Apr 20, 2020

The Importance of Private Dining Rooms to London Restaurants

Our interview with David Moore, proprietor of two-Michelin starred restaurant Pied à Terre in Fitzrovia, London W1. David shares his thoughts on the importance of private dining events to London restaurants and his hopes for how the London restaurant industry will bounce back from the Covid-19 enforced lockdown.

We all became first aware of the appalling Coronavirus outbreak in China during the week after Christmas but when did you and fellow London restaurateurs seriously start thinking about the threat that Covid-19 posed to the London restaurant industry?

I guess it is fair to say that we were completely blind-sided by the virus. There had been Sars and Swine flu and they had been contained; why would Coronavirus be any different? Having had a bumper Valentines week we saw numbers dramatically slow in the last ten days of February; that was when I started to realise this was going to be something major.

A lot of restaurants have reinvented themselves during lockdown as takeaways and prepared meal delivery services, what are your views and has your restaurant considered doing this?

Many restaurants already have a take-away offering available, we don’t and I feel that our style of food doesn’t translate well into the takeaway environment. Also, the financial impact on my team needs considering and I believe that my team’s best interests are served via the JRS (Job Retention Scheme) and being on furlough.

What are the short term effects that the Covid-19 lockdown is having on the London restaurant industry and what long term effects do you envisage at the moment?

The industry is disseminated and some operators won’t be able to come back from this.

Do you think that the Government’s emergency help for the restaurant and hospitality industry goes far enough to help mitigate the damage that Coronavirus has caused and what – if any – additional measures would you like to see put in place?

The JRS looks like a decent offering, although I have yet to see any money from it, but on paper it looks good. Going forward there needs to be help with rent and it needs to have a scheme for landlords. One big idea is a 9 month rent free period that becomes legally binding as a 9 month extension of the lease, the government then needs to have a pot of money available for landlords to get financial assistance if needed; this idea is called #nationaltimeout

In the hopeful event that some sort of normality returns to the London restaurant industry in the coming months, what effect do you think the lockdown will have had in terms of restaurants bouncing back?

It is going to be a long and slow return to anything that looks nearly like normality.

To what extent do you think London restaurants will be covered by their own insurance for loss of revenue suffered by the Covid pandemic in respect of (a) when the government were advising people not to go to restaurants but not ordering restaurants to close & (b) since the lockdown ordered restaurants to close?

Almost all restaurants will NOT have cover and Coronavirus is so new that it would not be included in listed diseases.

How important were private dining events to your restaurant in the pre-Covid-19 world and do you think that this will change when the lockdown period ends?

Private dining was a key player in our numbers and profitability and an area that I can see having better recovery as businesses seek to be in private spaces away from others.

Corporate Christmas party private dining events have always been a stable of the London restaurant industry, how important do you think that they will be this year, assuming that the lockdown has been relaxed by then?

We are getting into Crystal ball territory. But I believe that the festive season will, as always be, the back-bone of our winter trading and probably the start of normal trading for most operators, including ourselves.

The London and UK restaurant industry was massively dependent on EU workers prior to Brexit, would you like to see the UK’s Brexit restrictions temporarily relaxed on EU workers to help the industry recover when we enter the post Covid-19 world?

This country and especially this industry needs movement of workers. Look at the farming community having to fly Romanians over to pick harvests. Who will wash our dishes, serve our plates and make our coffee. There needs to be a simple 2 or 3 year program that EU nationals can apply for, without educational barriers or minimum salaries, other that NMW (National Minimum Wage). Most don’t want to stay here, they want to perfect their English, understand life in a city like London and then go home.

How long do you think that it will take for the London restaurant industry to recover once social distancing restrictions are finally relaxed?

I think if social distancing is eased this summer, we will see a decent festive season and normality returning in the Q2 of 2021.

If Covid-19 has taught you one thing, what would you say this was?

Cash is king, avoid debt, if you can!

David Moore Pied A Terre Proprietor