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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Sun 14th Feb 2021 - Update: Deliveroo and restaurant partners write to PM, Boris’ hospitality hint, Alex Reilley
Deliveroo and 330 partners urge PM to take five steps to support restaurants’ survival: Deliveroo, alongside 330 restaurant partners, has written to prime minister Boris Johnson to call for further support in enabling restaurants across the UK to weather the ongoing covid-19 pandemic. The signatories, which include the chief executives of Itsu, the healthy Asian food chain, created by Julian Metcalfe; Pizza Hut UK and TriSpan-backed Rosa’s Thai Cafe, collectively represent more than 1,400 restaurants across the UK. They recognise the important help the government has provided over the past year, but argue it is critical financial and practical support continues in order to protect jobs in the restaurant sector. With restaurants remaining closed for dine-in services, the letter warns if the government withdraws support too early or too suddenly, it will “risk viable businesses failing just as the light at the end of the tunnel is becoming clearer”. In a detailed submission to the government, Deliveroo and the restaurant partners urged ministers to take five steps to support UK restaurants to survive the ongoing pandemic. These include extending the VAT cut on restaurant food until the end of 2021, and considering the case for making the VAT cut permanent in future and extending business rates relief for a further financial year will prevent more empty premises on UK high streets post-pandemic. The letter also called for the furlough scheme to be maintained for “as long as is necessary for restaurants to fully return to dine-in.” It also called for support on rent. When the eviction moratorium ends on 31 March, the government should work to ensure landlords are prevented from evicting tenants based on rent arrears, provided tenant businesses pay current rent obligations and agree to a payment plan to repay past liabilities. The government should also ensure key workers in the food sector are part of the second phase of vaccine rollout – after NHS staff, police and teachers – and seek to deploy lateral flow testing kits that can be administered in restaurant kitchens. The letter also proposed policies for how the sector can be supported post-pandemic. These include a renewal of the Eat Out To Help Out scheme when it is safe to reopen restaurants; incentivising restaurants to recruit and retain staff by allowing them to take on new staff without the additional burden of national insurance contributions for at least six months; and the government providing targeted relief to encourage business investment and innovation in the restaurant sector post-pandemic. Deliveroo chief executive and founder Will Shu said: “Restaurants are at the heart of our high streets and local communities and we want to play our part to help them reopen when the economy opens up again. That is why we are calling on the government to implement this package of measures, which will be an important lifeline for small independents and high street family favourites.”

PM hints hospitality will be last sector to reopen: Prime minister Boris Johnson has hinted hospitality will be the last sector to reopen as he said he was “optimistic” he would be able to begin announcing the easing of restrictions when he sets out his “roadmap” out of lockdown in England next week. Speaking during a visit to the Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies plant in Billingham, Teesside, where the new Novavax vaccine will be manufactured, Johnson said his first priority remained opening schools in England on Monday, 8 March to be followed by other sectors. He said: “Our children’s education is our number one priority, but then working forward, getting non-essential retail open as well and then, in due course as and when we can prudently, cautiously, of course we want to be opening hospitality as well. I will be trying to set out as much as I possibly can in as much detail as I can, always understanding we have to be wary of the pattern of disease. We don’t want to be forced into any kind of retreat or reverse ferret.” Johnson said coronavirus was a disease people would have to “simply live with” and said health secretary Matt Hancock was right to say covid-19 could become a “manageable disease” like seasonal flu. He said: “The miracles of science are already making a huge difference, not just through vaccinations but therapies as well. New therapies are being discovered the whole time, which are enabling us to reduce mortality, improve our treatments of the disease. I do think in due time it will become something we simply live with. Some people will be more vulnerable than others – that’s inevitable.” He added: “Something also that will be very important is the efficacy of the vaccines – are they working in the way we hope they are? – and making sure they are really helping, along with the lockdown, to drive down the incidence. That is the key thing.”

Reilley – at no time have we been consulted about whether trading outside areas only is in any way viable: Loungers chairman Alex Reilley has said stories about outside areas in hospitality being allowed to open in April is a “classic example” of the government not consulting with the sector. Reilley’s view comes after the UK’s leading pub companies wrote to the government saying they were stepping back from talks with business ministers, after being exasperated at the “obvious lack of interest and respect” they were getting. Reilley said: “The execs that have stepped away from the hospitality calls with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy head up businesses that employ 380,000 people in the UK – that’s more than 1% of all UK jobs. Despite the best efforts of Paul Scully, it’s clear the government is spellbound by SAGE and has stopped paying attention to, or even seeking the opinion from, businesses in our sector. This story (trading outside areas) is a classic example – at no time have we been consulted about whether trading outside areas only is in any way viable or whether we’d even reopen. These decisions, that affect a sector that in total employ 3.2 million people, are being taken by civil servants and government advisors that appear brainwashed by SAGE, have no experience of the sector and struggle to even show the sector respect. Hospitality needs to reopen, safely, as we did in July with a clear roadmap that see us return to pre-pandemic normality. After the first lockdown we reopened with extensive covid-secure measures and there is absolutely no justification for us to accept further restrictions – opening without alcohol, outside trading only – it’s all absolute nonsense.”

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