Tom Kerridge spoke for the entire hospitality industry last night, and the Michelin starred chef pretty much summed things up when he tweeted… “WTAF do we do now????@BorisJohnson”. Kerridge, who has previously overcome obesity and a comedy accent to become one of the most respected voices in the restaurant industry now faces the biggest challenge of his career after the government asked people to stay away from restaurants, pubs and bars to deal with the Coronavirus.
In the first of his daily news conferences, Boris Johnson, flanked but the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Officer, seriously ratcheted up last week’s social distancing advice and told us to “avoid confined spaces such as pubs and restaurants”. He also added that London is approximately two weeks ahead of the rest of the country when it comes to the spread of the virus. But the government has so far stopped short of ordering restaurants to shut down completely.
Which seems to put restaurants like Kerridge’s Bar & Grill at The Corinthia in a tricky position. Without a government order to shut down completely, as has happened in France, New York and other places, restaurants are unable to claim on their insurance for the loss of business. However, it’s not clear if most businesses actually have the necessary insurance, or indeed if the insurance industry will either pay out or even be able to pay out the huge figures needed to rescue such a vital part of the economy.
Regardless it’s clear that the government is going to have to go much much further to safeguard jobs and some of the best know names in the restaurant industry from disappearing. A petition is now calling on Boris and the chancellor to offer a plan for business owners and staff across the industry to support them financially and practically. It also calls for a final decision that will allow insurance firms to step in, clarity for guests to ensure their safety and transparency on any timeline to give businesses the time to prepare for what promise to be tricky times ahead.
The government, meanwhile may well be making plans along these lines. We will learn today what measures rookie Chancellor Rishi Sunak has planned for the industry as he announces a package of measures intended to help the economy. The budget, released last week but already an age ago in Coronavirus terms, laid out measures to help businesses including business rates help, but it will need to go a lot further to overcome the challenges being faced by restaurants, hotels, bars and pubs across the country.
We will watch this space, but it seems that what’s needed in extraordinary times is a bailout akin to that given to the banks in 2008. Even if businesses could claim on their insurance policies, it’s likely that this money won’t go into the system for months, and London’s rapidly emptying restaurants need the cash taps turning on now.
The Handbook stands alongside Tom Kerridge and asks “WTAF do we do now????@BorisJohnson”.