Almost every sector of the economy has been impacted by Covid-19, but perhaps the industry hardest hit has been the hospitality sector, which was effectively put on hold for the best part of three months during lockdown. This lack of activity has led many establishments to shut their doors permanently, and it was estimated in May that 85% of jobs in hospitality were lost.
It was great news, then, when restaurants reopened in early July, and the industry is now beginning to find its feet again. In a bid to hasten this recovery, the UK government recently announced their Eat Out to Help Out scheme, which aims to entice diners out during the week by providing punters with a discount of up to 50% when dining out from Monday to Wednesday.
I, like many others, am more than happy to step up and bear this national duty when the scheme kicks off in August, but events since restaurants reopened have shown that some people are focusing on the 'eating' aspect of the campaign and forgetting about the 'helping out' part.
In the past fortnight there have been a series of reports of customers booking tables at restaurants and then failing to turn up, with high-profile chef Tom Kerridge recently speaking out on the topic via his Instagram account after 27 people failed to show up to his restaurant at the Corinthia Hotel in London during one service.
His criticism has since been echoed by a host of others, including Paul Ainsworth, as restaurateurs voice anger towards no-show customers, who can cost restaurants thousands of pounds per night. This would be bad enough at the best of times, but with capacity reduced for the sake of health and safety, this behaviour puts establishments in even greater financial peril. It is a kick in the teeth for those in the hospitality sector, many of whom have been donating their time and effort to feeding those in need for free during the pandemic.
Personally, cafés and restaurants have been one of the things I have missed most during lockdown, and it is therefore incomprehensible that somebody would book a table after months stuck at home, to then neglect to turn up. We have been deprived of these special places for months on end, and we need to remember this as they open back up again. We must support our locals, be generous and respect the rules. If not, they might be shut for much longer than a few months.
July should be a month of celebration for English restaurants after a financially perilous lockdown. Yet instead of happy tales of booming dining rooms, a growing anger about no-shows, as well as a failure to pass on a VAT discount, are threatening to strain the relationship between some businesses and their customers.