is certain and things might change as the government’s decisions are driven “by data and not dates.” Furthermore, in the roadmap outlined by the government on Monday, starting from April 12th hospitality venues can serve people outdoors only. This might seem like a positive step forward, but what about restaurants who cannot accommodate al-fresco dining? Or restaurants and pubs who can accommodate, but cannot budget for all the extra considerations needed to still remain safe yet welcoming. Take the weather for example; will restaurants and pubs have to shut down every time it rains? Or what about restroom regulations? The situation is far from resolved.
According to the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) only 17% of pubs will be able to open and serve people outdoors from the 12th of April, and this doesn’t mean that opening and operating will be smooth; these pubs are expected to struggle. According to Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the BBPA, “This would result in a loss of turnover to the sector of £1.5bn when compared to trading in normal times. That is far from reopening and recovering”.
One thing we learned from this pandemic is that this industry is capable, adaptable and full of ambition. But I say to the Prime Minister that these hard working people from the industry, from chefs, to restaurant and pub owners, and all hospitality employees need a clear strategy to work with. Yes, encouragement is good, telling the people that “we’ll come out of this stronger” is nice, but definitely not enough. The government along with local authorities and MP’s will have to work together to ensure the resurrection of this industry: whether it’s making the government-backed loan schemes more accessible, increasing grant schemes, or at least extending business rates relief for hospitality and leisure for a further year.
At the end of the day and regardless of the government's efforts to support this industry, the most difficult times have passed. I hope this industry will come through even it means waiting until May 17th. At least what is left of the lockdown is far less than what has passed.