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Tue 1st Dec 2020 - Update: Wet-led pub support, Tim Martin, supply chain pressure
Wet-led pubs only to get more financial support: Wet–led pubs are to be given extra financial support, The Daily Mail has reported. The Sun has claimed though that pubs that can’t re-open in tier two or tier three will be given just £1,000. The Daily Express claims support will total £40m. Pubs that do not serve food will be eligible for grants to help them survive the winter. The support will be available in all tier two and three areas, which cover 99% of the population. The Daily Mail stated: “But there will be no additional help for restaurants or pubs that serve meals, despite the fresh restrictions on their trade. The move is designed to curb Tory anger over the impact of covid curbs on a hospitality sector that has already weathered two national lockdowns. The idea was floated by Downing Street with rebel MPs over the weekend, leaving the Treasury blindsided yesterday by reports that Rishi Sunak was poised to open the chequebook again. A deal was hammered out between the Chancellor and Boris Johnson only yesterday morning. The Prime Minister hinted at the additional help last night while touring a vaccine production facility in Wales. He said: “I particularly understand the frustration of the hospitality sector which has borne so much and been through so much in the last few months. ‘We will do everything we can to protect and encourage that sector through the weeks and months ahead.” Johnson said ministers were looking at providing the ‘most generous support we can’ for all sectors. But he added: “The best thing for every sector is if we can keep the virus under control”.”

JDW founder Tim Martin describes government justification for closure as ‘extraordinarily weak’: Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin has called the government’s justification for closing pubs and other hospitality businesses (‘Transmission Risk in the Hospitality Sector’, 27 November) as “extraordinarily weak in all areas”. He said: “It refers to theoretical problems, including ‘crowded places’, ‘loud activities’ and the ‘disinhibitory effects of alcohol’. Yet data from the Test and Trace system indicates that these theoretical problems have not been realised in practice. Transmissions of the virus have been very low in hospitality businesses. The report does not mention the measures put in place in the run up to reopening in July to make venues ‘covid secure’. These include screens between tables and around tills, capacity limits, sanitizer stations and the prohibition of music and entertainment. The report has ignored the impact of these measures. It is also wrong to assume that hospitality venues are poorly ventilated. Long-standing building regulations stipulate that there must be a high level of ventilation in pubs and restaurants – 10L / per second rate of exchange. Ventilation also improves when there are fewer people in a building, which has been the case since capacities have been reduced since reopening in July. Wetherspoon’s experience, having gathered millions of customer details, using the Test and Trace system, is that there have been no reported cases of staff to customer transmission, or vice versa – or of any customer to customer transmission. Since reopening in July, Wetherspoon has had approximately 54 million customer visits. Instead, the government is relying on evidence based on specific and limited examples from countries such as Japan, China and South Korea – with no supporting detail as to whether similar social distancing measures were in place. The comparisons are therefore meaningless and misleading. The proposition in the report that you can only get the ‘R rate’ below one by imposing restrictions on hospitality businesses is patently false. Cornwall had its busiest ever summer this year , with pubs open from 4 July and there was no increase in the R rate. Overall, this report reflects badly on the government. It is grasping at straws to concoct evidence from weak theories, or dubious evidence from abroad, rather than relying on contemporary evidence, using accessible and relevant UK information. The ruinous and arbitrary restrictions and closures, imposed on the industry, appear to be built on the flimsiest of grounds.”

Survey reveals hospitality’s supply chain under pressure: Covid-19-related disruption has caused supply difficulties for more than nine in ten hospitality operators since they reopened in July, a new survey by CGA and Prestige Purchasing reveals. It shows that just 8% of operators have escaped supply challenges since the end of the first national lockdown, while only 9% have not encountered any delays. Nearly three quarters (73%) think service levels have decreased since July, while only 5% think they have improved. The findings reflect the complex challenges faced throughout the hospitality supply chain, including widely fluctuating demand as a result of local lockdowns and new restrictions. But the survey also shows how suppliers have been working hard to mitigate the worst of the difficulties for hospitality businesses. Only a quarter (26%) of respondents say supply challenges have been worse than they expected, and nearly two thirds (63%) say most supplies have arrived on time. Although the vast majority (95%) of deliveries have been missing products, well over half (60%) say these have been at (47%) or below (13%) the level they expected. CGA and Prestige’s survey also indicates that one in five (20%) respondents saw prices rise over the summer. Increases have been particularly apparent in fruit and vegetables, where double the average (40%) think price performance is worse than pre-lockdown. Significant numbers have also experienced price rises in meat and poultry (27%), fish and seafood (25%) and dairy (33%), while beverage categories have remained more stable. David Read, founder and chairman of Prestige Purchasing, said: “We should not view these problems as a failure within our supply community. They simply highlight the enormous challenges that the pandemic has brought to the whole value chain. The frequent and sudden changes to social restrictions and the complexity of regionality have reduced demand planning to educated guesswork. Social distancing and partial closures have dramatically reduced drop-size, disrupting route planning and making deliveries less economic.” CGA client director food and retail Fiona Speakman said: “These figures show the massive impact of the pandemic and lockdowns across the hospitality supply chain. Suppliers are working in exceptionally difficult circumstances, and many operators have been grateful for their support and hard work in responding to issues that are completely beyond their control. As we enter the crucial Christmas trading period, suppliers and operators alike will be hoping for a strong end to a very tough year. But with the end of the UK’s transition from the EU rapidly approaching, another daunting round of supply challenges may now be looming.”
Prestige Purchasing is a Propel beatthevirus campaign member

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