Leading chefs and hospitality bosses have said the pub and restaurant industry needs urgent financial support to avoid collapses and job losses as cancellations soar.
Michelin-starred chef Tom Kerridge said one of his restaurants has suffered more than 650 cancellations in the past six days after Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned of the rapid spread of the Omicron variant of coronavirus.
Over the past weeks, trade has decreased and many bookings have been cancelled as potential customers are affected by increasing Covid-19 case rates or choose to remain at home in a bid to protect their Christmas celebrations.
Mr Kerridge – who runs a number of restaurants including the two Michelin-starred Hand & Flowers in Marlow, Buckinghamshire – took to social media to question the Government’s response and support for the industry.
On Instagram, he said: “So, here we are… This is the list of cancellations taken in one of our restaurants in the past six days… 654 guests.
“I completely understand why and have no problem with them letting us know – public health is THE most important thing.
“The problem is what will the government do to support the hospitality industry? Many places are going to crumble without help.
“And before some gammon faced idiot says ‘you can afford it fat lad!’ … yes I probably can, but this isn’t about me or my restaurants. It’s about our industry and people’s livelihoods.”
It comes after the latest data from trade body UKHospitality revealed that Monday to Sunday of last week saw a 13% fall in trade and increase in cancellations, compared with pre-pandemic levels.
Nevertheless, operators have highlighted an acceleration in cancellations during the current week as it moves nearer to Christmas.
First Dates star Fred Sirieux, general manager of Michelin-starred Galvin at Windows in London’s Mayfair, said he has seen a “tsunami of cancellations” which he warned will be “catastrophic” for the sector.
“Staff will lose their job and income between now and January without any hope of getting a new one,” he tweeted.
“Not only that but I fear this will increase the staff shortage even further.”
Elsewhere, chef Sally Abe said the Blue Boar Pub in Westminster suffered 110 cancellations on Tuesday.
The Times reported earlier this week that Chancellor Rishi Sunak could hand new state support to businesses if the Prime Minister orders hospitality firms to shut their doors.
However, currently no additional support has been offered to the sector.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) also said on Tuesday that the Treasury should consider reintroducing a targeted furlough system in the UK due to the impact of Omicron.