Last week, Boris Johnson announced his coronavirus lockdown reopening roadmap. This week, Rishi Sunak announced the financial support which will, hopefully, get restaurants, pubs, cafes, bars, and their workers through to spring.
- The week began with a slow drip-feed of leaks about what the Budget would do for hospitality. The first to emerge was news of new coronavirus business grants; the second an extension of the job-suspending furlough scheme, which will now end in September and supports hundreds of thousands of kitchen porters, chefs, waiters, baristas, and bartenders. And then, an internal report showed that now only the government can solve the issue of rent debt for both restaurants and landlords.
- Then on Wednesday, the chancellor largely gave restaurants what they’ve been saying they need. Rishi Sunak’s Budget brought in extensions on the VAT tax rate cut and business rates relief — though only until autumn — will provide badly needed breathing room and the opportunity to actually make it to reopening. The VAT cut, in particular, is only beneficial when restaurants are actually open. Conspicuously absent was that intervention on rent, which remains restaurants’ biggest cost and concern.
- The positive reaction was something of a surprise after Sunak dropped a major numbers clanger on Tuesday. The chancellor claimed that the “average rent” for a restaurant or pub in England was £14,000 — £20,000; a figure so wildly off-base that it prompted a deluge of anguish from operators up and down the country.
- The twin forces of the roadmap and the Budget provide some sort of road for restaurants to travel to spring; the destination will be not just reopening, but entry into a fundamentally changed restaurant economy. The first glimpse of that came this week, with corporate-indepedent outfit Harts Group announcing plans to install its Mexican brand, El Pastor, in a super-prime Soho space.
- But before that — and probably long after it — restaurants’ self-examination will continue, and their ties to the world of retail will remain. Mother’s Day, not normally a super significant occasion in their calendars, is this year a cornucopia of meal kits, delivery offerings, and champagne.
- And while the vaccination roll-out, the roadmap, and the Budget are giving the government a bounce, its mismanagement of other aspects of the pandemic remains. An astonishing leaked report into Test and Trace — whose cost is expected to reach thirty-seven billion pounds — revealed that it neither tested or traced tens of millions of check-ins at hospitality venues, leaving people unknowingly at risk of coronavirus infection.
- Elsewhere: Amazon opened its first U.K. surveillance shopping store in Ealing; Pret a Manger’s new dinner menu continued the venerable fast-casual tradition of not giving a monkey’s about cultural responsibility in food; and a London steakhouse reportedly forced employees to sign a new contract loaning back 10 percent of their salary while on furlough.
Dining guides for staying in this weekend...
- How to ship a taste of London’s restaurants nationwide, with kits including suya, udon, and some world-famous butter chicken.
- The most exciting places for takeaway and delivery right now.
- Order from London’s best restaurants without the apps.
- Champion chicken wings, for takeaway or delivery.
- The best restaurants for delivery and takeaway.
- The best meal kits from London restaurants.
- What London’s standout 38 restaurants are doing right now.
- Where to find fish and chips for the weekly ritual.
- Some top sushi for takeaway.
- The best bakeries in London for takeaway pastries and bread.
- 10 brilliant burgers for lockdown.
And where to order takeaway and delivery in...
- Where to buy produce, meat, fish, pantry items, wine, and beer.
- Some gear to make great coffee at home.
- And some gear to wear: tees, totes, mugs. #Gear
Until next week, eat well and be safe.