Restaurants, pubs, chefs and hospitality leaders up and down the country are calling for government support as the effects of the Omicron crisis cause a wave of cancellations during what should be the busiest time of year for the hospitality sector.
Despite there being no restrictions on businesses, such as limited group sizes or forced closures as experienced under prior guidance, the rapid increase in the number of daily Omicron cases has caused a devastating blow to consumer confidence and led many people to cancel their bookings in the lead up to Christmas.
Last week, chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty also urged people not to "mix with people you don't have to".
Many people are viewing this advice as vague and confusing. Andrew Taylor who owns a gastropub in Croydon, Mr Fox, says his bookings shrank from 300 to 41 in just a week.
''He’s not telling people not to go out – but he’s also telling them to stay at home. I’m not sure where we stand. It’s very much lacking clarity”, says Taylor, referring to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s leadership.
Michelin–starred celebrity chef Tom Kerridge posted a video on his Instagram last week showing a list of 654 cancellations at one of his restaurants over six days.
He wrote: ‘’So, here we are…. This is the list of cancellations taken in one of our restaurants in the past six days…. 654 guests. I completely understand why and have no problem with them letting us know. Public health is THE most important thing. The problem is what will the government do to support the hospitality industry? Many places are going to crumble without help…. And before some gammon faced idiot says “you can afford it fat lad!” ….. yes I probably can, but this isn’t about me or my restaurants. It’s about our industry and peoples livelihoods.’’
Raymond Blanc responded to another one of Kerridge’s posts on Twitter saying he’s experiencing a similar situation at his restaurant Brasserie Blanc, commenting ‘It’s carnage’.
While Michel Roux Jr tweeted that his daughter’s restaurant has received over 300 cancellations in two days and has gone from ‘breaking even to a loss’. He also addressed Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak, saying ‘hospitality and the supply chain need help, this is deja vue March 2020’.
Despite calls for the government to offer some sort of care package for businesses who have been hardest hit, no such support has yet been provided.
Kate Nicholls of UKHospitality commented on Plan B guidance, saying: ‘‘We desperately need support if we are to survive this latest set of restrictions and urge the Government to stand behind our industry. That means full business rates relief, grants, rent protection and extended VAT reductions. Anything less would prove catastrophic.’’
The chancellor, who has just returned from a trip to California, is currently looking into a bailout package following a meeting with hospitality leaders last Friday.
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