London restaurants have been allowed to reopen for dine-in service for three weeks. In that time, some have returned with new safety measures in place, serving a clientele which is growing accustomed to a new reality in hospitality. The government has attempted to offer relief for restaurateurs with tax cuts, grants, and a new nationwide dining scheme. But with tourism still largely suspended and workers not yet returning to their offices, much of London is still relying on takeaway, delivery, and outdoor dining; the centre attempting to win back customers who have become more reliant on local networks, and more of the mind to keep them strong.
Here’s what happened this week in the London restaurant world.
- News from a closure that had nothing to do with a pandemic. Staff sacked by Jamie Oliver’s restaurant groups won 56 days’ wages at an employment tribunal, after the chef’s Jamie’s Italian and Barbecoa chains broke redundancy laws in the wake of their collapse last year.
- Restaurant chains surviving on private equity continue to watch COVID-19 collapse already fragile business models. Italian chains Ask and Zizzi will cut 1200 jobs and close 75 restaurants in a “rescue deal” from private equity firm Tower Brook Capital Partners. It says it will preserve 5,000 jobs in taking control of the group, but, for how long?
- Taking control has been a running theme, with 320 Tory MPs voting against taking back control of U.K. food standards. Those who voted against including a clause that would bind all imported food to the same standards as U.K. produced food in the upcoming Trade Bill included Michael Gove, who has long promised “no dilution” of U.K. food standards. It would have effectively barred U.S.-produced meat like chlorinated chicken, which is a problem not because of chlorine but because of the working and animal welfare conditions that necessitate its use, from coming into the U.K
- Old mate Michael had a pretty harrowing week, having his flimsy “good manners” position on wearing face masks when buying takeaway food collapse about his unmasked ears when he visited Pret a Manger without one last week, and then wore one this.
- That embarrassment finally prompted the government to end its mask-on, mask-off merry-go-round: from 24 July, masks will be required when picking up takeaway food or drink, but not when dining in.
- One chain immune to private equity flimsiness because, well, have you seen its accounts? is McDonald’s, which reopened 700 restaurants this week. It has not, however, answered questions from the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU) over staff safety, posed as long ago as April.
- One chain definitely not immune to private equity flimsiness is Pizza Express. Its new offer of free dough balls with every main course upon reopening 150 restaurants harks back to 2005, when it was discounting heavily and enjoying its pizza heyday, but was not saddled with over £1 billion in private equity debt.
- Outstanding Japanese restaurant Koya and Borough Market bakery Bread Ahead might not appear to have much in common, but in looking to open restaurants in neighbourhoods rather than the centre, they could represent a nascent trend in dining in the city.
Don’t forget, in spite of reopened dining rooms, takeaway has not gone away:
- Here’s where to find the best grilled food in the city outside or via delivery right now.
- A reminder of the best takeaway coffee in the city; a new suite of ice cream delivery contenders; and superb sandwiches.
- The best restaurant delivery in London right now.
- And a full list of dining guides for the weekend.
Until next week, eat well and be safe.