Plan B: 'Restrictions put industry in a precarious position'

By Georgi Gyton, MCA

- Last updated on GMT

State advice: the Government's work from home guidance has now come into force (image: Getty/Poike)
State advice: the Government's work from home guidance has now come into force (image: Getty/Poike)

Related tags: Legislation, Greene king, Stonegate

The reintroduction of the work from home rule will have a significant impact on pubs, restaurants and food to go outlets based in the capital or city centres, The Morning Advertiser's sister title MCA has heard from sector leaders.

For many pub operators like Greene King, Christmas is traditionally its busiest time of the time and with the sector’s recovery dependant on strong trading over the next few weeks, but for CEO Nick Mackenzie the shift to working from home put the industry in “a precarious position”.

There is a huge risk that these additional restrictions will have “a huge impact in London and city centres where trading has continually been below the rest of our estate since we fully reopened”, he told MCA.

“Our pubs are safe environments for people to eat, drink and socialise in over the festive period and unfortunately this announcement will only dent already fragile consumer confidence.”

Kneejerk reaction

Simon Longbottom, chief executive, Stonegate Group, was equally disappointed to learn that his business will now face a further period of uncertainty and disruption.

For Stonegate, which also operates late-night venues such as Popworld, it also means the implementation of vaccine passports, which he told MCA​ would burden its teams with a further challenge, and the additional responsibility, of checking passports or negative test results as what’s traditionally the busiest time of the year for its business.

“We have many safeguards already in place to ensure our staff and guests remain safe and we will continue to provide a hospitable and festive environment in which our guests can celebrate with family and friends following what has been a turbulent and testing year for all,” said Longbottom.

However it urged the Government to rapidly clarify the guidance for business given Plan B. “With an estate of over 4,500 pubs and bars time is needed to implement procedures and safeguards and springing short periods of notice on businesses such as ours feels more kneejerk than reasonably considered,” he said.

Plenty to focus on

Glenn Edwards, managing director, Leon told MCA​ it was still too early to say what impact could potentially be of the new measures, but that the business was predicting some of its regional sites may benefit from it, while there may also be an uplift in delivery sales.

“In terms of negative impact, our city-based restaurants are heading into the seasonal lull,” he said, adding: “Fingers crossed Plan B is just for Christmas.”

Heydon Mizon, joint MD of McMullens, said Plan B was disappointing for the whole country and it is hard not to be cynical about the timing and convenient distraction it provides.

“We expect sales and bookings to soften as a consequence of confidence, footfall which has been building nicely in London will again decline but we will see a sales benefits in the suburbs and high street venues as a consequence,” he told MCA.

“I would expect data to calm nerves in the coming week which might be too late for Christmas 2021. All that said, even Plan B is better than this time last year and we have plenty to focus on to deliver strong growth in 2022.”

Related topics: Legislation

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