With hospitality now starting to open, bars and restaurants have seen people flocking back to meet up with friends. However, this has not been as great for the operators as many would have hoped.
Reports abound of people failing to turn up for bookings they have made, leaving operators with empty tables at the time every bit of revenue is needed for, in some cases, their very survival. Yes in some establishments there are people queuing to take those spaces, but this is not true for all. As one landlady said: “we need to generate revenue from every table” and it appears that some people are making multiple bookings at different establishments to give them choice on the day – possibly depending on the weather.
Clearly the hospitality industry has been severely hit during the lockdowns and many operators have invested heavily in their outdoor spaces to try and create as much space for customers to optimise revenues whatever the weather throws at them. Obviously, those that have chosen to open are now staring at the full extent of the overheads without necessarily having the capacity to meet them, let alone the liabilities that have accrued over the closure, so any empty tables could have a direct and severe financial consequence.
As we reach the next stage of the roadmap and people are allowed back inside bars and restaurants capacity obviously increases but potentially more staff will be required to serve the tables and maintain Covid safety protocols.
The other comment that I have heard a lot over the past week is just how much going back to a pub or restaurant costs. Stories of £5 or £6 for a pint abound, usually followed by “I have got used to paying supermarket prices and I realise it is my mates I miss - not the actual pub”. Similarly, being charged £9 for a coffee and slice of cake leaves something of a bitter taste after all this time eating at home.
Will the euphoria of lockdown easing be short-lived? Only time will tell, but undoubtedly, customers that decide home drinking once their friends are allowed indoors if the weather is being unkind will impact industry revenues and until lockdown does ease further, for some establishments, turning customers away only for that booked table to remain unused could be the final straw.