Restaurants and pubs hit by cancellations

Image above: Annie’s restaurant, Strand on the Green

Takings were down at many pubs and restaurants this weekend as London went up to Tier 2 Covid restrictions. It is no longer permitted to go to a pub or a restaurant and sit with friends. There can only be one household per table. People who had previously booked tables to eat out with friends, rang to cancel.

Lorraine Angliss, owner of Annie’s restaurant at Strand on the Green, Little Bird by Chiswick railyway station and Rock & Rose in Richmond, told The Chiswick Calendar:

“We’ve had hundreds of bookings cancelled this weekend. We’re at least 40% down on bookings. Really this is the final nail in the coffin for us, there’s so much fear and anxiety.

“When people go out to dinner, they go out with friends. Ninety-nine percent of the time I go out to dinner, I go out with friends. People are just cancelling fast and furiously”.

So far she hasn’t had to make any of her staff redundant, but she says, that would be the natural next step.

“I feel so terrible for the staff, because we just can’t give them the hours”.

Annie’s restaurant has recently launched a ‘take your pudding home with you‘ campaign to encourage people not to be put off by the 10.00pm curfew.

Images above: Strand on the Green – Bull’s Head; Bell & Crown

Pubs by the riverside told a similar tale. The Bull’s Head, a Greene King pub, told The Chiswick Calendar they had about 30 people ringing them on Friday to cancel for the following day. On Sunday bookings were down 30% on what they had been the previous Sunday. The Bell & Crown, a Fuller’s pub, lost 40 bookings over the weekend. Their takings on Sunday were half what they had been the previous Sunday.

Images above: Salads and cake at Chateau

On the High Rd, Chateau also reported cancellations – more than half their bookings for Sunday brunch and lunch.

“It’s pretty scary” owner Anette Megyaszai told The Chiswick Calendar.

“Of course we have to do anything we can to stamp out this awful disease but we are back to where we were at the beginning of March, when restaurants were suffering a slow death. It’s like we’re being shot in the foot and told to stand still”.

Like many another restaurant, Chateau has worked out its social distancing and hygiene procedures; it has introduced QR codes and the track and trace system, which is in itself very difficult Anette says, as only about 40% customers want to use it. Now they are fielding phone calls from people wanting to know whether they can still have lunch and they find themselves trying to police whether people really are from the same household or not.

“We are not the police. We are doing our best but this is really difficult”.

From the beginning of November she will have to think very carefully about how many hours she can continue to give her staff. If an employee works a third of their expected hours, the government will top up their pay with a contribution of 22%. Employers then must pay 22% of the hours they are not working but would normally have been expecting to work, leaving the employee with 77% of the wage they would usually have expected to earn – a cut of 23%.

Image above: Donna Thompson Smith, owner of Le Vacherin

Donna Thompson Smith, owner of Le Vacherin on South Parade says “fortunately it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting it to be”. Even so she lost covers on both Saturday and Sunday. Bookings were down by half on the Sunday.

“We’ve had cancellations but people have been really supportive and understanding. A lot have re-booked for later on. Our bookings now are mainly tables for two and we have had some walk-ins”.

Like Anette, the restaurant has jumped through every hoop in order to stay open. They’ve moved to 5pm opening in the evenings so people can still have the full dining experience with three courses. They are now open all day Sunday and on Mondays for lunch, which they used not to be.

“Because we’re a family owned business we are able to be flexible and to change things very quickly”.

One thing she really thinks needs to be changed is the 10.00pm closure. Le Vacherin is next door to the Duke of Sussex pub, so both premises empty out at exactly the same time.

“That really isn’t working” she says. “The times need to be staggered”.

As yet Donna hasn’t had to reduce anyone’s hours or had to lay anyone off, but she says if the government does decide to go for a ‘circuit-break’ without providing financial support, it will be very difficult.

“It’s rough” she says. “Really tough”.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: ‘Critical’ that hospitality sector gets support says Fuller’s boss

See also: London going into Tier 2

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