Opinion

'I fear the next budget will focus on recuperating losses rather than support to see us through’

By Andreas Antona, chef owner of the Cross at Kenilworth, Warwickshire, and Simpsons in Edgbaston, Birmingham

- Last updated on GMT

'Lack of clarity and understanding': 'It’s been the blind not leading the blind and this had a negative impact on both my businesses'
'Lack of clarity and understanding': 'It’s been the blind not leading the blind and this had a negative impact on both my businesses'

Related tags: Finance, Coronavirus, Budget, Legislation, Warwickshire

I consider myself an optimist and remain hopeful that with the vaccine rolled out Brits will return to the pubs and restaurants that they love.

For me the whole experience of the past 10 months has been another of life’s wonderful learning curves - however, I do hold the Government to account for the situation that pub owners find themselves in.  

The lack of clarity and understanding about how the hospitality industry works is pitiful. It’s been the blind not leading the blind and this had a negative impact on both my businesses.

We are fortunate that we have supportive and loyal guests at the Cross, which is where we first trialled a takeaway service. The response was so positive that we rolled out to our sister restaurant Simpsons in Birmingham and from there Antona at Home, a nationwide delivery service, was born. 

It has been a huge undertaking and we have learnt a lot but in reality, it’s about cutting our losses rather than making any significant profit. 

As soon as we were able to open our doors again at the end of July, our guests came back in droves. We found there was a lot of pent-up demand after the first lockdown which was fantastic.  

'Punishing' restrictions

When the tier system was first introduced, the Cross was in tier one, meaning that we could still have households mixing and could attract normal custom. Simpsons meanwhile was put into tier two where only single households could dine together, we watched the slow painful death of our business as the cancellations came thick and fast. 

Pubs and restaurants are social places – after spending so much time with their immediate families, people wanted to dine out with their friends and families.  

The Government didn’t grasp this and once again we found the restrictions punishing.

Andreas-2

As the second national lockdown was announced, I hoped that the Government had come to its senses but then both my restaurants were put into higher tiers than London, despite having lower ‘R’ rates. 

I believe that this paved the way for the catastrophic situation that find ourselves in and the doom and gloom of January.  

'We aren’t yet feeling the impact of Brexit'

It isn’t just us operators that are facing hardship, there has been no support for anyone in our supply chains or our landlords. 

I have my worries about whether suppliers will be ready in time for when we are free to open.

Usually we import a significant amount of wines from Europe and high end produce from Rungis market in Paris. 

If there has been a positive to come from the current lockdown, it’s that we aren’t yet feeling the impact of Brexit. I really don’t know how we are going to deal with that. 

What I do know is that the Government needs to acknowledge that its lack of communication and poor decision making has put us where we are now.  

As a sector, we know how to run businesses, pay our taxes and create wealth. The Government needs to come up with a long-term support plan that gives us the chance of doing so.  

I fear the next Budget will focus on recuperating losses through higher taxes when what we really need is the support to see us through.

Related topics: Other operators

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