This article was kindly written for Di-Rectory by Emma Fuller.
Though it may feel longer ago, it was only a year ago in March 2020 when lockdown measures first came into place. While this was undoubtably a hard time for every industry, those in the catering industry can mark this as the start of a long struggle against an ever changing onslaught of Government regulations and restrictions.
In March 2020 Boris Johnson announced the infamous stay at home order, marking the start of a full and nationwide lockdown. However, in the week prior to this announcement he urged the public to avoid pubs and restaurants, causing a 60% decrease in trade in such establishments with no
government aid being given. For small and local businesses that operate with such close margins this was a major blow, and not an ideal way to enter the unknown territory of a national lockdown.
With some operations still running takeaway services, this was not an option for some local businesses meaning a lot of restaurant staff were out of work from the lockdown order in March until the reopening in July. Nationwide, restaurant staff saw their hours decrease by an average of 65% with other industries reporting only a 24% decrease in hours.
(The worry is) the public are going to feel that they’re compromising their health by going into a bar or restaurant in the future.Helen Leonard, local restaurant owner.
At this time of reopening, restrictions seemed to be similar across all
businesses, including shops, salons and offices. However as the tier
system evolved it seemed to be more specifically targeted at restaurants and hospitality, with restrictions by December meaning that some restaurants had to close their doors over the usually very lucrative Christmas period. At this time, the only notable difference between tier 2 and tier 3 being the closure of restaurants and pubs.
Speaking to local business owners, the disappointment in these continuing
restrictions is clear. Helen, of Cookfella’s Ltd. said of the difference between
tiers that she worries the public will see restaurants and pubs as somewhere unsafe, even after the restrictions are lifted. She rightly reports that the industry is ‘customer focused’ and that these restrictions have been
detrimental to relationships with customers and ability for front of house staff to carry out their usual quality of service. This is supported by studies linking an increase in social distancing measures to a decrease in
restaurant spending. On the contrary, Cookfella’s notes that they are lucky to have such a large premises, and are aware that the social distancing measures must be even harder on those without the space to accommodate their usual numbers.
Perhaps even more important than finding out when businesses can re-open is the guarantee that they can stay open. After twelve months of uncertainty, opening and closing, adhering to endless new restrictions and
changes, it is no wonder that local business owners are still feeling apprehensive.
For now all we can do is remain optimistic for an Easter re-opening, hopefully this time for good!