Editor: Having seen numerous cycles, although they have not been easy, I have been comforted by the knowledge that food and beverage (F&B) is always the last to fall and the first to recover.
After all, you can postpone buying a new car or kitchen, but a trip to your favourite local or West End eatery is far more accessible and a welcome relief. This was evident on Super Saturday, when we all rejoiced at finally being able to get back to our often-referred-to ‘third place’ after the home and office.
The battle is by no means over, though. A week on, it seems we still do not quite appreciate how valuable a milestone it was. First, from a psychological point of view, we’ve all been cooped up for longer than we’ve ever known and it is a massive relief to be back to the wonderful comforts of bars and restaurants. It is also helping people rediscover their cities.
More importantly, it is helping a much broader UK recovery, one boosted by the chancellor’s temporary VAT cut for some parts of the sector, and the launch of the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ initiative.
Another aspect to Super Saturday’s scenes of reverie has wider implications for economic recovery. One has to wonder how people arrived in central London last weekend. It was most likely via a range of transport systems, both private and public. This is a huge threshold to pass through. Once people have regained their confidence in using public transport, going back to their offices will become more appealing. Here, we can start to see the almost intangible value of F&B. The situation is akin to looking at a development appraisal mainly consisting of offices or residential and knowing that key restaurant lettings are worth far more than the spreadsheet would suggest.
So, I urge the government to look at the sector in the same light – not just the enormous revenue or the massive workforce employed, but something of much greater value to the UK. The government must look kindly on any further concessions the industry is still asking for as I suspect it will get a far greater return on investment than it might imagine. I ask it to please help the hospitality sector to again assist the UK’s recovery.
Ted Schama, managing director, Shelley Sandzer