Pubs and restaurants signal good start to indoor opening in Britain

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Restaurants and pubs saw a surge in bookings on Monday after the return of indoor dining in England, Scotland and Wales.

A record number of tables were reserved for Monday on The Fork, formerly Bookatable: 12% more than any date since July 2020. The online reservation service said 88% of restaurants in its system were open on Mondays, 41% more than during the first phase of reopening on April 12.

However, there was evidence that rain showers had put the brakes on high streets as the number of visitors to town centers and shopping centers across the UK slipped 3% at the start of the season. last week.

As numbers have climbed in central London and historic towns, Springboard analysts say there have been falls in all parts of the UK except Wales, the South West and Northern Ireland, where hospitality remains closed indoors until May 25. Declining visitors to city centers and shopping malls likely affected the walk-in activities of small restaurants and pubs that had not taken reservations and may have resulted in no-shows at outdoor tables .

Martin Williams, director of Rare Restaurants, which owns the 16-person Gaucho chain and three M restaurants, said trading was solid although it could only open 75% of its usual capacity as customers were ready to book. at less popular times, such as a Monday or Tuesday evening.

“It’s a honeymoon time,” he says. “People desperately want a good, warm dining experience.”

But Williams said there were still concerns as most of the industry would only be able to mine about half of their usual number of tables, which would only allow them to hit the threshold. profitability. “As a sector, we need more support,” he said, calling on the government to consider extending the VAT cut and the moratorium on rents beyond July 1.

More than a year of lockdowns and restrictions hit the hospitality industry hard with 8,560 fewer establishments licensed in the UK at the end of April, down 7.4% in March 2020 according to reports. analysts from CGA and consulting firm AlixPartners.

The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) said it expected 45,000 pubs to open on Monday, serving 3 million pints. However, he estimated that beer sales would still be 65% lower than a normal Monday before the pandemic and below the breakeven point for the majority of pubs.

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All hospitality businesses continue to face restrictions, including mandatory table service, social distancing of at least 1m, and the use of face masks when not seated at the table.

The BBPA said those pubs dependent on or serving permanent customers, due to their small size, would be particularly affected, with around 2,000 – 5% of all pubs in the UK – remaining closed despite the easing of restrictions.

Kate Nicholls, managing director of trade body UKHospitality, said the industry continued to require government support after months of disruption to trade: “We have seen strong pent-up demand from customers, bookings for The coming weeks look positive and the prospect of a boom in summer stays is welcome. However, until all restrictions on 21 June is a psychological rather than an economic reopening. Hospitality businesses are unable to operate sustainably with current capacity caps and additional restrictions. “


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