Restaurants, hotels and venues are, once again, at the forefront of the government’s response to the Omicron variant. Throughout the pandemic the sector has repeatedly ‘taken one for the team’, by closing, by taking huge financial hits that have seen us lose some of the industry’s household names and by rolling out bottom-line hitting policies to keep everyone safe, from distancing to bits of plastic everywhere. And, once again, hospitality is taking the hit. So where’s the government?

Chef Tom Kerridge has put it best in a 23 second video showing how many cancellations he’s received in the past six days. Amounting to 654 guests and, given how much a meal at Kerridge’s Bar & Grill costs we’ll leave you and your scientific calculator to figure out how much lost revenue, the toll is huge when you magnify it across the hospitality industry.

Not one to shy away from blasting no-shows, Kerridge is clear that this time it’s not the faults of those cancelling. The transmissibility of the new variant, now dominant in London, and government guidelines around isolation mean that it’s completely out of the hands of those who have had to miss their meals.

It seems Downing Street is the only place that you can be guaranteed hospitality, right now...

But it’s also obvious that it’s out of the hands of Kerridge and everyone who runs a Michelin Starred restaurant or a local chippy.

So where’s the government? Given we’re in the midst of Christmas party season, it seems Downing Street is the only place that you can be guaranteed hospitality, right now.

The government’s swift reaction to Omicron will affect many sectors, from the nurses, pharmacists and doctors forced to work longer hours to dole out boosters to rules that will see an estimated million in isolation by Christmas (many of them key workers) and in the past this has been met with proportionate support from Whitehall.

From furlough to business rates help to cash handouts for the arts, the government has been relatively good at helping spread the load. Indeed, the vast majority of pubs, restaurants and hotels simply would not exist today were it not for intervention from Boris and Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

From furlough to business rates help to cash handouts for the arts, the government has been relatively good at helping spread the load...

But it seems mad that the government thought the industry was worth the billions it cost to make sure it was preserved until now, what seems to be the dwindling days of the pandemic, to then allowed to go to the wall.

There’s plenty of levers the government could pull to help hospitality. Direct help for restaurants that have to close, or a system to help recoup losses from cancellations. But it doesn’t have to be immediate cash.

The VAT that the sector pays is set to rise again in 2022. In the same way that the government has somehow found the resources to freeze fuel duty for the past 12 years, this can could also be kicked down the alley.

More support around business rates would certainly help in Central London and other metropolises, particularly as bruised landlords eye rent hikes post-pandemic.

What the government must not do is nothing. So we join Tom Kerridge in calling on Boris and Rishi to step in and help Britain’s pubs, hotels, restaurants and cafés through this last piece of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, it looks like you and I might just be able to score a walk-in at Tom Kerridge’s restaurant…

www.kerridgesbarandgrill.co.uk

 


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