Foodservice leaders demand rescue package for “imperilled sector”

Over 100 hospitality businesses have urged the government to rethink its controversial 10pm curfew or risk further decimating the sector.

In an open letter to the prime minister, Boris Johnson, companies including JD Wetherspoon, Sodexo, Heineken UK, Greene King and Burger King said the latest government restrictions announced last week made the “fight to survive even harder” with businesses at risk of failure and hundreds of thousands of viable jobs set to be lost.

The letter was coordinated by the British Beer & Pub Association, UKHospitality and the British Institute of Innkeeping in the same week as the trade bodies published a survey that found one in eight hospitality staff have already been made redundant since the start of lockdown. The data also revealed that businesses believe their workforce will be 25% lower by February 2021 compared with February this year as a result of the covid-19 pandemic.

In the letter to Boris Johnson, business leaders said the package of financial support measures recently announced by the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, “does not go nearly far enough for our imperilled sector”, which they said requires “additional and urgent support in order to survive this bleakest of winters”.

They said the latest government restrictions, and specifically the 10pm curfew, had removed key trading hours and in some cases removed whole shifts from food-led businesses.

The sector has invested tens of millions of pounds in protective equipment and introduced new technology solutions to create entirely safe covid-secure environments, yet “the trade is already being decimated as more consumers stay away whilst costs continue to rise”.

The leaders called for a commitment to “review the appropriateness of all these measures at least every three weeks”. They said the 10pm curfew should be removed if “demonstrably not working as intended or adjusted to provide for gradual dispersal”.

The letter concluded by asking the prime minister to “intervene as a matter of urgency” by convening a meeting of sector leaders to help draw up a sector-specific support package.

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