Restaurants are safe, writes Boisdale founder RANALD MACDONALD
Restaurants are safe… we MUST let them reopen, writes Boisdale founder RANALD MACDONALD
Britain has one of the greatest restaurant scenes in the world. It makes this country a uniquely exciting place to live and do business.
You might never have thought about it this way, but our restaurants are a major national asset. And they are on their knees. As are our pubs.
Last year, the hospitality sector lost £72billion in revenue and more than one million jobs, according to the industry body.
Almost 10,000 licensed premises closed permanently as the coronavirus crisis struck at home.
There is no logical reason to delay a full restart for restaurants beyond Easter at the latest, which this year falls on April 4. My frustration would border on despair if this deadline was not met under the Government’s ‘cautious’ road map out of lockdown [File photo]
The first two months of this year, under total lockdown, have been worse than ever, and thousands more pub landlords and restaurant bosses are locked in a desperate fight for survival.
As the proprietor of a London-based group, I have been hoping for weeks that restaurants would be among the first places to open as restrictions were lifted.
It is right for schools to reopen first but once that step has been taken the Government should be looking to revitalise the economy as a whole as soon as possible.
Thanks to millions of pounds of investment in anti-Covid measures and training in social distancing, restaurants and pubs are among the safest places you could visit.
That is why I would urge the Government to be bold. There is no logical reason to delay a full restart for restaurants beyond Easter at the latest, which this year falls on April 4.
My frustration would border on despair if this deadline was not met under the Government’s ‘cautious’ road map out of lockdown.
Thanks to the success of the vaccine programme, we can expect all over-50s to be inoculated against Covid by the middle of April.
Of course we want to ensure this horrific illness does not spread. The hospitality sector is especially well placed to do that, because we understand, perhaps better than anyone, the importance of hygiene.
I am fiercely proud that there has been not one reported case of anybody contracting Covid at any of the four Boisdale restaurants – neither customers nor staff.
As tourism returns, London will need thriving hospitality more than ever. We must get back on our feet right now. If the Government waits beyond Easter to reopen restaurants, for many it will be too late [File photo]
That shouldn’t come as a surprise. People sit down to eat, and don’t mingle. Cleanliness is at a premium. Staff are trained in the importance of social distancing.
Once we are allowed to leave our homes, I cannot imagine anywhere I’d rather be, or where I’d feel safer, than in a clean, well run restaurant. To keep them closed is worse than illogical – it’s perverse.
My 150 staff are like family to me. Some have been with Boisdale for 15, 20, even 30 years. It distresses me to know they are suffering.
The greatest injustice of all is that the service charge, accounting for 20 to 40 per cent of staff remuneration, does not count as salary, meaning many on furlough receive as little as 50 per cent of their income.
And furlough pay is capped at £2,500 per month, which makes life very difficult for senior staff with families and higher outgoings.
I’m doing everything I can to support them, but I have no income either. When I recently tried to extend a mortgage myself, I discovered that despite always making my payments on time, I’m now seen as a risk. It seems everyone knows the trouble the hospitality sector is in, apart from the Government.
My restaurants are famous for their live music. I’m in touch with many of our brilliant, talented musicians – we book about 3,000 a year – and I know many are surviving on universal credit. They too have been abandoned by the Government.
As tourism returns, London will need thriving hospitality more than ever. We must get back on our feet right now. If the Government waits beyond Easter to reopen restaurants, for many it will be too late.
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