The global economy is currently facing a huge challenge, with virtually no business left unaffected in one way or another by the Covid-19 outbreak, but the restaurant industry, in particular, is at crisis point.
“Hospitality businesses are on the front line, so to speak. There has been a significant impact on the sector. Bookings are down, footfall is down, and all signs point to it getting worse before it gets better,” UKHospitality Chief Executive Kate Nicholls.
The UK hospitality industry is the 4th largest employer in the UK, accounting for more than 3 million jobs directly and 2 million jobs indirectly and each and every one of them is now somewhat at risk. Aside from the prospect of redundancy as a result of restaurant closures, employees also risk zero-hours pay should they be forced to isolate themselves having come into contact with the virus.
Up and down the country restaurants have had to make the difficult decision as to whether to stay open, making the most of what little footfall they can get but potentially worsening the spread of the Covid-19 virus, or whether to close their doors, ultimately leading to vast profit losses and potentially long-term staff unemployment.
At the beginning of the outbreak food offers and messages of reassurance was enough to keep some customers coming through the door, but as government measures increase, more and more people have been discouraged from eating out and now, following the announcement to avoid all public gatherings, many restaurants have had to take the decision to close in order to adhere.
UKHospitality Chief Executive Kate Nicholls added, “This is now an emergency for our sector. If the Government doesn’t act to mitigate the impact and give us support, businesses are in danger. This means cash flow becomes a problem, venues are under threat and jobs at risk.”
Currently, the government has promised to bring forward legislation to allow small and medium-sized businesses to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay due to COVID-19 and has promised to increase theretail discount to 100% for one year and to expand it to the leisure and hospitality sectors.
With government help yet to provide any benefit to restaurant businesses, many are turning to their own intuition to try and stay afloat, whereas last year unique ways to serve food to customers was enough to get people and money through the door, now restaurants are having to try and offer takeaway and zero-contact services.
With the key issue forcing restaurants to close centering around their dine-in service, a takeaway or delivery option could provide some solace to those with a loyal customer base and serving delivery appropriate food, but whether or not it will be enough to save the sector, especially with takeaway giants Just Eat, Deliveroo and UberEats still offering their own delivery services, remains to be seen.
With the Covid-19 curve still growing in the UK and many believing the virus will not reach its peak for another 4-8 weeks, it is clear that the UK hospitality industry will be experiencing severe difficulties for many months to come.