Is the roadmap looking like a dead end for the hospitality industry?
The government announced their roadmap to recovery this week with lots of excitement and anticipation from businesses – especially in the restaurant, pub and nightlife sectors.
Many will have been scouring the pre-announcement reports looking for hints that they might be able to throw open their doors to clamouring customers within weeks and might have already been making inquiries with their suppliers about when they could resume their regular orders and in what quantities.
The news that the Covid roadmap would allow for more gradual opening than anticipated will have come as a disappointment for some who would have been banking on an earlier lifting of restrictions.
Under the current plans, pubs and restaurants will be allowed to open indoors no earlier than May 17th.
This follows some “outdoor only” venues that could be allowed to open five weeks earlier from April 12th.
There are no planned reintroductions of 10pm or 11pm curfews but the Rule of Six will still apply to any indoor dining that takes place.
The news that they can eventually reopen is welcoming but again, hospitality will be among the last sectors allowed to trade as the country reopens.
This is scant consolation to businesses, many of whom spent hundreds of pounds last year making their businesses Covid compliant and haven’t been allowed to put any of these improvements to the test in any meaningful way yet.
Kate Nicholls, the CEO of UKHospitality, the industry representative body who have been amongst the most vocal in speaking up for their members interests during the pandemic is still combative on their behalf.
She said: “The sector is obviously devastated that its reopening will be so far away.
“From the start of November, the sector will have been closed for nearly 200 days, with just a couple of weeks of heavily restricted trading in December. A major package of financial support is imperative if hospitality is to survive.
“The Prime Minister says that the reopening schedule is driven by data, yet all the data points to hospitality being relatively safe and linked to only a tiny number of cases.
“Vaccinations and the fall in infection rates has de-risked our reopening even further. Over the past year, the Government has repeatedly miscalculated the risks posed by hospitality.
The Hospitality sector is not just made up of customer-facing venues like pubs, bistros, coffee shops or restaurants.
It employs thousands more in supply chain businesses that make sure these businesses can be quickly stocked and restocked with fresh ingredients, whenever they need them and quickly.
UKHospitality have identified this relationship as one that will be under the severest pressure before and during any phased reopening and is calling for additional support for suppliers now to ensure that no gaps open up in the system as suppliers fail through no fault of their own.
Katie Nicholls said: “The totality of hospitality is dependent on its supply chain.
“If supplier businesses fail, then the entire sector grinds to a halt and we’re at risk of the whole thing collapsing. We’re hopeful that hospitality businesses can lead the recovery of the UK’s economy this year.
“This cannot happen if businesses are not supplied to do the job. The supply chain is everything and it must be supported. Otherwise, our sector will rapidly become a house built upon sand and the terrible damage that has been felt over the past twelve months will only be compounded.”
A lot of companies will be keeping everything crossed for some relief and help in the forthcoming Budget on March 3rd.
Hoping for some certainty that support measures will be extended until they can reopen and begin trading again, but if the year of lockdown has collectively taught us one thing it’s that nothing is certain either with the pandemic nor the response.
Regardless of what is announced by the Chancellor next week, many restaurants, pubs and bars will still have some big questions marks over their future in the coming weeks and months if they are determined to try and reopen.
That’s a big if.
Unfortunately, for many businesses owners and directors, once emotion and wishful thinking are removed, their future direction will be clear.
Closing the business may not only be the right option for them and the company’s immediate future but also for the longer term too.
Once the country is further along the roadmap and the lockdown lifting becomes permanent, the conditions to relaunch a new business with no debt burdens holding it back will be far more advantageous.
But before any new venture can be launched, the existing business has to be closed properly with a minimum of fuss and any creditors have to be dealt with properly and professionally.
Whether the right solution would be closing a company or some other options such as using an insolvency moratorium to provide previous breathing space while you work out what your next step should be, we’ll be able to talk you through your options and what you need to do next.
We can also advise you on any changes you can make if you’re planning to roll the dice and reopen when you’re allowed to.
This could still be the year when everything changes for the better – but only if you act now while you’ve got time.