London restaurants have been allowed to reopen for dine-in service for over a month, and the goverment’s “Eat Out to Help Out” discount scheme has been in place for two sunny weeks. Outdoor dining and that scheme have busied restaurants, and offered a boost in morale, but news of a coronavirus recession and government indecision on rent support make the next few months critical. Here’s what happened in London restaurants this week.
- Bright sunshine, outdoor dining, and the “Eat Out to Help Out” discount combined to bring a boost in morale and numbers, with 10.5 million meals eaten on the government’s dime in its first week. Pretty much all three of those things are only going to last through August, and the scheme’s success is therefore limited by design: it can’t ignore the longer term problems restaurants and their workers face.
- The biggest of those problems is restaurant rent. This week, UK Hospitality, The British Property Federation (BPF), British Retail Consortium (BRC), Revo, and ukactive have asked the government to introduce a “Property Bounceback Grant” — where the government pays half of owed rent for a six month period. Thus far, it has adopted a non-interventionist strategy, reliant on individual cooperation between restaurants and landlords, but with landlords legally allowed to demand unpaid rent from 1 October, that may need to change to keep thousands of businesses afloat.
- New statistics on the impact of lockdown show exactly why rent is such a huge concern. The U.K. economy is in the deepest recession since records began, with hospitality the hardest hit sector: Food and drinks businesses, a large section of which were completely closed during lockdown, registered an economic decline of 83.4 percent in the three months to June.
- Another huge problem exacerbated by the novel coronavirus pandemic is food insecurity, with food banks, mutual aid groups, and community kitchens having to tighten their operations at a time of increased need. Here’s how to help, with time, resources, or money.
- Among the chains, pizza populist Franco Manca announced its intention to hoover up central London restaurants left behind by its stricken mid-market competitors. A reminder that they were stricken because they overexpanded. Après moi, le pizza.
- The government has other problems besides the pandemic, like shouting at ice cream brands to distract from justifying policies on migrants that many feel are inhumane. Home secretary Priti Patel took a swipe at Ben and Jerry’s after it invited her to show “humanity” in her response to migrants seeking refuge in the U.K.
- Staying with ice cream, pollster YouGov has finally admitted that its ice lolly taxonomy — which classed a Magnum as an ice lolly, along other mortal sins — needs reevaluating.
- The founders of two of London’s most influential restaurants were busy this week, for very different reasons. Russell Norman, of 2010-standard bearer Polpo, left the business this week, saying “things change.”
- Meanwhile, Trevor Gulliver of St. John tore into U.K. policymakers over their perceived neglect of central London’s restaurants. Mayor of London Sadiq Khan responded Friday with a letter to Boris Johnson, imploring the prime minister to offer additional support to “old London town” and its restaurants, as Gulliver puts it.
- And finally, stuffing octopus in a bun is this summer’s elite sandwich move.
As for where to eat...
- Here’s are the London restaurants taking Eat Out to Help Out outside.
- A restaurant is neither holiday or staycation, but eating brilliant Spanish food in the sun is still pretty good.
- A reminder of the best takeaway coffee in the city; a new suite of ice cream delivery contenders, key for the boiling weather; 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.