Hospitality Report – February 2021

Lockdown restrictions will be coming to an endFebruary 2021

Lockdown restrictions will be coming to an end

The news that the hospitality industry had been waiting for came as expected on 22 February. Lockdown restrictions will be coming to an end in an orderly process – every five weeks more restrictions are to be removed and they will be removed totally on 21 July (or at least that is the plan).

Crucial stops along the way, for the foodservice sector and its suppliers, come on 8 March when schools reopen. Five weeks later pubs and restaurants will be allowed to reopen for outdoor trading but only about 40% of pubs are likely to have a sufficiently large space to reopen at this time – and very few restaurants. From mid-June (certainly not earlier and maybe later) restaurants and pubs will be allowed to reopen fully for dining in, concert halls and theatres can reopen, and hotels probably too. Holiday lets can also open, and some leisure sites including bowling centres, zoos, theatres, and outdoor cinemas (are there any?). Even nightclubs may reopen.

Until restrictions are fully removed in late July, 1-metre plus distancing rules will probably apply, the Rule of 6 will apply, and only table service will be allowed. But there will be no 10pm curfew and no need for a “Scotch Egg” meal in a pub. So that’s settled then. Well, if not settled, at least there’s something to start making plans on.

Two, opposing views

However, the people that I’ve been speaking to have approached this latest confirmation of the planned release from lockdown in one of two ways. The first (and this was confirmed during the course of the most recent Open Hour session open for subscribers to these Premium Briefing Reports) is the view of suppliers – of all kinds and categories of product and services – together with some operators, that there is at least some reason to hope – maybe not wild optimism, but at least some, quiet hope. The operators in this group are generally those that are better funded and have financial (and other) resources to see them through to “the other side”.

But amongst the other category – mainly pub and restaurant operators – there is a very strong reaction to the thought of another three months of lockdown (that’s until mid-May) – in the words of somebody I spoke to in the last couple of days: “We’re only halfway through this lockdown. It’s been bad up to now – and it’ll get worse”. It’ll get worse because whatever finances, and goodwill, that were in the business, will trickle away (or perhaps flood away) over the next few weeks. These are heart-breaking conditions for those in the hospitality sector, and also, to an extent, for the social infrastructure that underpins the sector.

Destroying the pub & restaurant sector

But many operators have gone much further and condemned the government of, amongst other things, “destroying” the pub and restaurant sector. They have levied a number of charges; two, in particular, have caught my eye. The first is the charge that the government has an apparent single-minded focus on the hospitality sector demonstrating that it is prepared to “sacrifice” the sector. The second charge is the absence of any evidence that the sector is a vector for transmission of covid. And that started me looking at the issues behind these two, significant, charges.

Why is the government out to “get” the foodservice sector?

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Peter provides consultancy on the eating out market and opens eyes to brand new ways of thinking about the sector and its multiple opportunities for success.

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