Jun 22, 2020

Are London Restaurants Going To Reopen On 4th July?

On 11th May the UK government announced a plan for restaurants, pubs and hotels to possibly be allowed to reopen on 4th July at the earliest.

There is a degree of irony that 4th July is Independence Day as most London restaurants are in dependance – if not total dependance – on being allowed to reopen on that date with many restaurants insisting that they will not be able to do so while making any kind of profit unless the two social distancing rule is relaxed to one metre.

It has been suggested in interviews with government ministers including Health Secretary, Matt Hancock and The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak that an announcement will be made within the next couple of days regarding whether restaurants will be able to reopen on 4th July and what the social distancing restrictions are likely to be when they are finally allowed to do so.

The Need For Clarity From Government Regarding When & How Restaurants Will Be Allowed To Reopen.

Intense pressure is growing from the UK hospitality industry to allow the two metre social distancing to be reduced to one metre to bring UK restaurants and pubs in line with WHO guidelines as well restaurants in countries such as France and Denmark.

Most restaurants are expecting and planning to be able to reopen on 4th July with 2 metre social distancing rule in place. Leading London restaurateurs including Angela Hartnett of Murano are voicing concerns that the social distancing restriction will need to be relaxed to one metre to enable them to simply break even and continue trading with retention of the current metre distancing rule, if applied to restaurants, probably resulting in most London restaurants not surviving.

The Urgency Of The Announcement Being Needed To Enable London Restaurants To Plan & Prepare For Reopening.

Restaurants are essentially planning in the dark and are in urgent need of knowing what social distancing rules will be when they are finally allowed to reopen. There is therefore an urgent need to know whether the distancing will be relaxed and a growing general consensus that two metre social distancing will not be sustainable and that without relaxation to one metre customer and staff distancing most London restaurants will be unable to survive.

Kate Nicholls, the chief executive of the industry body UK Hospitality – the trade body representing the UK hospitality industry which employs over 3 million workers – has commented that with a 2 metre social distancing rule restaurants would be only able to make about 30% of normal revenues, whereas a reduced one metre distancing would increase that to 60-75%.

It should be noted that most restaurants – which need at least 80% of covers to make a profit – are pinning their hopes on being able to operate at 50% of covers at best due to uncertainty regarding what the British public’s appetite will be to venture back into restaurants. It is vital for the London restaurant industry to be provided with guidance and guidelines this week to enable them to be able to prepare to reopen.

Another obstacle to the UK restaurant industry to be able to plan for reopening, as pointed out recently by Chef Tom Kerridge, includes the current 14 day quarantine period for visitors to the UK from European countries such as France, Italy and Spain – where a lot of furloughed London restaurant workers are currently living – causing staffing levels to be affected.

Confirmation of when London restaurants will be able to reopen urgently needs to be given without any further delay to enable restaurants to make preparations for reopening.

Restaurants Will Be Just About Able To Operate With 1 Metre Social Distancing But 2 Metre Distancing Will Make It Unlikely That They Will Survive As A Viable Concern.

The general consensus within the London restaurant industry is that the two metre social distancing will simply make it impossible for them to reopen profitably and that even with social distancing in restaurants relaxed to one metre in restaurants – as it has in other European cities such as Paris – it is expected that the best case scenario for restaurants is that that they would only be able to operate at 50% of their usual seasonal capacity.

Christmas restaurant trade is obviously a crucial revenue stream for London restaurants and with the corporate Christmas group dining booking season traditionally taking off in earnest from the the end of June it is imperative that clarity is provided this week with some restaurants suggesting that if the two mete rule has not been relaxed their all-important Christmas trade could be operating at a third of previous levels, making it impossible for them to remain open.

Countries including Italy have already implemented temperature checking of customers as they enter restaurants with at least one member of a group providing contact details on entering – name, telephone number and email address – to enable swift contact tracing to take place in the event of any Coronavirus transmission having taken place within a restaurant. Effective track and trace systems in restaurants will provide clear indication to the public that the industry has taken extra care to ensure that their venues are safe and assist in successful reopening of restaurants.

Other bodies continue to indicate that they feel relaxing the 2 metre social distancing restrictions to 1 metre in restaurants is not appropriate at this stage of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The cost of reducing the social distancing in restaurants from the two metre rule to one metre might be huge in terms of potential second spike COVID-19 transmission but the price of not doing it would be huge too in terms of the number of restaurants which would enevitably go out of business with the resulting hundreds of thousands of jobs that would follow. It is an extremely difficult balance of risk decision for the government to have to make, balancing the need to protect society’s health with the need for money to be going through tills to retain jobs and provide a massively needed boost to the economy.

Private Dining Rooms In London Could Provide The Ultimate Social Bubble Group Dining Experience.

It is being discussed within the London restaurant industry that private dining rooms at London restaurants could provide the perfect solution for group corporate and family dining events with the likelihood that staff who are already working together in office teams and families who operate within the government’s family bubble guidelines will probably feel that they are in a safer private environment, away from the main restaurant diners.