The governments advice is ‘to avoid visiting bars, pubs and restaurants’. But they have not closed them down as per France, Italy, New York, Ireland and others.
As a restauranteur this puts me and my colleagues across the industry in a very challenging scenario. You have to contemplate the possible reasons.
- IS THE GOVERNMENT AFRAID OF THE FINANCIAL IMPLICATIONS?
Obviously if the government closes restaurants we have a strong case to ask for some sort of financial support. We are already investigating all cashflow options to try and stay solvent. Business rates, VAT, PAYE, rent, mortgages, suppliers – we are working hard to slash expenditure fast. Our biggest challenge is what to do with our teams and their wages. We work in hospitality because we love people. To put our teams through financial hardship is heartbreaking. But with £0 revenue none of us have a contingency of how to pay hundreds of thousands of pounds per month in wage costs. Is the government refusing to tell us to close so they are not put in a position to feel more obliged to offer financial support?
2. IS THE GOVERNMENT SIMPLY LIBERAL AND EXPECTS PEOPLE TO MAKE THEIR OWN INFORMED DECISIONS?
Maybe they think this advice is enough. Enough people will choose not to visit restaurants to reduce the rate of infection to flatten the curve. Some people will consider themselves low risk and will choose to continue to go out, against the governments advice. Others will heed the advice and stay in. And the balance will be about right. With outdoor terraces on the beach and in the gardens many of my lower risk customers may appreciate being treated as adults and deciding themselves to go, or not go for a beer and some lunch. Or maybe this is not the governments stance, and it’s all about point one?
3. AN UNFAIR DECISION?
The problem we now have as a sector is that different parts of society will judge our response. Because we have not been told to close some of our team will expect us to stay open and pay wages, some of our team will refuse to work following advice to avoid restaurants. Some of our customers will be appalled if we stay open since we may be perceived as a risk to public health and selfishly spreading the virus by encouraging visitors. Some of our customers will expect us to stay open and help those that consider themselves at low risk, or have already had the virus and recovered, to have somewhere to visit and chat to family or friends during challenging times.
This is alot of pressure to put on a sector already struggling with the complexities of how to pay many thousands of team members and stay solvent, rather than facing administration and the long term loss of facilities and livelihoods.
Tomorrow, how do I staff a restaurant that the government is advising people not to visit, that some people will want to visit, whilst others will be appalled at my decision either way.
A tricky riddle to solve Boris.