Foodservice reopening unsustainable without further support

Hospitality leaders say a major package of financial support is needed if businesses are to make it to the end of lockdown.

The foodservice sector was left disappointed this week after the government resisted calls to open venues after the Easter holidays.

UKHospitality chief executive, Kate Nicholls, said the delay in reopening would make the job of survival all the more difficult for businesses. “It is much more than just an inconvenience for many employers in our sector, it is another delay that they cannot afford and, for too many, will not be able to survive,” she said.

On Monday, the prime minister, Boris Johnson, set out a roadmap for a gradual reopening of the economy in England. Hospitality will be among the last industry sectors to fully open: venues like pubs and restaurants will be able to open for outdoor table service from April 12th with no requirement for a substantial meal to be served alongside alcoholic drinks, and no curfew.

From May 17th indoor hospitality will be able to reopen with table service, as will hotels, hostels and B&Bs. Large indoor and outdoor events including conferences and sports events will also be able to function with reduced capacities.

The plan is for a full reopening of society in England from June 21st with no legal limits on social contact. All dates are subject to change should a series of tests not be met.

Scotland has developed its own framework for reopening with outdoor bars and restaurants not set to open until the end of April at the earliest.

Wales and Northern Ireland are also following their own roadmaps.

Nicholls said even with outdoor opening most businesses would be trading below sustainable levels. She called on the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, to extend the VAT cut and business rates holiday and provide a targeted extension of the furlough scheme when he delivers his budget next week.

She also demanded an extension of the rent moratorium, with loan repayments and HMRC debt delayed “in order to give businesses some breathing room from the ruinous mountain of debt that has built up for too many”.

There was better news for school caterers with news that all schools will reopen from 8 March. During the current lockdown, caterers have been providing food parcels to children eligible for free schools meals, often supplying them at a loss.

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