Big name restaurant and takeaway groups like Young’s pubs, Deliveroo, Pizza Hut and Itsu have come together to urge the Government to run a repeat of the Eat Out to Help Out scheme “when it is safe to do so”.
Many in the hospitality industry feel as though the sector has had little support to navigate the challenges of three lockdowns and countless restrictions, with Patrick Dardis from Young & Co claiming there has been a “lack of respect”.
A letter to the prime minister from the group of hospitality colleagues tried to detail the “immense financial pressure” all were facing and said that even if restaurants are able to reopen in the future, restrictions such as outdoor dining or limiting guest numbers would make survival extremely challenging for many UK businesses. "Even when they are able to reopen to customers, restrictions around mixing of households and social distancing measures mean that a return to trading at full capacity will remain dependent on the successful vaccine rollout," they wrote.
The group say that the Eat Out to Help Out scheme that ran throughout August was a pivotal piece of the puzzle to keeping many restaurants and bars going in 2020, adding that this time around: "The withdrawal of support too early or too suddenly risks viable businesses failing just as the light at the end of the tunnel is becoming clearer." A transparent road map, they say, is needed to protect jobs and this lucrative division of the economy.
The first Eat Out to Help Out scheme was hugely popular and offered up to £10 off dinner and soft drinks per person, for guests eating out between Mondays and Wednesdays each week. While the financial boost was an obvious plus point, restauranteurs also say it was helpful for the peace of mind of guests. The letter added that, "the boost the scheme provided not only helped protect restaurants from closure but also showed customers the work we have done to make sure they are safe and can get back to enjoying great food".
Since the pandemic many restaurants and bars have introduced various ways to keep guests safe. Table partitions, sanitiser stations, stricter table service, increased outdoor capacity, more widely space tables and more have all been popular solutions to helping minimise the spread of the virus.
Additional measures the group would like to see offered are an extension to the 5%VAT on restaurant food (down from 20%) introduced last year, an extension of business rates relief, keeping furlough going for as long as needed, support for hospitality owners who have been forced to fall behind on rental payments and prioritising staff for rapid testing and vaccination.
There have been rumours of pubs being open in time for Easter, but it is as of yet undecided when restaurants will officially reopen. Some say the push from the hospitality industry may be too keen. Speaking to the BBC, Dr Bharat Pankhania, senior clinical lecturer at the University of Exeter medical school said that he thought reopening pubs by April was “premature”. He went on to explain that in his opinion when most people are eating and drinking with friends, they “drop their guard”, resulting in fewer people strictly following government guidance.
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