London restaurants have been allowed to reopen for food service for two weeks. Meanwhile, some have returned with new security measures in place, serving customers who are getting used to a new reality of hospitality. The government has attempted to offer relief to restaurateurs with tax cuts, subsidies and a new nationwide restoration program. But with tourism still largely suspended and workers not yet returning to their offices, much of London still depends on takeout, delivery and outdoor dining, while also trying to lure consumers out from their neighborhoods and come back to the city. As rental obligations for restaurant tenants have still not been resolved, the future for so many remains unclear.
Here is what happened this week in the world of catering in London.
- Across Shaftesbury Avenue, a new outdoor dining program aided by road closures and relaxed regulations has seen drinkers and diners return to Soho in significant numbers. A photo report on this week’s appearance.
- An unprecedented crisis and a long period of closure have led restaurateurs to consider new policies for a new reality. Service charges are being waived by three prestigious restaurants in the city who seek to apply a new form of equity in staff compensation. This week, the “no show” fee came back into the speech, with the London institution St. John announcing that it would bill customers who did not show up for a reservation.
- We cannot escape the impact of the pandemic on the entire economy in the medium and long term: restaurants will continue to close and jobs will be lost in significant numbers, regardless of the agility of operators able to recover customers and revenues. Street restaurant chains are among those in the middle market that are shrinking their portfolios as the reality of the future becomes clear and investors withdraw. This week, Britain’s favorite Pizza Express has proven to be so seriously in debt that any deal that saves the restaurant business could wipe out its current owner, private equity firm Hony Capital.
- The chains are trying to push back their customers through price reductions, which they have been able to implement in the wake of the government’s reduction in VAT from 20 to 5%. This could further widen the gap between these large businesses and the city’s independent restaurants, which generally have less working capital and are therefore less able to pass the savings on to their customers.
Remember, despite the reopening of the dining rooms, the takeaways are not gone:
Until next week, eat well and be safe.