I am preparing for the new year with a sense of weariness and exhaustion. 2020 has, to say the least, had its moments of worry, pain, emotion, and tears for the country and certainly most of us in hospitality. ‘Unprecedented’ is now a hackneyed phrase and that perhaps that speaks for itself.
To most objective observers, hospitality has been on our own kind of front line. In the second lockdown whilst shops, gyms and hairdressers stayed open, we were forced to close, yet again, despite the government’s own statistics proving that hospitality was not a meaningful contributor to cross-infection. When asked to empirically justify the beneficial effects of a curfew, even HMG’s chief scientist conceded that the evidence was at best anecdotal.
In my wonderful team who have never had to work so hard or in such challenging conditions: hot sweaty masks, one way systems, sanitising processes, temperature checks, and too often rude customers. They have had the tee-shirt so to speak. Yet mostly they have managed to stoically steer a way through with courtesy, patience, and great resilience. They have made me so proud.
To all the wonderful customers for their support, loyalty, and encouragement in unrivalled times. When closed and locked down, their emails and concerned telephone calls were a real shot in the arm. Gratitude too, when these same customers bought our takeaways and heat at home deliveries – this enabled us to keep some of the team going with an income when did not qualify for furlough.
Just as we thought the UK may be turning a corner, I am nervous as to what setback may be caused by the advent of a mutant strain of Covid-19
For my team. Will summer 2021 be evidenced by a downturn in comparative trade as all the benefits of ‘Staycation 2020’ evaporate with larger numbers of customers than normal choosing to holiday abroad?
That the government will end the business rates holiday and even increase the rate of VAT. The hospitality industry is on its knees. By the summer we will be a patient still very much in recovery. If we are going to be able to sustainably support over two million jobs as the third largest sector employer, continued government support via a rates holiday and a 5% VAT rate is critical.
As the vaccine means that by the summer, things should be getting back to something more normal. And that in 2021, eventually, we will get back to what we love doing – delivering lovely food, great service and making our customers smile. That is why we do what we do because there is simply nothing better in life than the buzz of a busy restaurant on a Saturday night that is full of happy and grateful customers.
Byline by Brendan Padfield owner of the Unruly Pig in Suffolk