Last orders at 10pm will be the last straw for pubs and restaurants in difficulty | Company


There are few industries in which the chasm between the front-of-house experience and the behind-the-scenes life is wider than in the hospitality industry.To create the mouth-watering meals savored by carefree epicureans, restaurateurs, chefs and cleaners must work grueling 12-hour shifts in stuffy kitchens. Every social evening with friends at the pub is fueled by sweat, bleach and elbow grease. The costs are high and the profit margins very slim, which means that even a slight slowdown in trade can have devastating effects.

In addition, clients are inconsistent. Today’s gourmet pub or trendy boutique hotel are tomorrow’s leftovers. To walk this tightrope, business owners need a lot of business acumen, but also something less tangible. They have to know their customers inside out, anticipate what they want before they know they want it. Throw yourself into a pandemic and, as subtle as those instincts are, the equation is no longer squared.

With the possible exception of air transport, the hospitality industry has been as hard hit by the coronavirus as any industry. Pubs, bars and restaurants were closed for months during the lockdown. Many have yet to reopen and many never will. There has been state support, but it is just not enough and what is available has not been distributed evenly.

Restaurants and pubs that serve food, for example, have seen some benefits of the “eat out to help” program and a reduction in VAT. Small community pubs that rely on selling drinks have been left out. Large venues and chain pubs and restaurants have been able to manage social distancing and table service. Comfortable independent rooms have often struggled.

There are also other inequalities. Sites with an appraisable value over £ 51,000 were not eligible for a grant, a cut-off point that disproportionately hits city-center sites already struggling with low footfall due to working from home.

Publicists who rent their hall to a large pub have seen the rent they have to rack up, adding to the hardships caused by the beer tie – the increasingly broken model that governs the relationship between pubcos and tenants .

The hard work of hospitality meant that business owners were already a pretty robust bunch. They’re also, on the whole, endowed with the common sense that you only get by balancing a corporate brain with a flair for psychology. But that’s why the 10pm curfew caused so many howls of anguish.

Locations quickly adapted to the pandemic, finding new ways to serve customers and cut costs. Many have become amateur epidemiologists, learning about the virus, deploying security protocols and, for the most part, adhering to them with almost religious zeal.

The curfew, many argue, is not the result of similar diligence or common sense, but of classic political fudge.

Despite repeated opportunities to do so, the government has yet to offer a full explanation of the scientific evidence for cutting trade at 10 p.m.

Scenes of people crowding the streets at the time of the withdrawal fueled the feeling that the measure is not just unnecessary, but in fact counterproductive.

Nor has the government offered the only alternative – a full package of support to offset the impact of the policy.

Figures published by the Guardian last week showed hospitality sales plunged after the late-night trade ban. Without full support, the industry said on Friday, nearly 300,000 jobs – about a third of jobs in the industry – will be lost. And according to the Labor Party, the employment support program announced by Rishi Sunak the previous week will do little to stem the tide.

Professional hospitality organizations representing more than 100,000 companies have repeatedly warned they face the darkest winters. Many in the industry now believe the government is letting them face it alone and naked.

Oil forecourt moguls pledge to inject £ 1 billion into Asda. But will it help?

Asda ushered in an ‘exciting new chapter’ in its story of creating value for UK buyers’ last week by announcing its sale to a consortium made up of gas station tycoons Mohsin and Zuber Issa and private equity group TDR Capital.

But can the new owner really improve the patronage of Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, owner of Asda for more than 20 years? There is no doubt about the business prowess of the Issa brothers. During the same period as Walmart’s reign, they created a fortune of £ 3.5 billion by turning a single gas station in Bury, Greater Manchester into EG Group, with more than 6,000 locations. But do they really have the answer to Asda’s problems?

The rapid rise of Aldi and Lidl in the UK robbed Asda of its advantage as the cheapest store in town. Its market share rose from nearly 18% in 2013 to 14.5%. Successive rounds of job cuts and last year’s row over a new employment contract have also marred its image of a friendly and egalitarian culture where employees are “colleagues.”

The new owners have pledged to invest £ 1bn over the next three years, and a push into convenience retail is the obvious place to start. EG already has Spar convenience stores in its forecourt and it would be easy to introduce the Asda name. But what’s the plan for big box stores, where profits are dwindling and the business has started to cede excess space to companies like B&Q?

Walmart wanted to leave the UK for good reason. The grocery market is very competitive, and Asda would have had to spend a lot of money to make the third player a winner. Hopefully, for Asda’s 146,000 employees, it’s a private equity deal, and a chapter, with a happy ending.

America needs jobs – and for that it needs a Democrat to win

In the United States, as in the United Kingdom, pressure is mounting to combat a second wave of Covid-19 with increased public spending. President Donald Trump, before testing positive for the virus, lobbied for an injection of funds to match the more than $ 1 billion (£ 770 billion) pledged by Congress in April, although ‘he said the recovery was “pretty amazing”.

In truth, the recovery has been far from surprising in many ways, including the response of American employers after the country was gripped by the largest increase in unemployment since the Great Depression.

Last Friday, the non-farm payroll, which measures the bulk of the US labor market, increased by 661,000 people. That sounds like an impressive number, but it fell short of the expected rise of 859,000 and significantly lower than gains of 1.5 million in August, 1.8 million in July and 4.8 million in June. When employment overall remains 10.7 million below February levels, the story is one of a stalled recovery.

Worse yet, employers have disproportionately rehired adult white men, while young people, women, Latinos and black Americans have been left out of work. The unemployment rate for white adults was 7% in September compared to 12% for blacks, 10% for Latinos and 16% for teens.

Equity markets are already worried about a second wave and the ability of the US government to protect vital industries and promote economic growth.

Investors who have spent the past four years applauding the Trump administration’s corporate tax cuts are worried that flirtatious politicians could wreak terrible havoc in a pandemic. Yet the stock markets, if they could vote, would likely stay with Trump, even if he continued to enrich a small elite and not invest in the economy at large.

In order for jobs to return in the numbers needed, while being more evenly distributed and rooted in new, greener industries, the United States needs a Democratic administration. It is not a panacea, but it would be a start.


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