Restaurants in London remain beset by uncertainty. Although there is an official date set for some hospitality businesses to reopen, the 4th July is still a best-case scenario for some, not all, restaurants.
This week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson decided to offer some hope, saying that he thought pubs and restaurants could open sooner than he first thought. That came before he announced the lifting of more lockdown measures — inviting Britons to prepare to meet up to six people outside their households for “barbecues in private gardens”, or whatever else they might wish to do with their rediscovered freedoms from next week. Alongside this, and with more good weather, restaurants in London seemed to change gear once again: more have reopened for takeaway and delivery, while others are beginning to introduce models that could outlive the crisis. And yet, as it was last week, rent remains the biggest unresolved issue for restaurants tenants and landlords across the city. More on that next week. Before then, here’s what happened in the London restaurant world this week, in brief.
- After the bank holiday, the week began with the pub industry urging the government to reduce the social distancing rule from two metres to one. The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) claimed that changing social distancing rules to one metre — a figure cited by the World Health Organisation (WHO) — from two metres would increase the number of pubs that could reopen in July by 120 percent.
- Prime Minster Boris Johnson himself said that the two-metre rule was under review and that he was “optimistic” hospitality businesses such as pubs and restaurants could open sooner than he previously thought. He did not say whether that meant earlier than the July date set out in the government’s official guidelines.
- Rishi Sunak ended the week with an announcement on changes to the government’s furlough scheme: from August until October when the scheme ends, restaurants will have to start contributing to the wages of furloughed staff.
- The coronavirus pandemic continues to put enormous strain on essential food supply across the U.K. Figures released this week revealed that food bank use had tripled during the pandemic. Use had nearly quadrupled across London, and more than quadrupled in the boroughs of Tower Hamlets and Newham.
- McDonald’s announced that it would reopen all of its nearly 1000 drive-thru restaurants next week, saying that its 39-site trial had satisfied all safety concerns. Unions are continuing to encourage workers, many of whom are on low incomes and zero-hours contracts, to ensure it is safe for them to return to work.
- Meanwhile, some of London’s most cherished restaurants announced their part-reopening this week. Highlights included a return for Padella, the cult-followed pasta restaurant in Borough Market and Shoreditch, which released details of new meal kits designed to be finished at home. That launches this evening, Friday 29 May.
- Elsewhere, Mandy Yin of Holloway Road Malaysian restaurants Sambol Shiok and Nasi Economy Rice revealed that the latter would reopen as a deli for pre-paid collection and delivery from next Wednesday.
- And, a new restaurant model debuted on Hoxton Street in east London this week: Hot 4 U from St. John, Silo, and Cub chefs Eddy Tejada and Matthew Scott are tapping zeitgeists old and new, with a £35 menu for two, for delivery and collection on Fridays and Saturdays. It could offer a new template for restaurants in corona time and beyond.