On the eve of England’s almost complete decoupling from coronavirus restrictions, the government is urging restaurants and pubs to help prevent the transmission of COVID-19 by sticking to table service and in-premises social distancing measures, despite the legal expiration of restrictions from Monday 19 July. Yesterday, 15 July, ministers also announced the launch of a new “Hospitality Strategy” which it says is focused “on the ‘Three Rs’ of reopening, recovery and resilience” in the long-term.
While the industry trade lobby U.K. Hospitality says the new strategy recognises the “unique and valuable contribution the sector’s pubs, restaurants, hotels, nightclubs and other venues make to the UK’s economic and social wellbeing,” this is a crisis that is ongoing, evidenced by ministers’ encouraging of businesses to retain safety precautions; the restaurant and pub industries are some way away from being able to declare themselves “post-pandemic.”
Since restaurants were allowed to reopen — first outdoor in April and then for indoor in May — business owners have been working to try and mitigate lost revenue after restrictions put in place to protect their staff and their guests had prevented them from trading at full capacity. In recent weeks, they have been toiling with the effects of test, trace, and isolate, with rules stating that an entire staff must isolate — whether or not some individuals are vaccinated — should they come into contact with a COVID-positive case.
Nevertheless, business minister Paul Scully says that the strategy aims to help businesses affected by the pandemic “thrive in the long-term and adapt to consumer demands.” Hospitality, which as well as restaurants, pubs, and cafes, includes the decimated nighttime industry, has been the hardest hit during the crisis, with the estimated permanent closure of nearly 10,000 licensed premises and estimated losses of sales now at more than £87 billion, according to U.K. Hospitality.
As past of the strategy, the government is aiming to make it easier for pubs, restaurants and cafes on the high street to offer al fresco dining and serve more customers outside, with pavement licenses being extended and made permanent. More, the so-called “takeaway pints” initiative will continue for another 12 months as the temporary permissions for off-sales of alcohol are extended.
“Businesses are desperate to bounce back strongly and return to profitable trading. That’s why the launch of this new Hospitality Strategy is so important – it offers a strong platform to deliver the supportive regulatory and trading environment we need to recover, rebuild resilience and thrive,” U.K. Hospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said yesterday, 15 July.
“Building and training our workforce is a top priority if hospitality is to quickly revive and drive a national recovery, so it’s incredibly positive that a key part of this strategy is focused on addressing the current recruitment challenges and raising the profile of long-term sector careers,” Nicholls added. “It sets out a positive vision for the future of hospitality...”
In order to execute that vision — and perhaps in light of petitions for a hospitality minister last year — a new hospitality sector council “made up of industry leaders and government” is being created. It will agree an action plan to deliver the strategy’s recommendations, review progress against this plan, and monitor the overall recovery of the sector as businesses transition from reopening to recovery to resilience, the government said. The council will be co-chaired by Scully and hospitality entrepreneur Karen Jones — chair at Italian casual dining chain Prezzo and steak chain Hawksmoor. Further members will be announced in due course, they said.
Jones said that she thought “the last 16 months has shown us many things, underlining the importance of our people and our teams and the key role hospitality has to play in lighting up our high streets and city centres.
“We need to capitalise on the energy, creativity and innovation that will be released post-pandemic to continue our creation of a world-class hospitality sector: this strategy will aid in making that a reality.”