As the government’s “Eat Out to Help Out” discount scheme came to an end on Bank Holiday Monday, autumn officially started: The beginning of a three month period in which restaurants and their employees are faced with the dual threats of rent and worker protections coming to an end. With few office workers and even fewer tourists back in the centre of London, social distancing still in place, and outdoor dining becoming less feasible, restaurants find themselves reacquainted with the myriad uncertainties onset by the coronavirus pandemic, left wondering: what happens next?
- As ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ formally came to a close on Monday, more and more restaurants have contrived discounts of their own, which they hope will maintain footfall and momentum throughout September.
- The total number of ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ meals claimed in August topped out at 100 million, with Monday, the final day of the scheme seeing restaurant covers rise by 216 percent on the equivalent day in 2019. Calling it a “success”, Chancellor Rishi Sunak reckoned it “had helped protect the livelihoods of the 1.8 million people working in the hospitality sector and drive the nation’s economic recovery from coronavirus.” For most in the restaurant world, they’re wondering what happens next, with employee and rent protections scheduled to end in the coming weeks.
- Despite those figures, and the boost to the restaurant industry during August, hospitality’s principal trade body has warned that unless local and national government implements a coordinated campaign to encourage more office workers and tourists back into the city, London’s restaurants are at risk “complete failure.”
- Joining the ever growing list of permanent closures in London this week was the 16-year-old vegetarian restaurant pioneer Vanilla Black in Holborn. Owners Andrew Dargue and Donna Conroy said “as a direct side effect of Covid-19 we are deeply saddened to announce that we are unable to see a financially viable way to re open Vanilla Black on it’s [sic] current site.”
- Having only announced two weeks ago that celebrated neighbourhood restaurant, the Dairy, would close in Clapham, owners Robin and Sarah Gill have announced that they’ve found a new location in Bermondsey. The restaurant will open on Tower Bridge Road next week.
- Other food businesses have flourished during the pandemic. Among them, Hackney’s northern Mexican flour tortilla specialist Pollo Feliz, whose owners Michelle Salazar and Sam Napier this week confirmed a significant rebrand and change of direction. Named after the state in the Mexican northwest from where Salazar hails, Sonara Taquería will open at the end of the month, focused on tacos and the region’s speciality beef dishes.
- Elsewhere, Instagram got the world of food influencers wondering what content marketing looks like in an area of social distancing. Anyone else excited for the Warburtons Gluten Free Tiger Bloomer Carbonara Pasta Torte? Didn’t think so; Nigella Lawson announced that she would be returning to TV screens with a brand new cookery show this year; Footballer Marcus Rashford is now heading up a new taskforce which aims to bring an end to child poverty; and a reminder that the definitive hypebeast’s guide to the best London restaurant merch and where to buy it is right here.
As for where to eat...
- Here are the... best scorched rice dishes in London restaurants.
- Where to eat outside in London.
- Where to eat outside in London when it rains.
- Where to eat in Soho, one of London’s restaurant epicentres.
- London’s best bakeries.
- The best Sunday roasts in the city.
- Where to eat in Shoreditch, especially for takeaway and outdoor dining.
- And a full list of dining guides for the weekend.
Until next week, eat well and be safe.